MikeCheck: Shift from Evans’ scoring, ball dominance to Anderson’s unique versatility sets tone for Grizzlies’ reload
MEMPHIS – If the Grizzlies’ offseason has felt like a dizzying blur of the NBA draft process, coaching staff additions, summer league development, free agency, trades and roster upgrades, take comfort.
You’re not alone.
There’s very little “off” regarding the NBA offseason these days. Need proof? Tuesday marks the 50-day countdown to the Grizzlies’ Oct. 2 preseason opener against the Rockets in Birmingham. The roster has been in transition, with eight new players in tow and six departures with much of the offseason makeover now complete.
As training camp approaches in a little over a month, we’ll periodically take a closer look at who’s in, who’s out and what impact the transition will have at various spots on the Grizzlies’ roster.
IN: Kyle Anderson, 6-9 SF
Deal: 4 years/$37.2 million incoming free agent
Last season: 7.9ppg. (52.7%FG), 5.4rpg, 2.7apg., 1.5spg in 74 games
OUT: Tyreke Evans, 6-6, SG
Deal: 1 year/$12 million free-agency departure (Pacers)
Last season: 19.4ppg. (39.9% 3pt.FG), 5.1rpg., 5.2apg., 1.1spg in 52 games
For a team that’s ranked near or at the bottom of the NBA in multiple scoring categories, it’s hardly ideal to see a points creator like Evans bolt in free agency after delivering 20-5-5 a night in his lone season in Memphis. Evans also turned in the best three-point shooting effort of his career in the most productive season he’s had since his 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year run. The Grizzlies already grew accustomed to life without Evans due to a combination of injuries and mysterious absences that followed the February trade deadline.
The team is hoping to fill Evans’ scoring void by spreading the wealth among an upgraded supporting cast surrounding Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Speaking of wealth, can’t fault Evans for quadrupling last season’s $3 million salary in this summer’s free-agency market.
If you get a contract like that, you’ve got to take it. When you have someone like that, and you watch them develop and they leave … it’s for the right reasons. He was special here – off the court, on the court. He’ll be great in Memphis. I’ll hate playing against him.-- Gregg Popovich
There aren’t many players in the league capable of overwhelming you with intangibles quite like Anderson. Nicknamed ‘SloMo’ for his molasses-smooth approach to filling a stat sheet, Anderson is the most important free agent the Grizzlies signed after losing the most impactful free agent they landed last summer. The versatile, five-year veteran has been described as a ‘plus-minus savant’ and one of the NBA’s most uniquely productive players. But the best thing said about Anderson came from the coach who reluctantly watched him depart San Antonio for a four-year deal that was longer than the transitioning Spurs were prepared to counter.
“(Losing) Kyle was very difficult,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said last month. “If you get a contract like that, you’ve got to take it. That would have been very difficult, for us to match that contract. When you have someone like that, and you watch them develop and they leave … it’s for the right reasons. He was special here – off the court, on the court. He’ll be great in Memphis. I’ll hate playing against him.”
Look for Anderson to open at small forward, but serve as a calibrating force for the Grizzlies at as many as four positions. What the Grizzlies lost in Evans’ pure scoring as a ball-dominant attacking guard, they should gain in Anderson’s two-way versatility and playmaking efficiency. The 24-year-old Anderson ranked sixth among qualifying NBA players in defensive rating last season. And he was one of only five guards/small forwards to shoot 50 percent and average at least seven rebounds and 3.5 assists per-36 minutes.
The Grizzlies won’t have to wait long to get their first taste of how that transition plays out. Anderson and Evans are set to cross paths in the Grizzlies’ Oct. 17 season opener on the road against the Pacers.
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.