With each Kenneth Lofton Jr. basket in the Summer League finale, the question of when would his two-way contract be upgraded began to gain steam. But with that question lies a bigger underlying issue.
The Memphis Grizzlies have 18 players under contract. Lofton and Vince Williams are on two-way deals, meaning they do not count against the eventual 15-man roster.
Memphis currently has 16 players counting against the 15-man roster. NBA rosters can carry up to 20 players before the season — so this isn’t unusual — but the number must be down to 15 when the regular season begins in October.
Right now the Grizzlies will need to trade or cut at least one player. If Lofton gets a bigger contract, it means another player would have to get removed.
Before Summer League play, an argument could have been made that Xavier Tillman Sr. and Santi Aldama were two players fighting for roster spots, but both put up encouraging performances. Tillman was named an outstanding performer in Salt Lake City and Aldama was selected on the NBA second-team All-Summer League.
Since none of these decisions have to be made before preseason games, the Grizzlies will get one more look at how each of the 18 players fare against NBA competition, but two players currently stand out above the rest.
Here’s a look at who could be on the fence in Memphis:
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Memphis has not decided if he wants to keep Danny Green, but he’s planning on being active while around. Green was in Las Vegas sitting on the bench with Grizzlies coaches and players. It was a minor surprise, considering Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said that Green’s roster status is “TBD” just a few days earlier.
Kleiman also said that the Grizzlies are making calls, and Green’s expiring contract is one of the easier pieces to move on the roster for the right deal. Green tore his ACL in the playoffs against the Miami Heat, and his return for the 2022-23 season is unknown. After losing De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson, Green would be a solid battle-tested veteran with three championship rings, but his timeline may not align with this young core.
Injuries threw Killian Tillie into the background while the Grizzlies rose into prominence. He battled injuries and played in just 36 games last season. The result was 3.3 points per game on 33.9% shooting. We have a roster loaded with frontcourt players, those numbers don’t move the needle.
One of Tillie’s biggest skills is his versatility to play multiple positions. The Grizzlies drafted three wings who can play multiple positions, which puts Tillie’s importance into question. Tillie spent a lot of time in Las Vegas and got up shots after Summer League practices. His shooting stroke looks smooth, but now the question will be if the Grizzlies trust his progress and health enough to include on the final 15-man roster.
Contact Damichael Cole at email@example.com and on Twitter @damichaelc