The 2016 NBA Summer League for the Memphis Grizzlies had flashes of the past and hints of the future.
Big men injury woes
Memphis fans hoped to get their first looks at three rookies on the roster. First round draft pick Wade Baldwin IV, second round draft pick Deyonta Davis and first-year head coach David Fizdale.
Two of the three happened, with Davis missing all six games after developing plantar fasciitis in his left foot. It seemed to be the same old news of the 2015-16 season, which saw the Grizzlies trot out a record 28 players.
Luckily, no surgery was necessary so it shouldn’t be much to worry about going into training camp.
Fellow big man Jarell Martin missed his second summer league in a row due to a foot injury. This one is a bit more worrisome, and rightfully so.
Martin suffered a stress fracture during the draft process back in 2015. He sat out that summer league, before breaking his foot during a training camp practice. After working back from that injury and into the playoff rotation for the Grizzlies, Martin had a second procedure on the foot in April. Although he was recently cleared to play, he wasn’t able to participate in the 2016 Summer League.
Martin had his chances last year to show what he’s capable of, showing in stretches that he can be a solid bench option. The only question is, will he be able to stay healthy for long enough to contribute?
He is only 22 years old, but a big man with a history of repeated foot injuries is never something to overlook.
Guards aggressive through struggles
Wade Baldwin IV and Andrew Harrison had similar experiences during the Summer League. Both struggled shooting the ball, combining to go 24-96, for 25%.
Baldwin didn’t connect on a single three, and Harrison went 3-20. Coach Fizdale was still encouraged by their play, though, and I think that’s fair.
Yes, they couldn’t make shots. But they were aggressive getting into the paint and to the free throw line. Harrison started out Summer League by going 12-12 from the free throw line against the D-League Select team. Harrison would wind up shooting nine or more free throws in three of the five games he played in. Baldwin was very similar, attempting at least seven free throws in three of four games.
Fizdale said he liked seeing the aggressiveness, and now his job is to teach them how to finish at the rim. And for a player development guru such as Fizdale, the play of Baldwin and Harrison is encouraging.
Harrison’s play earned him a three-year, three million dollar deal with the Grizzlies. The deal is a guaranteed, so expect to see Harrison in Memphis periodically throughout the season, but expect to see plenty of game time for the Grizzlies D-League affiliate, the Iowa Energy.
Harrison appeared in 46 games last season for the Energy, posting a stat line of 18.5 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds. While I don’t expect him to see much action for Memphis, to have him develop under Fizdale and Mike Conley will be huge for the young guard from Kentucky.
Harrison wasn’t the only player from the Summer League roster to play himself into a Memphis roster spot. Former Memphis Tiger, DJ Stephens signed a two-year, partially guaranteed contract on July 21. Stephens has always been an incredible leaper and athlete, but that alone doesn’t translate to sticking around in the NBA.
A winning culture
The biggest takeaway from the Grizzlies 2016 Summer League has to be the attitude of David Fizdale. One thing that Fizdale is huge on is a winning culture.
Coming from Miami, he understands what the mindset has to be for a team to win it all, something he experienced twice. And he didn’t wait for training camp to instill a championship culture. He started in Las Vegas with what shirts everyone was to wear. Not only did he tell the staff what polo to wear to the games, but all of the coaching staff and broadcast team was also instructed what color to wear to practice.
This may seem small, but Fizdale is incorporating a winning, team-first culture into the Grizzlies immediately.
Summer League stats and play will always be over dissected. But for the Grizzlies it was all about the experience. Unfortunately, Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin couldn't see the court.
Wade Baldwin IV and Andrew Harrison struggled to finish at the rim, but this now gives them something tangible to work on until training camp starts up. As for Coach Fizdale, having his first chance to sit in the head coach's chair without the pressure of an NBA game is a valuable experience for a rookie head coach .