After a surprisingly great year that saw them come just one win short of making it to the playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies have been fairly quiet this offseason. That does not come as a surprise, considering that running it back with their Ja Morant-led young core makes perfect sense.
However, the Grizzlies made it to the newsroom when they announced that Jaren Jackson Jr. will be missing the start of their 2020-21 campaign. Jackson is coming off another productive year in which he averaged 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game, including a stellar 39% clip from the three-point line. His versatility on both offense and defense will be sorely missed by the Grizzlies.
To make matters worse, there’s still no exact timetable for JJJ’s return. With the NBA announcing that there will only be 72 games in the regular season, the Grizzlies can’t afford to just wait out for Jackson to come back before they go all-in in the stacked Western Conference. Having said that, here are versatile power forwards that Memphis can sign in free agency to fill in for their injured star.
Ersan Ilyasova was supposed to go to the Sacramento Kings in that widely-documented Bogdan Bogdanovic trade attempt. But that potential deal didn’t push through, and now the Bucks have waived Ilyasova from their roster. The Grizzlies should take a look at the 33-year old stretch forward, who can provide excellent long-range shooting and veteran presence.
Although Brandon Clarke is the favorite to land Jackson’s vacated starting job, Ilyasova will be a steady presence whether he would be a starter or a key role player off the bench for the Grizzlies.
The more prominent Markieff Morris rumor right now is that he is inclined towards either re-signing with the Lakers or teaming up with his brother Marcus on the Clippers. Bringing in Markieff could be a long shot for the Grizzlies, but they can pitch to him a bigger responsibility and more playing time.
Morris’ toughness will be much-welcomed by a young Grizzlies squad, and his decent three-point shooting will allow head coach Taylor Jenkins to fit him in every line-up, even when Jackson returns.
Taj Gibson is not as good of a shooter as Ilyasova and Morris, but the veteran big man will bring in grit, toughness, and experience to Memphis. His production dipped last season primarily due to lesser playing time on the Knicks’ rotation, but Gibson just averaged double-digits in scoring with the Timberwolves the year prior.
Gibson will not make up for the JJJ’s offense, but the 35-year old can surely anchor the Grizzlies’ defensive schemes.
Lance Thomas didn’t see NBA basketball for almost a year before the Brooklyn Nets signed him last July to add depth to their depleted roster heading into the Florida bubble. Thomas appeared in seven games for the Nets, logged in 14.0 minutes, and averaged 3.4 points per contest.
Nothing specific really stands out in Thomas’s overall skill set, but his ability to play both forward positions could be a key asset on the Grizzlies’ second unit.