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: Wade Baldwin, 21
Measurables: 6-4, 202 – Rookie NBA Season
2016-17 Stats: 3.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 12.3 mpg, 83.8 FT%
Status: Due $1.8 million for 2017-18 salary in second season of four-year deal.
Baldwin was selected 17th overall last June as the Grizzlies’ highest draft pick since Xavier Henry was chosen at No. 12 in 2010. Baldwin became the first rookie since the NBA/ABA merger in 1973-74 to register at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks in his NBA debut.
It was a coming-of-age year for me, a year of growth, mostly mentally – different circumstances, learning the game and being around the other guys. That’s kind of how I took this year, and this summer is a big focus on all court work, getting better and being able to contribute next year. They’ll probably dissect little things I need to get better at. Whatever is said is what I’m willing to do.
Baldwin is an incredible athlete with great size and natural instincts at the point guard position. When he filled the stat sheet in his Oct. 26 NBA debut against Minnesota with seven points, six assists, five rebounds, three blocks and three steals, his intriguing upside was on full display. There’s plenty on which to build in Baldwin’s game, and he has the tools to be the type of dynamic playmaker who can eventually be the prospect to consistently fill the void as Mike Conley’s backup at the position. When Baldwin is dialed in mentally and knows he’ll get regular minutes, he brings a swagger and competitive confidence that alters the pace of the game, generates an energy boost and delivers highlight plays.
Despite his promising potential, Baldwin was beaten out by Andrew Harrison for the primary backup point guard job. Harrison didn’t overwhelm anyone in the competition. He simply earned the coaching staff’s trust, listened and remained even-keeled and coachable. Baldwin’s confidence often bordered on cockiness and it didn’t always sit well with coaches and veteran teammates. He was sent to the D-League for 40 games to hone his skills and humble his approach. Baldwin plays to the extremes, often following a breathtaking pass on one possession with a mindboggling turnover the next. His 31.6-percent shooting, including a deplorable 13.6-percent clip on threes, needs to drastically improve soon.
Coach David Fizdale made it clear he’d prefer to acquire a speedy, veteran playmaker who can keep the team running at a productive level when Conley is either playing off the ball or resting. If the Grizzlies don’t address that need externally, then Baldwin and/or Harrison need to show significant improvement going into next season. Ultimately, this appears to be on the verge of an either-or proposition for the Grizzlies, who showed that there’s not enough room in the rotation – or patience amid a win-now mode – to simultaneously groom two young point guards. Baldwin has the higher ceiling. He’ll get the keys in summer league to show he’s matured, humbled and hungry to earn the job.
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.