MikeCheck: Grizzlies Offseason Outlook – James Ennis III
By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media
MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Who stays? Who goes?
How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?
Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.
Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into our ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, entering a potentially pivotal offseason.
Player: James Ennis III, 26
Measurables: 6-7, 210 – 3rd NBA Season
2016-17 Stats: 6.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg (career high), 37.3 3-pt FG%, 23.4 mpg (career high)
Status: Due $3.0 million for 2017-18 salary in final season of two-year deal.
The career-high 1,501 minutes Ennis played this season were more than the combined time he earned his previous two NBA seasons. His comfort level with coach David Fizdale stemmed from their season together in Miami, where Ennis played 62 games as a rookie and Fizdale was the lead assistant.
I’d give it a C+, B. Our big picture was to play in the finals. Obviously, we lost to a good team, but the biggest focus was how we stayed together through the ups and downs this year. We just played hard this whole year. We bought into what Coach Fizz brought over here. (For me), it’s definitely a proving point. I’m thankful Coach Fizz actually brought me back here. I just stayed ready.
Ennis started the final four games of the playoff series against the Spurs and increased his production across the board from the regular season. Memphis coaches often referred to Ennis as a “Swiss Army knife” because of his athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions. Ennis was a solid three-point shooter this season, a good slasher and a disruptive defensive presence in the passing lanes. He scored in double figures 15 times and led the Grizzlies in steals on 11 occasions. Ideally, Ennis is a cost-effective backup wing who adds experienced depth and could ease Chandler Parsons’ transition back into action. He’s also a likely stopgap should Tony Allen and/or Vince Carter depart in free agency.
What the Grizzlies essentially have in Ennis is a player who does a number of things well, but doesn’t exactly overwhelm you with upside in one or two particular areas. That might best explain the extremes to which his role played out this season. He started 32 games, including the playoffs, but also went extended stretches when he was benched and never cracked the rotation. In the playoffs, San Antonio’s defense basically forced the ball into Ennis’ hands, often late in the shot clock, and he struggled offensively under that spotlight. His confidence on defense is ahead of where he stands offensively. That’s the case when the eighth or ninth man in the rotation is thrust into a starting role.
Ennis joins Brandan Wright as the only players on the roster who enter next season on expiring contracts without player or team options attached. And also like Wright, Ennis is on such an economical deal for the potential role he’ll play, it’s just as beneficial to keep him around as it would be to dangle him as a trade chip entering next month’s draft, July free agency or ahead of next season’s trade deadline. At the end of the day, Ennis’ plight will be largely determined by mitigating factors such as Parsons’ health/progress and whatever may happen with Allen and Carter in free agency. Keeping Ennis in tow gives Fizdale another rotation proponent who’ll embrace changes to a faster playing style.
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.