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MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – Kobi Simmons

MEMPHIS – Midway through a disappointing and injury-riddled season, the Grizzlies shifted their focus to development for the immediate future.

As a result, the final months of a 22-60 finish were dedicated to fast-tracking the growth and evaluation of rookies, second-year and third-year players on the roster, with contract decisions looming on many of them within the next couple of seasons.

While newcomers Dillon Brooks and Ivan Rabb appear to be steals from the second round of last year’s draft, the jury remains out on prospects such as Deyonta Davis and Wayne Selden. In either case, the Grizzlies missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years and head toward the May 15 Draft Lottery assured of no worse than a top-five pick in the June 21 NBA Draft.

The Grizzlies also have the second pick (No. 32 overall) in the second round and the full midlevel exception in free agency to upgrade the roster, address needs and chart a path back to the playoffs.

After starting Grind City Media’s ‘Offseason Outlook’ last week with my personal analysis of the coaching situation and roster veterans, we continue this week with a focus on young players the Grizzlies view as assets.

Player: Kobi Simmons, 20

Measurables: 6-4, 170 – 1st NBA Season

2017-18 Stats: 6.1ppg, 1.6rpg, 2.1apg in 20.1mpg, shot 100.0% (25-of-25) from free-throw line.

Status: Due $75,000 -$290,000 for 2018-19 salary in second season of a two-year, Two-Way contract.

Notable

First player in franchise history to sign a Two-Way Contract with the Grizzlies and Memphis Hustle this past season, and appeared in 32 NBA games, including 12 starts as an undrafted rookie.

Upside

Speed, quickness, athleticism and length were all what made Simmons such an attractive developmental prospect when the Grizzlies snagged him after he went undrafted out of Arizona last summer. The 12 starts in his 32 games with the Grizzlies, including extended minutes over the final weeks of the season, gave Simmons the chance to go up against the likes of Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons, among other frontline NBA stars. Kobi does his best work in transition, where 60 percent of his points came, and he also shot 62 percent in the paint area. His performance in the home finale, when he scored a career-high 20 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range, with seven assists, only scratched the surface of the player he can develop into in due time.

Downside

Simmons is raw. Really raw. While the athleticism and ability to finish above the rim jump off the page, the book on him is that his jump shot is largely erratic and he has limited point guard instincts. In hindsight, another season in college at Arizona, where he would have gotten to play with potential No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton this past season, might have helped Simmons improve his stock drastically and develop his playmaking skills. Simmons has the first step and step back to create separation, but he shot just 29 percent from the field on jumpers, so that must be a point of emphasis this summer. His assist-to-turnover ratio is nowhere near the range expected from an adequate NBA facilitator. There must also be a willingness and commitment to embrace a definitive point guard role.

Bottom line

It bears repeating: The raw talent is there. But Simmons is basically a blank canvas of potential. Fortunately, the Grizzlies signed him to a two-year Two-Way contract, knowing they’re building a prospect from scratch. Simmons needs the added year of shuttling between the Memphis Hustle and Grizzlies to develop more into focus. Memphis kicked the tires on Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Briante Weber and Marquis Teague late in the season, but ultimately invested playing time trying to get Simmons up to speed at the point. We’re seeing his prototype - young, wiry, long wingspan, athletic and explosive – contribute all over these playoffs. The hope is Simmons becomes the Grizzlies’ version of what Dejounte Murray is for the Spurs, Dante Exum is for the Jazz and Delon Wright is for the Raptors.

Quoting Simmons

I think the young guys throughout the season we had, through the ups and downs, we always went out there and we fought. We competed every night. It’s just (about) knowing that with everybody coming back, when young guys get a chance to get on the floor, we’re going to give everything we have. Me just being young, coming out and learning every day, trying to put all the pieces together. I’m hungry. I definitely learned a lot going back and forth (between the Hustle and Grizzlies).

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.

by Michael Wallace | Grind City Media