Grizzlies

Will LaRavia Be an Immediate Weapon for Memphis?

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The Memphis Grizzlies finished the 2021-2022 season with a 56-26 record—the second-highest win total in the league behind the Phoenix Suns. Coming into the 2022-2023 season, they return all their starters and the majority of their key rotation pieces outside of fan favorites DeAnthony Melton and Kyle Anderson.

This Grizzlies team was already one of the youngest teams in the NBA last season, but this summer they somehow managed to get even younger. Technically their average age on paper dropped them down to the sixth-youngest team after acquiring a 35 year old Danny Green, but removing him and training camp players makes this the youngest team in the NBA at an average age of 23.24.

A heavy criticism of the team’s offseason moves was that they didn’t buffer this talented young team with experienced veterans to put them over the hump.

IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE

Losing Melton was tough because throughout his time in Memphis he contributed a lot towards the culture on and off the floor, even obtaining the nickname “Mr. Do Something” in the process due to his ability to…do something. He could and would do anything to affect or sway the game in the Grizzlies’ favor.

Losing Anderson was huge, as well, for this team as he was considered their “OG” for his age and tenure with the team being the longest outside of Dillon Brooks. His leadership in late-game situations will be missed more than anything, as he was instrumental in this team growing up as fast as they did and learning how to close out games late.

The issue with those guys is that they both shot just 25% from three point land in the playoffs. In today’s NBA where the three ball can make or break you, it’s imperative to have three point shooters on your team. And with a generational talent in Ja Morant leading the ship by being able to get to the basket at will, it’s just as important to flank him with shooters so defenses can not collapse on him.

The Grizzlies clearly saw this as an issue as they let Anderson walk in free agency and traded Melton on draft night to the Philadelphia 76ers for the 21st pick.

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

Fast forward to now, and they replaced those two players via the draft with Jake LaRavia and David Roddy.

Roddy looks to be the Swiss Army knife player like Anderson with a better jumper and creation tools. But LaRavia’s shooting and ability to space the floor could help him make a more valuable impact in year one with this Grizzlies team.

In his junior season, LaRavia averaged 14.6 points, 3.7 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 38% from three point land on 2.2 attempts per game. He was able to showcase a complete as he was able to get to his spots, knock down open shots, get his teammates involved, and rebound well enough to cover some time at the PF position with his 6’9″, 228 pound frame.

Not only did he shoot well from three in college, LaRavia also projects to be a knockdown shooter in the NBA. The three things that point to this the most is ability to get open off-ball, his feet almost always already being square to the basket, and a consistent shooting motion on each and every shot. His form doesn’t waiver and his balance is picture perfect, partially due to him not having to jump super high to get his shot off.

Another nod to his size is his ability to get in the post and use crafty moves and pump fakes to get to the rim. Jake was used this way in his time with Wake Forest a lot and will more than likely be used this way even more at the pro level once he is given more on ball duties.

A knock on his game since high school, though, has been his aggressiveness. All his teammates, coaches, and basically anyone with minimal basketball knowledge can look at LaRavia and tell he can hoop. But he can be overly passive at times.

Granted, he is a very smart passer and tends to always make the extra pass needed to turn a good shoot into a better shot, but the Grizz need a guy with his shooting ability to take the shot nine times out of ten if he’s open.

NOT A GAME, WE TALKING ‘BOUT PRACTICE?

Grizzlies fans saw this quite a bit in the Summer League. In his first game, Jake came out hot with threes, and Grizzlies fans immediately started to have flashbacks of Grizzlies legend Mike Miller. But for the majority of the remaining games in the Summer League, fans didn’t see this too much.

In his first preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks, LaRavia started slow, and this trend looked like it might be continuing. In the second half, however, LaRavia began showing off his entire bag with playmaking, aggressive attacks to the rim, and his silky smooth three ball – finishing with 15 points and a pair of rebounds and assists in 25 minutes.

His next preseason game he was able to run the floor with the best point guard tandem in the NBA with Ja Morant and Tyus Jones. He again and again was finding himself with wide open jumpers due to the pair’s elite playmaking. And although they were not falling like he wanted, the mechanics were there, and Grizzlies fans could instantly salivate at the idea of having LaRavia as a weapon to knock down those wide open threes.

So what does his role look like going forward?

BACK TO THE FUTURE

The small forward/power forward position is the most loaded and talented it has been in Grizzlies history, with over ten players being able to man one of those two positions. The absolute locks for minutes will be Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke and most likely Santi Aldama after his Summer League and preseason showings.

Now one thing Coach Jenkins has preached since day one of his arrival is his willingness and desire to play position-less basketball, so it’s not far-fetched or out of the realm of possibility that LaRavia could actually be battling for backup shooting guard minutes with John Konchar.

And in all honesty, it seems like his best path to play meaningful minutes this season.

LaRavia is not yet the do-it-all player in the NBA as he was in college. Ironically, that’s currently Konchar’s role after the Melton trade. And his defense will probably take time adjusting to the speed of the NBA game as well as bigger, faster, more physical players.

However, his key to success this season is to be an absolute sniper from three.

It’s been said before that this Grizzlies team needs to surround Ja Morant with weapons to be successful. As has been seen already with Desmond Bane, if guys run and get open, both Ja and big man Steven Adams will find you.

LaRavia solely focusing on becoming that three point weapon for this team should land him plenty of meaningful minutes in his rookie season.

Honestly speaking, outside of everyone else on the team being a sponge to the 35 year old Danny Green—especially while not playing and rehabbing an injury—Jake LaRavia should soak up as much knowledge and wisdom as possible from the 13 year vet. Green is three time champion and has made his career on being a lethal three point shooter and defender.

If Green is whom LaRavia models his game after, he will have a long career in this league. If he perfects that and polishes the other tools he already posses around that, LaRavia could be a mainstay in Memphis for years to come.

CRAVING MORE GRIZZLIES?

Check out last week’s Deep Dive Piece on Kenneth Lofton Jr. by Jesse Elsea (@jesselsea), Lofton is Memphis’ Latest Diamond in the Rough. And be sure to check out the Grizz 901 Podcast, where the Grizz Lead guys get on to discuss these Deep Dive players and much, much more!

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