MikeCheck: Flipping McLemore for Temple transforms SG spot from Grizzlies' area of concern to position of strength
MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies’ offseason is winding down and training camp opens in a month.
The roster has been in transition, with eight new players and seven departures amid a supporting cast makeover that’s taking shape. As August reaches its stretch run, Grind City Media wraps up its look at who’s in, who’s out and what impact the transition will have at various spots on the Grizzlies’ roster.
IN: Garrett Temple, 6-6, SG/SF
Deal: 1 year/$8 million expiring contract, acquired from Kings on July 17
Last season: 8.4ppg. (39.2%3ptFG), 2.3rpg, 1.9apg in 65 games
OUT: Ben McLemore, 6-5, SG
Deal: 1 year/$5.4 million expiring contract, traded to Kings on July 17
Last season: 7.5ppg. (42.1%FG), 2.5rpg., 0.9sapg in 56 games with Grizzlies
The Grizzlies’ most unsettled position the past couple of years has been at shooting guard, where there’s been instability since Tony Allen’s heyday. But even then, Memphis has had a revolving door of wings sliding in and out of favor under multiple coaches the past few seasons. Last summer’s addition turned out to be a dud when McLemore broke his foot a couple of weeks after signing a two-year, $10.7 million deal, and he never established his footing with the Grizzlies.
In quietly one of the best and shrewdest moves of the offseason, the Grizzlies packaged two underperforming players in McLemore and third-year center Deyonta Davis, along with cash considerations, to the Kings in exchange for a reliable swingman in Temple. That move signified the offseason overhaul at the shooting guard position for the Grizzlies, who also watched standout Tyreke Evans walk in free agency and, on Tuesday, released second-year developmental guard Kobi Simmons from his ‘Two-Way’ contract.
McLemore, despite best intentions of all involved, including a strong proponent in former coach David Fizdale, failed to be the shooter, scorer or athletic force on the wing all had hoped. Now, McLemore returns to the team that drafted him in the lottery five years ago, a place that ran through four different head coaches in four years trying to find a spark. The fact that Memphis’ front-office staff was able to hit the reset button on the McLemore mistake so swiftly underscores the team’s subtle but significant offseason success.
Eight different players, including McLemore, started at shooting guard last season. And that position remains one of the biggest mysteries entering the start of training camp next month. Evans’ scoring and playmaking versatility at the big guard spot will be missed. McLemore? Maybe not so much.
The return of a healthy Mike Conley from heel surgery is the best thing that can happen at the shooting guard position for the Grizzlies. No, that last line isn’t a typo. We realize Conley is the franchise catalyst at point guard. But his scoring, playmaking and ability to initiate offense at all three levels (three-point range, mid-range and in the paint) will dictate how far Memphis goes in J.B. Bickerstaff’s first season as fulltime head coach. There’s been plenty of talk about doubling down on the Grit N Grind approach as the team loaded up on defensive stalwarts who are also versatile assets on offense.
That’s exactly where players such as Temple come in. But make no mistake about it: Bickerstaff and new lead assistant Chad Forcier have been in the lab this summer crafting an offensive system predicated on early transition scoring opportunities and, from there, cutting, spacing and secondary ball-movement in halfcourt sets. Temple has played with seven different teams in as many years in the league, but he’s brought the same valuable intangibles everywhere he’s been. He plays the point, shooting guard and small forward positions, and can defend all three of those spots equally well.
Temple represents the kind of interchangeable, high-IQ roster upgrade the Grizzlies’ brass has been all about this summer. He started 35 games in Sacramento last season and posted an effective field-goal shooting percentage of 51.2 while also shooting a career-high 39.2-percent from three-point range. Earlier this month, Temple showed his shooting range and his playmaking ability as one of Team World’s primary ball-handlers in a win over Team Africa in the NBA Africa Game. Temple made four of eight shots and finished with 11 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals in 24 minutes.
In other words, count Temple among the plug-and-play options the Grizzlies have throughout the roster. He established a rapport with Bickerstaff during their time together in South Africa this summer, and Temple has also gotten acquainted off the court in recent weeks with Conley on the golf course. Temple likely won’t start at shooting guard this season, but expect him to create tough competition for that spot in a mix that includes Dillon Brooks, MarShon Brooks and Wayne Selden Jr. as the likely top contenders.
At the end of the day, this could very well wind up a shooting-guard-by-committee situation for the Grizzlies, who have more quality options than available minutes at that spot. The good news is that all of the primary players are team-first guys who bring unique strengths to the table. Dillon Brooks, coming off a promising rookie season, is the best two-way option with the most upside. MarShon Brooks is the best pure scorer and shooter. Selden is a do-it-all physical specimen when healthy. And Temple is a jack of all trades who has made a living in the league as a certified role player.
The Grizzlies still might not have a clear answer at shooting guard heading into training camp. But with Temple on board to add layers of depth and reliability McLemore was unable to offer, Memphis has turned a position of relative weakness and concern into one of potential strength.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.