The Memphis Grizzlies' 2023 postseason run was short-lived. Despite finishing with the second-best record in the Western Conference during the regular season at 51-31, the team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in six games. It's worth noting that the Lakers weren't the average seven seed, as they finished the regular season on a tear. But the Grizzlies became just the second team in NBA history to lose a first-round series to a play-in team.
Despite the team's disappointing postseason play, though, the Grizzlies should feel good about their future. Their core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane are all All-Star caliber players and 24 years old or younger. And the Grizzlies have solid complimentary pieces around their big three, such as Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones, Luke Kennard, and Xavier Tillman, among others.
One of the worst things the Grizzlies could do this summer is overreact to their first-round exit by shaking up their bench and signing big-name role players who aren't great fits for the roster. With this in mind, let's look at two free agents that the Grizzlies must avoid signing in NBA free agency:
2 free agents Grizzlies must avoid signing in NBA free agency
1. Jae Crowder
Jae Crowder — who has played for eight teams across his 11 years in the pros — has established a reputation in the NBA as a high-level 3-and-D role player. He's played a key role on several teams who have gone on to make deep playoff runs, most notably the 2020 Miami Heat, who made it all the way to the NBA Finals.
But at this point in his career, Crowder doesn't quite live up to his reputation anymore. Crowder played just 18 games during the 2022-23 regular season — all with the Milwaukee Bucks — after refusing to play for the Phoenix Suns. And Crowder struggled mightily on both ends of the floor in Milwaukee's first-round series against the Miami Heat.
In 40 total minutes across Games 1, 2, and 3, Crowder shot a combined 3-for-13 from the field and 0-for-6 from behind the three-point arc. And on the defensive end, he couldn't stick with Jimmy Butler on the perimeter. Because of his lackluster play, Crowder didn't play a single minute in Games 4 or 5.
Crowder is more name than game at this juncture. Hence, the Grizzlies would be wise to look elsewhere for wing depth this summer.
Christian Wood's offensive talent is undeniable. Few other players his size can shoot, handle, and pass the ball like he can. Plus, on paper, his ability to shoot the three-pointer would make him a hand-in-glove fit in the Grizzlies' Ja Morant-led offense. But for all of the good that Wood does on the offensive side of the ball, he is inept on the defensive end.
One advanced stat highlights the notion that Wood is a below-average defender. Opponents scored an average of 2.8 more points per 100 possessions with Wood on the floor compared to when he was off it this season, which ranks in the 25th percentile among all bigs, per Cleaning the Glass. Wood's poor defensive positioning and IQ are what prevented him from receiving consistent minutes from Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd.
The Grizzlies already have a great big-man rotation. Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams, Santi Aldama, and Xavier Tillman are all rotation-caliber players or better, and they are all solid, smart defenders. Memphis should try to keep its center/power forward rotation the way it is — after all if it ain't broke, don't fix it.