Will Kenneth Lofton Jr. be able to carve out playing time as a rookie?

Kenneth Lofton Jr., Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Kenneth Lofton Jr., Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images) /

Kenneth Lofton Jr. looks to become the next name of undrafted free agents to make his way into the rotation for an NBA team. It will most likely not happen immediately, given the current young Memphis Grizzlies core that is already playing well; but, look for Lofton to make an impact later in the season. Let’s take a look at how he does that.

Kenneth Lofton Jr. was a matchup nightmare, especially when going against the number 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, while in Las Vegas.

At 6’7″, 275lbs, he is reminiscent of Zach Randolph, who Grizzlies fans are very familiar with. During the Summer League, where Lofton played five games and averaged just under 22 minutes per game, he averaged 15.2 points, shot 57.7% from the field, and pulled in 7.2 rebounds. Pretty good for an undrafted free agent, wouldn’t you say? The front office would agree, signing Lofton to a two-way deal (not fully guaranteed) to prove himself in 2022-2023.

How Kenneth Lofton Jr. can impact the Memphis Grizzlies as a rookie

So how does this translate to him playing a role for the Grizzlies this season? Let’s look at who’s time he would take if that happens.

Xavier Tillman & Brandon Clarke. End of list.

In my opinion, Killian Tillie has not done enough to prove he owns that “next man up” title and Lofton feels like such a fit with his play style, mentality, and “chip on his shoulder” story.

Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. will hold the primary big man spots, but with Jackson potentially missing time at the start of the season due to his foot surgery, look for Lofton to get some run and make the most of it.

Xavier Tillman averaged 13.2 minutes, 4.8 points, and 3 rebounds last season. Not the most significant impact if you ask me, but I understand he has been described as a “glue” guy, and not everything shows up on the stat sheet. Regardless, there is no reason for Taylor Jenkins to play Tillman over Lofton for the entire season, especially if Lofton shows flashes.

Brandon Clarke is a bit different, given his ceiling is much higher than Tillman or Lofton, but for some reason, the coaching staff doesn’t want to commit to Clarke fully. Averaging 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and one block per game last season, his time is safer but not locked in.

Let’s also understand that most undrafted free agent rookies don’t have the most statistical impact, so let’s temper expectations. This could be a great story and add more youthful depth to stack up against the tough Western conference small forwards.