5 Young players the Grizzlies should develop, 3 to give up on

Memphis Grizzlies, Ziaire Williams. (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports)
Memphis Grizzlies, Ziaire Williams. (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies, Kenneth Lofton Jr. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

Develop: Kenneth Lofton Jr.

Lofton Jr. went undrafted in 2022 in part because he does not have traditional size. He is 6’7 and 275 pounds, which makes him shorter than most centers but bigger than the wings of his height. Lofton Jr. is an undersized center with an intriguing skill set.

The 20-year-old struggled to get minutes as a rookie, but he averaged 20.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.2 steals in 28.5 minutes per game in the G League last season. He cannot space the floor, but Lofton Jr. showed improvements during summer league as he made 11 of 25 3-point attempts. The 6’7 big man was outstanding in Las Vegas, and that should give fans hope for the coming season.

Lofton Jr. helped Team USA win the under-19 World Cup in 2021, and he continues to prove his doubters wrong. Fans could argue that the Memphis Grizzlies should move on because they have a big man logjam, but there is something special about Lofton Jr. He is under contract for three more years, and the Grizzlies should continue to develop him.

Memphis should have an open battle at the start of training camp to be the backup center behind Steven Adams. Can Lofton Jr. beat out Xavier Tillman and Santi Aldama for minutes? It is unlikely, but he should dominate in the G League and will be ready whenever he is needed.