The Memphis Grizzlies’ summer of free agency might actually be more of an in-house rewards program than a search for outside talent.
First, Zach Randolph (18.3 points, 10.6 boards in 2013-14) agreed to stay in Memphis for two more years; and next up could be Mike Miller (14-year veteran), the only Grizzly to appear in all 82 games last season.
Despite injuries that hampered his two-ring tenure in Miami (2012, 2013), Miller has been vocal about his desire to play three or four more years. And the University of Florida product would like to finish his NBA career where it all started — Memphis — while helping the club reach its first-ever NBA Finals.
Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are past promotional-tour aspect of their careers; but still, parading Pondexter around the region for the caravan — soon after helping Memphis reach the Western Conference finals (losing to San Antonio) in 2013 — indicated just how much the Grizzlies respect his contribution.
Pondexter has the ability to space the floor and shoot from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies’ 3-point field goal percentage improved last season — thanks to Miller — but still ranked 19th in the NBA (35 percent).
Memphis shot 46 percent from the field, but small forward and 12-year vet Tayshaun Prince averaged just 6.0 points per game — with the Grizzlies averaging 96.1. Only Milwaukee, Utah and Chicago fared worse.
Prince’s expiring contract was reportedly in trade talks with the Toronto Raptors on draft night.
The Grizzlies drafted two players last week, UCLA guard Jordan Adams and Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, a Memphis native.
Adams could be the plug that fills the Grizzlies’ need for a shooter. If he and last year’s draftee, Jamaal Franklin (Round 2), can figure out the NBA this season, Memphis could be more dangerous than some believe.
And some fell off that belief train after injuries marred what could have been last season.
Stokes, like center Kosta Koufos’ role as Gasol’s backup, looks to be the ideal reserve for Randolph. General manager Chris Wallace says Stokes, a 6-foot-9, 263-pound double-double guy at Tennessee, is already rebounding-ready for the league.
Adams could provide the scoring Memphis needs, but what about the needed athleticism that would greatly complement the inside-out game?
Vince Carter, 37, could provide the scoring help Memphis needs. In his 15th NBA season, Carter averaged 11.9 points in the regular season for Dallas and 12.6 in seven playoff games.
Carter still offers the occasional highlight-reel slam dunk, and he also hit 15 of 31 three-pointers against the Spurs in the playoffs. If Adams needs time to develop into an NBA scorer, there aren’t any better 30-something mentors than Carter.
C.J. Miles is a younger option at shooting guard. Miles, who spent the last two seasons with Cleveland, is a 39-percent shooter from behind the arc. He averaged 9.9 points per game last season and had a player efficiency rating of 16.03 — both higher figures than Grizzlies starter Courtney Lee.
Maybe the most attractive addition is former Connecticut guard/forward Niels Giffey. The 6’7, 204-pound German blossomed in four years in college. And while his numbers aren’t eye-popping (8.4 points, 3.8 rebounds per game), the Grizzlies wouldn’t need him to be.
Giffey hit more than 48 percent of his three-point attempts last season and shot 54 percent from the field, showing his range with two big triples in the NCAA championship game (against Kentucky). Giffey is a rare four-year guy and knows how to win, part of two national titles at Connecticut.
Giffey’s basketball IQ is high and he can guard multiple positions. He rebounds over guys with more raw physical abilities — like Randolph.
Giffey could be a great bench spark with James Johnson. He was an instant spark and fan favorite when the Grizzlies signed him from the D-League. Beno Udrih, a mid-season trade acquisition and a unrestricted free agent, would help the Grizzlies stay deep at point guard — along with starter Mike Conley Jr. and backup Nick Calathes.
The Grizzlies’ draft night didn’t impress a lot of people, but it looks more appealing off paper. As such, Memphis may be perfectly happy with its pieces and thus choose to keep the house in its current order.
But if there is one move, Giffey is looking for a shot and the Grizzlies need someone who can shoot. He does that and much more.