The Memphis Grizzlies officially announced their presence to the rest of the Western Conference in 2021. Memphis won 50-plus games for the first time since the 2014-15 season, making the postseason for the second straight year. This time, the Grizzlies advanced past the first round, losing in the Semifinals to the eventual world champion Golden State Warriors, who bested them in six hard-fought games.
The Grizzlies are hard-nosed and physical, a throwback to the Grit-N-Grind days of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. However, these Grizzlies have something those teams didn't: a game-changing superstar. Ja Morant emerged as one of the very best players in the league, winning the Most Improved Player award after becoming one of the game's most lethal scorers.
Behind Morant, Memphis has a strong core of players, including sharpshooter Desmond Bane, guard Dillon Brooks, forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and De'Anthony Melton. It's a young core that figures to stick around in contention for the next several years. However, the successful season doesn't mean that the Grizzlies don't need to do everything they can to take the next step forward this offseason.
With the 2022 NBA Draft around the corner, the Grizzlies have a golden opportunity to add to their youthful depth chart. The franchise is armed with three picks, including the no. 22 and 29 picks in the first round and the 47th selection in the second round.
This year's draft class includes some hidden gems. That said, here are three sleeper prospects the Grizzlies should target in the NBA Draft.
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Grizzlies Sleeper Prospects To Target In NBA Draft
3. E.J. Liddell (PF, Ohio State)
There's a chance that Ohio State's E.J. Liddell isn't available when the Grizzlies are on the clock in the first round. However, the team has been rumored to be looking to package each of their first round picks to move up into the middle of the draft, where Liddell is currently being projected in many mock drafts.
If Memphis does orchestrate such a move, the Ohio State product makes a lot of sense. Liddell who is 6-7 and 240 pounds, is a gifted defender who averaged 2.6 blocks per game for the Buckeyes this past season.
The versatile forward averaged 19.4 points per game, even featuring an improved three-point shot, nailing 37.4 percent of his 3.8 attempts per game from beyond the arc.
The Grizzlies attempted to go small-ball in the postseason, with center Steven Adams relegated to the bench, though they didn't have the proper personnel to make it work.
Liddell has potential as a stretch four or small-ball center who can space the floor and play strong defense on the other end. He's a potential sleeper they can target.
2. Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke, SF)
The Grizzlies' depth chart is awful thin at the small forward spot, with last year's lottery pick Ziare Williams, who flashed ability as a rookie, representing the likely backup behind Brooks. Enter Duke's Wendell Moore Jr. Not only is Moore a capable defender with a lengthy wingspan, but he's also a strong three-point shooter, one who showed great improvement in that area last season.
Williams, who is only 20, has plenty of time to develop a three-point shot on the perimeter. However, Memphis needs more shooters right now, having ranked 17th in three-point percentage.
Morant's slashing style lends itself to having plenty of marksmen around him at all times. Just 20 years old, Moore gives the Grizzlies a wing who can shoot, defend and has great character. It's a no-brainer on draft night.
1. Ryan Rollins (G, Toledo)
If the Grizzlies miss out on Kennedy Chandler in the first round, Ryan Rollins would be a nice backup plan in the second round.
It's no secret that the Grizzlies, who will more than likely be losing backup guard Tyus Jones to free agency, need someone to fill the role behind Morant. Morant's physical style of play makes him more of an injury-risk, meaning the Grizzlies had better have a guard in place behind him.
Rollins, who averaged 18.9 points and 3.6 assists per game this past year, is a talented ball-handler with a capable jump-shot. He showed an ability to push the pace with the ball in his hands, something that would be a welcome addition for Memphis' second unit.
Rollins would fit right in with the Grizzlies, who ranked third in the NBA in pace of play. He likely projects as a reserve guard for a team, which makes him a logical selection for Memphis in the second round of the NBA Draft.