Outside of Steven Adams’ 15 minutes of play, the Memphis Grizzlies opted to roll out a rather young and inexperienced lineup against the seemingly at-full-strength Atlanta Hawks this past Thursday night.
Though the exhibition ultimately resulted in a loss, the game proved to be quite a close affair throughout, with Taylor Jenkins and company losing by a a final score of 103-102.
Luckily, the outcome of these preseason bouts doesn’t have a direct impact on a club’s win-loss record when the regular season rolls around, but the period can still be meaningful when it comes to player development.
One individual who seemed to stand out during the contest was second-year wing Vince Williams Jr., who seemed to catch the attention of coach Jenkins, particularly when it came to his defensive efforts on the night, during a postgame interview.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins praises Vince Williams Jr.’s play vs. Hawks
"“The biggest thing is he kept his focus on the defensive side,” Jenkins said, as transcribed by Commerical Appeal’s Demichael Cole. ” . . . I thought he did really well in the second half after a little bit slow of an offensive start, but his defense was there and just got better . . . Really proud of his effort tonight.”"
Tying for the second-most minutes logged on the Grizzlies at 25:43, Williams went on to have an overall sound game as he finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and a whopping 3 blocks.
While his shooting efficiency certainly left much to be desired (converted on just 30.0 percent from the field and a mediocre 12.5 percent from deep), his drive and competitive spirit never seemed to wither, as he remained in attack mode on offense and, as Jenkins pointed out, focused on defense throughout.
Williams is attached to a two-way contract after being drafted 47 overall during the 2022 NBA Draft and is looking to up his time with the varsity team with a strong showing in camp heading into year two.
While he did spend 15 games in uniform for the Grizzlies last season, the majority of the wing’s professional action came at the developmental level, as he averaged 30.8 minutes a night while dropping 17.9 points and 8.0 rebounds on 65.3 percent shooting from the field and 45.7 percent shooting from deep.
He did, however, manage to see extensive on-court experience throughout his rookie campaign on a few occasions with the Grizzlies, and even saw himself starting for the 2022-23 regular-season finale, where he posted 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block in an astounding 48 minutes played.
Though the odds seem to be stacked against him when it comes to the idea of seeing his current deal becoming full-time with the club, considering Memphis’ obvious need for more wing depth and the current question marks surrounding the position, until decisions are officially made Williams will keep fighting.
If nothing else, his latest showing against Atlanta proved he has standout talent potential, particularly on the less glamorous side of the ball.