In a resounding rebuttal to his critics, Memphis Grizzlies rookie Zach Edey showcased his potential during the NBA Summer League, silencing doubters who questioned his ability to transition from college basketball to the professional level.

The towering 7-foot-4 center delivered an impressive performance, demonstrating his capabilities and addressing concerns that had followed him throughout his college career at Purdue.

“Everybody seemed to focus on what they thought I can’t do,” Edey remarked after the game, per The Athletic's Tony Jones. “They focused on that instead of talking about what I could do. It was fun to get out there and be able to show what I could do.”

For the past three years, discussions about Edey's NBA viability centered largely on perceived deficiencies in his game. Critics pointed to his size and the style of play Purdue employed, expressing skepticism about his ability to adapt to the faster, more spaced-out NBA game.

Questions abounded: Could he keep up with the pace? Could he operate effectively in a pick-and-roll-heavy league? Could he thrive without relying on his back-to-the-basket play?

Edey’s performance in his Summer League debut provided resounding answers. He scored 14 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and blocked four shots. His crucial tip-in at the buzzer forced overtime against the Utah Jazz, showcasing his knack for being in the right place at critical moments. Despite Memphis' eventual 97-95 loss, Edey’s impact on both ends of the floor was undeniable.

“He’s a pretty good basketball player,” said Memphis Summer League coach Jason March. “Let’s not forget that. He’s 7-foot forever, and he knows what he’s doing. Everyone is asking questions as if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Edey’s ability to run the floor stood out, particularly against Utah’s Walker Kessler, known for his speed and athleticism. Edey’s elite rim protection deterred Jazz drivers repeatedly, establishing him as a formidable presence in the paint.

Importantly, he achieved this without dominating the ball on the block, a significant shift from his college playing style.

The NBA game demands versatility from its big men, favoring those who can shoot threes, set screens, and defend the rim. Edey’s performance suggested he could fit this mold. Over the past year, he shed weight and improved his mobility, impressing scouts during pre-draft workouts with his shooting and overall agility.

“Zach took a lot of the feedback from scouts and answered a lot of questions,” noted Jazz general manager Justin Zanik. “He slimmed down, and he’s figured out how to impact the game in multiple ways.”

Edey’s ability to screen effectively, drawing defensive attention and creating open shots for teammates, was particularly promising. His rebounding prowess, especially on the offensive glass, posed significant challenges for the Jazz.

Occasionally, he showcased his college-honed skill of posting up and scoring over his left shoulder, highlighting his multifaceted offensive game.

The Grizzlies' decision to draft Edey with the ninth pick surprised some, but his potential fit with the team is becoming clearer. Memphis' dynamic backcourt, featuring players like Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Marcus Smart, could greatly benefit from Edey’s screen-setting and rim-rolling abilities.

The road ahead with the Grizzlies for Zach Edey

Zach Edey, a first-round draft pick for the Grizzlies, listens to a question from the media during a press conference to introduce the team’s 2024 NBA Draft picks at FedExForum on Friday,
© Chris Day/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The synergy between Edey and the Grizzlies appears promising. Memphis excelled in the Western Conference when they had a dominant center like Steven Adams, who provided screens, cleaned up rebounds, and protected the rim. Edey’s skill set suggests he could fill a similar role, potentially reinvigorating the team’s interior play.

However, the road ahead for Edey is long and fraught with challenges. The Grizzlies will continue to test his adaptability in the Las Vegas Summer League, during training camp, and in the preseason. He will need to prove his ability to guard versatile centers who play away from the basket and handle isolation situations. His response to these challenges will ultimately determine his ceiling in the NBA.

But for one night in Salt Lake City, Edey demonstrated that he belongs. His performance justified the Grizzlies' faith in selecting him in the top 10 of the draft. Edey’s message to his critics was clear: he’s not just a player with potential, but one ready to make an immediate impact.

“He’s a pretty good basketball player,” reiterated Coach March. “He’s 7-foot forever, and he knows what he’s doing. Everyone is asking questions as if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”