Reporter slams popular Grizzlies reunion idea: 'He is not a championship piece'

Dec 21, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins reacts during the
Dec 21, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins reacts during the / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

It should go without saying that this Memphis Grizzlies team must head into the coming offseason with the agenda of strengthening their pivot position soundly at the forefront of their mind.

Already, GM Zach Kleiman has hinted that the organization will be looking into ways to bolster the center spot during the summer months, with him going on record noting "We see the value of having a more traditional or true big" within their talent pool during his exit interviews last week.

However they choose to address the five rotation is truly anyone's guess at this point in time, though recently there has been some chatter among the fanbase suggesting that they could be open to seeing a reunion between the Grizzlies and one of their former bigs this summer.

Jonas Valanciunas, who played in Grind City from 2019-2021, currently finds himself manning the middle for the 49-win Pelicans during their first-round bout against the OKC Thunder and, as has been the case throughout the entirety of 2023-24, is producing admirably, logging averages of 16.0 points and 13.5 rebounds on 56.5 percent shooting from the field through two games played.

At 6-foot-11, 265 pounds, the 31-year-old boasts a menacing physique this Grizzlies team sorely lacks, while his top-flight rebounding skills and tough interior presence are both attributes that are no longer found in tow following the mid-season Steven Adams trade.

It is because of all these reasons, coupled with his familiarity with coach Taylor Jenkins' scheme, that many fans and even some media pundits believe Memphis should be open to striking on some sort of trade this coming summer to bring the Lithuanian bruiser back to the 38103.

While there are certainly some fair points as to why he would be an upgrade over what the ball club currently has down at center, during a recent episode of Locked on Grizzlies host and beat reporter Damichael Cole slammed the idea as being a severely short-sighted hypothetical.

Reporter slams idea of Grizzlies reuniting with Jonas Valanciunas

"Let's not forget why Jonas Valanciunas was traded from Memphis in the first place. Two things can be true: Yes, he would be an upgrade at the center spot based on what the Grizzlies currently have, but, no, he is not a championship piece for the Grizzlies in that situation. He is not a fit for the Grizzlies in their current situation... The best case for the Grizzlies... [is adding a] low-usage offensive guy, a guy who's just gonna rebound the ball, make plays, block some shots, [and who's an] active defender. A lot of the things I just said do not really apply to Jonas Valanciunas."

Damichael Cole

Cole would continue on to note the opposite attributes that a guy like Valanciunas provides to a team, highlighting his "terrific" back-to-the-basket scoring, though followed this up by saying "he needs the ball in his hands a lot of times to be effective" and, considering he's averaged 10.8 shot attempts per game over the last six seasons and boasts a usage percentage of 23.1 over this same span, the advanced metrics seem to only strengthen this claim.

"You're not going to see [Valanciunas] catching alley-oops, rim-running, and things like that too often. He's a back-to-the-basket, low post, back you down, get to his spot, you either foul him or he converts [type of player]. The Grizzlies don't need that because they already have to figure out how they're going to share the basketball between Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr... The point is, you're going to have three guys that will roughly average around 20 or more points per game next season... They don't need another guy at center who's going to be a 15 point, 16 point type of guy like Jonas is very capable of doing."

Damichael Cole

Instead of a guy like Valanciunas, Cole would suggest the idea of the Grizzlies looking at lesser-known commodities such as Isaiah Hartenstein to fill their void at center, a player who he's been rather high on as of late as he's tabbed the current Knicks big as a player who "checks a lot of boxes" for coach Jenkins' rotation.

Though a storybook reunion between a franchise and one of its past fan favorites is always something buzzed about, in this particular instance, the beat reporter believes Memphis should steer clear of such a happening this summer at all cost.