The Grizzlies’ 2023 Draft: What do they need, and who can fill those roles?

Memphis Grizzles general manager Zach Kleiman-Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Memphis Grizzles general manager Zach Kleiman-Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Group A- NBA-Ready PG’s for Ja Morant’s Suspension

You couldn’t really ask for a better Ja Morant replacement than Tyus Jones to start out next season. He’s seasoned, the team has famously done well under his command, and his combination of playmaking and defense makes him both a solid starter and a continually great counterbalance to Ja Morant’s minutes. That being said, Tyus might not be enough, and he might not even be in Memphis for long.

The 25-game suspension to Morant might necessitate a backup PG who’s ready for a bit more run than what Vince Williams Jr. and Jacob Gilyard are ready for, plus rumors have begun to swell surrounding a Jones trade, citing his low usage in the playoffs and the fact he has one year left on his contract. Additionally, Desmond Bane at PG minutes is great when that glass box needs to be busted, but losing Dillon Brooks, plus the lack of shot-creating wings (to be spoken about in more depth for a later category) will necessitate some more wing minutes from Bane.

The free-agent options for PG are there, but a little shaky. Take a look at this list for the 2023 class: there are four Unrestricted-Free-Agent options I could see Memphis exploring on that list: Dennis Schroder,  Reggie Jackson, Gabe Vincent, and Jevon Carter. But, there’s a caveat: are any of those players ok with only having a solid place on the roster until Ja comes back?

More than likely not, since they’re all established rotation players. After those four, the options are pretty abysmal  (Tyus’ brother Tre Jones and Ayo Dosunmu are options I like as well, but their RFA contracts and solid play last year mean they’ll probably be picked up again by the Spurs and Bulls respectively).

So, back to the drafting board. My pick for this spot has got to be Anthony Black.

Arkansas Razorbacks, Anthony Black, Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas Razorbacks, Anthony Black, Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

It would require trading up: Black is projected to go around the eight-to-twelve range on Thursday, but it’s a bet on a really fun prospect who’s going to need what the Grizzlies already have, which is shot-taker/makers and solid team defense. He’s got a solid frame at 210 lbs., has quick hands, and stays super active on defense, especially on-ball.

He’s also gritty (which is a Pavlovian tick to Grizzlies fans that I am exploiting purposefully): Arkansas upset Kansas (and generally had a really fun squad) because of sheer effort, fighting through screens, staying in front of guys, the works, and Black was a huge part of that. Offensively, he’s a creative and willing passer, with really nice attack speed (which would serve the Grizzlies’ fast-paced offense without uprooting its foundations).

This could be a pick that would offer both a backup PG prospect with Tyus aging (and perhaps later on wanting a starting role on another team, since he would indeed be deserving of one) and as a solution to the suspension.

If Black falls to the 10th pick, I could certainly see the Grizzlies manifesting a trade package to slide into that spot and steal Black, especially since the Mavericks, who are scheduled to pick 10th, could very well be looking to trade down. Might be a little pie-in-the-sky, but given the other options in a weaker PG draft, it might serve the Grizzlies well to bet on youth one more time.

Other options I like:

  • Kobe Bufkin- Crazy 8-foot wingspan combo guard, 52% shooter (45% from three). Would necessitate a trade-up and doesn’t excite me with the ball or on defense as much as Black.
  • Marcus Sasser- Suggested to me by Ben Pfiefer (who’s one of the best Twitter follows if you’re looking for draft stuff and Survivor takes) Would be a great pickup if trade-up packages fall short and Memphis is stuck at 25. Great defender on a Houston team that went up against some underrated offenses last season. Movement shooting upside, solid pull-up which is an option due to Sasser’s “sick handle” according to Sam Vecenie.