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Memphis Grizzlies win Summer League Championship featured on IMHO

#IMHO: Hot Grizz Summer, shooting stars and CP3

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 9:10 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO


Mike, let’s send out congrats to our very own Memphis Grizzlies, who not only went out and competed in the Las Vegas Summer League, but they went out and won the whole dang thing. Grizz rookie Brandon Clarke showed out, winning league MVP honors. This means next season the Grizzlies roster will feature four former Las Vegas Summer League MVPs (Clarke, Tyus Jones, Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson), which should translate into...well, I don’t know.

See, I know the dirty truth of the Summer League playoffs. When I worked for NBA.com, several times I drew the short straw and got sent out to cover the Summer League playoffs, which is at the point when everyone is ready to just go home. By that point we’re well into week two of Summer League, and people are tired and cranky and broke and hungover, and I’m just talking about the journalists! Summer League lasts a long time, but the more you win the longer you have to stay on the road, which means not going home.

But I prefer to look at it this way: There were games to be played, and when it mattered the most, the young Grizzlies got their act together and strung up some Ws and won the dang thing. So that being said, Mike, which player on the Grizzlies roster (other than Clarke) showed you the most this summer? Who proved to you that he belonged on the big roster (or at least in the mix) for next season?

Memphis Grizzlies Summer League Champions

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 10:57 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

The easy second choice after Clarke, to me, is Yuta Watanabe. The growth Yuta has shown over the past 12 months - since the Grizzlies first noticed him at last year’s summer league in Vegas while playing with Brooklyn to now – is almost night and day. Back then, you saw the raw tools, the length and the potential if properly developed. But what we see now is a player who has put in the work to get better and tap into that potential.

While Yuta is far from a finished, rotation-ready lock, he has shown he can score from all three levels, can be an active defender and can push and pass in transition at either forward spot. Yes, the Grizzlies are deep at the swing forward spot, but Yuta showed in summer league, particularly at the start in Salt Lake City, that he deserves a spot at the training camp table and with a chance to convert that Two-Way contract into a standard NBA deal. We’ll see where it goes from here, because the Grizzlies have a few more personnel decisions to make with the roster between now and training camp. But between Jaren Jackson Jr., Clarke and Yuta, that’s a very promising young crop in tow.

Lang, as you pointed out, this has indeed been an offseason of major transition for the Grizzlies. At this moment, we still don’t know how things will turn out with a couple of acquisitions Memphis picked up in trades. Speculation is rampant that potential buyouts or trades remain in play to flip them for additional assets. But if you had to make a case for why the Grizzlies should absolutely keep any or all these guys in the fold, where would you start or who would it be: Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard or Josh Jackson?

Yuta Watanabe

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:05 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Well, as much as it pains me to say this, I think the first to dismiss from your trio is Dwight Howard. I went to Dwight's Atlanta home when he was a high school senior to write a SLAM cover story about him and have watched with amazement as he basically met every expectation coming out of high school, taking that Orlando team to the NBA Finals. But the years since have been mostly marred by injuries and offcourt spectacles, and for a young team with a lot of players learning their way in the NBA, if Howard is healthy I think there are some contending teams where he could add value and bring back something of value to the Grizz.

Which brings us to another player I have a lot of history with, Andre Iguodala. Throughout Andre's rookie year with the Sixers, I ghost-wrote his rookie diary in SLAM, and we've remained close since then. He's one of my favorite people in the NBA, and is such a smart and thoughtful person. Andre is exactly the type of person I'd want in the locker room to mentor the younger guys and teach them the NBA way. That said, of the three players you invoked, I'm guessing Andre probably has the most value to other NBA teams and would bring back the most in a trade.

Which brings us to Josh Jackson, who I know nothing about other than watching him from afar in Phoenix. He clearly has physical gifts and was a high lottery pick for a reason, but for whatever reason he hasn't been able to put it together in Phoenix. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him well, but there's also the chance that he can't find his way on a young team with a young locker room. Then again, perhaps he could continue the Chris Wallace legacy of finding a home in the Mid-South for underachieving University of Kansas players.

Back to Yuta and summer league for a second: In the same way the Grizz saw Yuta shine for the Nets last summer before scooping him up, were there any other players you saw flashes of future greatness from in either Las Vegas or Utah?

Dwight Howard

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2019 11:42 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

I saw what I believe to be a clear rotation player for Boston in Carsen Edwards. There were several others who stood out on other teams, but the close-up looks we got of Boston in a stretch of two Vegas games in three days offered plenty to be excited about for the Celtics.

Edwards' ability to shoot and take over a game from beyond the arc brought back memories of Vinny 'The Microwave' Johnson from those Detroit teams. For a more modern comp, he has the kind of torch that Lou Williams has flashed for years. Now let's step back a second and keep it in perspective. It's summer league. Only a handful of true, proven NBA rotation players are even competing in these summer games. So you're going off glimpses of potential and projecting the possible impact these young guys may have once the real bright lights of NBA camp opens in a few months. But from what I saw, Edwards' ability to shoot with limitless range, and his ability to create space with that bulky body, should translate.

Lang, we'll wrap up trying to figure out what to make of Chris Paul. The Thunder, reportedly, are struggling to unload him onto another team for a number of reasons. Paul's contract is cumbersome, he's been injury prone, and he's a bit past his prime despite still having something more to contribute to that Hall of Fame resume. Which potential suitors would be best fits for CP3 if a deal could somehow get worked out?

Chris Paul

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2019 3:42 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Well, we’ve certainly seen Miami raised as a landing spot for CP3, and we all know Pat Riley isn’t afraid to splash out money and cap space on big-name veterans. I know CP3 has a huge contract, but he was also pretty good last year with the Rockets, and they had an overall plus-rating when he was on the court. I don’t know how Riley would have to massage the books to make CP3 fit into what they’re doing, but knowing Riley he’d figure out some way to make it happen if that’s what he truly wanted.

I thought a bit today about CP3 coming to Memphis as a mentor figure for our young roster, but again, I don’t think it makes sense for a rebuilding team to go all-on on a contract with three seasons left. The Lakers make a lot of sense from a basketball standpoint, but again I don’t know how the numbers work.

There’s a lot of places that I could talk myself into as homes for CP3, but the team I keep coming back to is the Charlotte Hornets. They just lost Kemba Walker, and who better to step in and be the face of the franchise than a local kid who played college ball down the road at Wake? I’ve always felt like Chris Paul could one day run for governor of North Carolina if he wanted to do it. This might be a similar position, and it would sure pay a lot better.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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