By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media
MEMPHIS – What’s next for the Memphis Grizzlies?
Who stays? Who goes?
How will the Grit’N’Grind era continue to evolve?
Those questions and more face the Grizzlies as they embark on an offseason destined for change after their seventh consecutive playoff trip ended in a six-game series loss to the Spurs in the opening round. There’s plenty of optimism moving forward. There’s also clearly something most fans, players, coaches and executives agree on: 43 wins, a No. 7 seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit aren’t good enough.
Over a stretch of 17 weekdays, we’ll dive into our ‘Offseason Outlook’ series that breaks down my personal analysis as to where each player on the Grizzlies’ roster stands, in addition to coach David Fizdale and general manager Chris Wallace, entering a potentially pivotal offseason.
Player: Jarell Martin, 23
Measurables: 6-10, 239 – 2nd NBA Season
2016-17 Stats: 3.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg (career high), 36.0 3pt FG%, 13.2 mpg.
Status: Due $1.3 million for 2017-18 salary in second season of three-year deal.
Martin played in 38 of the Grizzlies first 39 games this past season, which included earning his first career start in the third game of the season on Oct. 30 against Washington. Martin either led or tied the Grizzlies in rebounding five times, five times in steals and three times in blocks over 42 total games.
I learned a lot from these guys, especially ZBo (Zach Randolph). He taught me a lot, working on my post, my interior game. I’ve learned that health is your main priority – to stay healthy initially so you will be able to play. This year I got healthy and was able to play. I went down to the D-League to develop my game. I still have to develop this summer, so I’ll be doing a lot of working out, working on my game this summer to prepare for the rotation.
At one point in the season, coach David Fizdale shocked many when he said Martin was the team’s most talented player in terms of raw tools. Considering Martin’s size, shooting ability and athleticism, it’s easy to see why he was an enticing prospect when Memphis snagged him late in the first round of the 2015 draft. He looked like a mainstay in the rotation when he scored 13 points in 13 minutes off the bench in the second game of the season at New York. Ideally, Martin is skillful and quick enough to beat bigger power forwards, and strong enough to create mismatches against smaller wings. He also had a few dominant stretches while on assignment in development league. Martin’s continued development this July in summer league could be the next step on a path toward landing a rotation role.
After left foot surgery delayed his progress entering the league as a rookie, Martin fell victim to the numbers’ game at his position this past season. Randolph, JaMychal Green and Brandan Wright were all ahead of Martin in the power forward pecking order. And a lack of experience, defensive discipline and ball-handling prevented him from gaining any traction at small forward – even after Chandler Parsons was shut down with knee issues in March. There were also questions about Martin’s motor and conditioning during the season, and he was shipped to the development league to work on those concerns as well as to learn how to handle being a consistent go-to scoring threat. It is possible Martin hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential. But he must also start to show real progress.
Without a first-round pick heading into next month’s draft, the scrutiny will only grow more intense on the young prospects who have been in the Grizzlies’ recent development pipeline. Of Memphis’ last three first-round picks (Jordan Adams, Martin and Wade Baldwin IV), two have yet to crack the rotation and one is no longer in the league. Martin has the most NBA upside, but he remains raw and untapped. The Grizzlies hold a team option for Martin’s contract after next season, which means 2017-18 might be a make-or-break year. With Randolph and Green entering free agency in July and Wright unhappy with his unstable role, Martin could catapult into the rotation. If not, he could be on the verge of extending a trend of first-round picks that failed to pan out in Memphis.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.