MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – Andrew Harrison
MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies entered an opportunistic May – the first full month of their offseason – with significant traction toward addressing some of the biggest questions looming over the franchise.
They’ve already resolved the ownership issue, with Robert Pera maintaining controlling interest in the franchise and a commitment to keeping the Grizzlies in Memphis.
They’ve already conducted exit interviews, with key players, veterans and young prospects set to distance themselves from a 22-60 season and embark on a summer of healing, conditioning, development and improvement in hopes of a return to playoff contention.
And they’re also solidifying a front-office plan that included formalizing a multi-year contract this week to retain J.B. Bickerstaff as head coach. Now, the Grizzlies are just days away from learning their fate in the May 15 draft lottery, where they are assured of a top-five pick in the June 21 NBA Draft as well as the No. 32 overall pick in the second round.
Expect the Grizzlies to be active in league-wide trade discussions surrounding the draft and July free agency, with key decisions looming on several of their own players.
So after covering the coaching situation, returning roster veterans and young/developing assets the past few weeks in Grind City Media’s ‘Offseason Outlook,’ we continue with my personal analysis of the Grizzlies’ pending free agents and veterans set to enter expiring contracts.
Player: Andrew Harrison, 23
Measurables: 6-6, 213 – 2nd NBA Season
2017-18 Stats: 9.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.2apg in 23.7mpg, shot 33.1% on threes this season (all career highs).
Status: Due $1.5 million ($200K guaranteed) on team option for 2018-19 in final year of three-year deal.
After finishing last in the NBA in effective FG shooting percentage (38.5%) among players with at least 300 attempts, Harrison’s shooting increased by nearly 10 percentage points (47.7%) this season.
The modest numbers this season don’t do Harrison justice. This was a breakthrough season for a prospect who represents the best of the Grizzlies’ development process. Harrison is a slow burner, from being a second round pick in 2015 and spending an entire season in the development league to then toiling through the worst shooting season in the NBA as a rookie in 2016-17. At 6-6 and a solid 213 pounds, Harrison plays both guard positions and is a tough defender at all three perimeter spots. Drastic improvement in his offensive game restored confidence that he finally can be a serviceable backup to Conley at point guard. February’s season-high production saw Harrison average 15.6 points, 4.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds while shooting 47.4-percent overall and 40.5-percent on three-pointers in 10 games.
Even during his most encouraging stretches, Harrison couldn’t avoid the injury bug that chewed through most of the team this season. He missed a total of 26 games, including the final two weeks of the season with recurring shoulder and wrist problems. Some of that time off was to be extra cautious at the end of the season, but it still stunted some valuable growth opportunities. Wild inconsistencies remain an issue, but Harrison had more than a few stretches in games when he took over and made a case for being the best player on the court. Then, puzzling and frustrating lapses often followed to the point when he kicked a door open and stormed out of the locker room in the aftermath of a February loss in Atlanta after coach J.B. Bickerstaff unloaded on him for the Jekyll and Hyde routine.
Barring a blockbuster trade that would force a seismic roster shift this offseason, it would be surprising if the Grizzlies don’t pick up the team option on Harrison’s contract. The $200,000 partial guarantee provides a bit of a hedge, but as Harrison said in exit interviews, he’s earned a spot moving forward. Exactly where that spot falls in the rotation will depend on several factors, including whether Tyreke Evans returns in free agency. General manager Chris Wallace said late in the season he felt comfortable with where the backup point guard position stood if healthy. Aside from rookie Dillon Brooks, probably no other player on the roster garnered more hands-on attention and development from Bickerstaff than Harrison. That investment should finally pay off for Harrison and the Grizzlies.
There were a lot of ups and downs, but I learned so much. I never want the season to be over; I want to play every day I can … I think we can work on our togetherness overall. But we’re not that far off. You can look at our record, but we have a lot of talent on this team and we’re not that far off. We know we can compete in this league at the highest level, and now we just have to turn that into a winning formula. I don’t know what my role will be, but I think I’ve earned a spot.
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.