By Bennett Hipp
The Memphis Grizzlies declined the opportunity to tender a qualifying offer to power forward Ed Davis, making the 25-year old out of the University of North Carolina an unrestricted free agent while retaining his Bird Rights.
Davis, who was acquired by the Grizzlies from Toronto in a three-team trade on January 30, 2013, averaged 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game in two seasons with Memphis.
In terms of constructing that roster for the 2014-15 season, priority number one for Wallace and the Memphis front office was bringing back the two-time All-Star in Randolph.
That goal has been accomplished, as Randolph has picked up his player option for next season and agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him in Beale Street Blue through the 2016-17 season.
For the Grizzlies, who led the NBA in field goal attempts in the paint last season, locking up Randolph not only gives them consistent production down low for the next three seasons, but also brings back a player who has emerged as a perfect match for the city of Memphis and the Grizzlies’ fan base.
“We look forward to teaming with Zach to take a run at reaching our ultimate goal, which is an NBA Championship.”
With Randolph under contract, the attention has turned to determining who will play behind him in the rotation. One of those players will be Leuer, an athletic six-foot-ten, 228-pound big man who can stretch the floor and knock down jumpers from behind the arc.
Leuer received only limited minutes after being traded to Memphis from Cleveland during the 2012-13 season, but came into his own this past season under head coach Dave Joerger.
He averaged career-highs in points, rebounds and three-point percentage while posting his first career double-double on December 9th against Orlando and scoring a career-best 23 points twice, on December 3rd against Phoenix and January 5th against Detroit. The improvement of Leuer’s game is something that Wallace expected, and continues to expect going forward.
“He’s a good player. He can stretch the floor with his shooting, he can rebound and he has a variety of skills and is just getting better and better in his own right. I think the best days for Jon Leuer with the Grizzlies are in front of us.”
While Leuer gives Memphis a versatile option behind Randolph, one of the newest members of the Grizzlies profiles as a much more traditional backup.
Jarnell Stokes, who was selected 35th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz and traded to the Grizzlies shortly after, is a six-foot-eight, 260-pound forward out of the University of Tennessee who led the Southeastern Conference in rebounding as junior.
While warning that it’s tough for young players to break through early on a veteran-laden playoff team like the Grizzlies, Wallace see’s a bright future for the Memphis native.
“With both of our draft picks, we’re looking down the line. Now, if they get something early on, that’s gravy,” said Wallace. “Jarnell was drafted because he was one of the most productive rebounders in this draft class. That rebounding skill set and his toughness fit well with our team’s Grit and Grind style of play.
As the NBA calendar turns to free agency, teams like the Grizzlies will look to make improvements to their roster wherever they can. However, Wallace and the Grizzlies are extremely happy with the group of players they have put together at the power forward position.
“They all have different skills, so that gives us flexibility with the rotation, and they have all been really productive before whether it’s at the NBA level or at the collegiate level,” said Wallace. “Every team is always looking to upgrade, but if the season started tomorrow, we’re confident and content with that group.”