The Memphis Grizzlies head to 2023 NBA Summer League with a (comparatively) experienced roster, and one with some international flavor. The Grizzlies Summer League roster includes several players — David Roddy, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Jake LaRavia — who played a good amount last season, as well as players (both signed and unsigned) from overseas. Of the players on the squad, here are the five must-watch prospects to keep an eye on during the Grizzlies’ 2023 NBA Summer League campaign.
South Carolina freshman GG Jackson was the youngest player in the 2023 NBA Draft. He was the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 high school class before reclassifying and going to college a year early. Jackson had an up-and-down season on the court and a tough one on social media.
However, Jackson is just 18 ½, and he’s already apologized and said all the right things about his maturity issues last season (although Grizzlies fans know all about hollow apologies).
The fact remains, just a year ago, scouts thought that Jackson was one of the best prospects in the nation. He still has that talent in him. It’s just up to the Grizzlies' coaching staff to unlock it. And that starts at NBA Summer League.
Kenneth Lofton Jr.
Grizzlies fans got to see the tantalizing offensive game of Kenneth Lofton Jr. last season in 24 games for the big club. In those appearances, Lofton averaged 5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, and shot 35.3% from deep.
However, the really exciting moment was in the last game of the season. Lofton got the start in this meaningless game and dropped 42 on the Oklahoma City Thunder while adding 14 rebounds.
During Grizzlies Summer League, we’ll likely see more of Lofton’s excellent scoring touch. Don’t be surprised if he puts up some more big games. What the team needs to see, though, is better NBA-level defense if he wants to get in more games next season.
It’s also worth watching how Lofton plays with and stacks up against David Roddy. Is fellow rookie was the most productive first-year player on the team last season, and will now lead the Grizzlies Summer League roster.
Roddy is Lofton’s biggest competition for playing time right now, so Summer League will be as much of a competition for these two as it is a team endeavor.
Like Kenneth Lofton Jr., Jake LaRavia (No. 19 overall) spent some time with the Grizzlies last season, suiting up for 35 games. In those games, he averaged 3.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, and shot 33.8% from three.
It’s that last number that has to improve during Grizzlies Summer League. LaRavia is a 6-foot-8 sharpshooting wing who needs to be a better sharpshooter to justify his first-round draft slot. He started the season hot, shooting 60% from deep in his first five games, but cooled off dramatically after that.
Now, the former Indiana State Sycamore needs to channel some of his inner Larry Bird and start knocking down jumpers at Summer League, or next season could be another lost one as well.
Point guard Jacob Gilyard is a fun player to watch because, at 5-foot-9, he is one of the smallest players in NBA history. The former Richmond Spiders guard only played one game for Memphis last season (that final game of the season), but he looked good, knocking down a three and adding seven assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
Making the team and getting playing time will be an uphill battle for Gilyard, as the NBA hasn’t had a diminutive point guard like this since Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues in the 80s and 90s.
Still, Gilyard is easy to root for, and it is impressive to watch a small player like this operate amongst the trees in the NBA. Plus, with Ja Morant suspended for the beginning of the season, there may be a chance for a PG like Gilyard to sneak in and earn a roster spot.
Former Duke Blue Devil Matthew Hurt didn’t make it to The Show last season, but he did have some impressive performances with the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle. The second-year professional averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. He shot 39.3% from 3-point range and 71.4% on his shots from inside the arc.
Hurt blossomed in his second year at Duke as well, going from scoring under 10 points a game to making All-ACC. And after an injury-plagued first year, he came on strong in year two.
On the Grizzlies Summer League roster, Hurt will compete with LaRavia for time. One I an undrafted free agent, and the other is a top-20 pick. That doesn’t matter in NBA Summer League, though. If Hurt can actually do on the court what LaRavia was supposed to be able to do, he could take that spot when the season starts.