2021 NBA Offseason In Review: Memphis Grizzlies

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2021 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s offseason moves, examine what still needs to be done before opening night, and look ahead to what the 2021/22 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Memphis Grizzlies.

Free agent signings:

Note: Exhibit 9 and 10 deals aren’t included here.

  • Killian Tillie: Two-way contract. Accepted qualifying offer as restricted free agent.
  • Yves Pons: Two-way contract.


  • Acquired Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, the draft rights to Ziaire Williams (No. 10 pick), the draft rights to Jared Butler (No. 40 pick), and the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected; from Pelicans) in a three-team trade in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas (to Pelicans), the draft rights to Trey Murphy (No. 17 pick; to Pelicans), the draft rights to Brandon Boston (No. 51 pick; to Pelicans), and the draft rights to Tyler Harvey (to Hornets).
  • Acquired the draft rights to Santi Aldama (No. 30 pick) from the Jazz in exchange for the draft rights to Jared Butler (No. 40) pick, the Grizzlies’ 2022 second-round pick, and the Grizzlies’ 2026 second-round pick.
  • Acquired Sam Merrill, either the Pacers’, Cavaliers, or Jazz’s 2024 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable), and either the Pacers’ or the Heat’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable) from the Bucks in exchange for Grayson Allen and cash ($1MM).
    • Note: If the Cavaliers’ and Jazz’s 2024 second-round picks are the two most favorable of the three, the Grizzlies would acquire the least favorable of those two picks.
  • Acquired Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo, and Daniel Oturu from the Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe.
    • Note: Rondo and Oturu have since been waived.
  • Acquired Jarrett Culver and Juan Hernangomez from the Timberwolves in exchange for Patrick Beverley.
  • Acquired Marc Gasol, the Lakers’ 2024 second-round pick, and cash ($250K) from the Lakers in exchange for the draft rights to Wang Zhelin.
    • Note: Gasol has since been waived.
  • Acquired Kris Dunn, Carsen Edwards, and the right to swap either the Pacers’ or Heat’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable) for the Celtics’ 2026 second-round pick from the Celtics in exchange for Juan Hernangomez.
    • Note: Dunn and Edwards have since been waived.

Draft picks:

  • 1-10: Ziaire Williams
    • Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $19,907,925).
  • 1-30: Santi Aldama
    • Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $10,243,371).

Contract extensions:

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.: Four years, $104,720,000. Includes Exhibit 3 injury protection related to Jackson’s left knee. Starts in 2022/23.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Signed general manager Zach Kleiman to a long-term contract extension.
  • Dillon Brooks fractured his left hand and will miss the start of the regular season.

Salary cap situation:

  • Went under the cap, used their cap room.
  • Carrying approximately $114.1MM in salary.
  • Full room exception ($4,910,000) available.
  • Three traded player exceptions available, including one worth $4.1MM.

The Grizzlies’ offseason:

The Grizzlies and franchise player Ja Morant got a taste of the postseason during the spring, advancing through the play-in round, then losing to the top-seeded Jazz 4-1 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Morant averaged 30.2 PPG and 8.2 APG in the series, a sign the team can count on its point guard to ramp up his production under the spotlight of the playoffs.

Memphis’ offseason moves were designed to build on that momentum and the front office was active, though it didn’t do anything that would be considered splashy. The Grizzlies’ biggest transactions involved their frontcourt. Jaren Jackson Jr. appeared in just 11 regular-season games due to a knee injury and there was some uncertainty about whether they still viewed him as a cornerstone piece.

Memphis vanquished those doubts by handing the 22-year-old a four-year, $104.7MM contract, though the club gained a little protection through an injury clause. Jackson’s versatile offensive game and shot-blocking made such a commitment a worthwhile gamble. It was also a signal to Morant that front office plans to grow a young core around him with his potential max extension looming next offseason.

The move to bring in Steven Adams was somewhat curious. Following some solid seasons in Oklahoma City, Adams struggled to fit in with a young New Orleans team after being traded to the Pelicans last offseason. Before he suited up for the team, the Pels signed Adams to a two-year extension, which kicks in this season. The Grizzlies’ thinking is that Adams’ lack of a perimeter game won’t be a factor when paired up with a stretch four like Jackson. If all goes well, Adams should be their top rebounder while providing more physicality to their defense.

Though the Grizzlies made a number of trades, they were mainly motivated by adding to their draft capital. The most noteworthy future pick was the 2022 first-rounder they picked up from the Lakers, though naturally it figures to fall fairly low in the first round unless the Lakers are decimated by injuries this season. Memphis also owns Utah’s first-rounder in the next draft, giving the team some flexibility to maneuver and move up the draft or deal for an impact veteran.

The Grizzlies used the lottery pick they acquired in this year’s draft on an intriguing swingman in Stanford’s Ziaire Williams, though he’ll likely spend a good chunk of his rookie season developing his game in the G League.

Memphis took a flyer on another unfinished product in Jarrett Culver, the sixth pick in the 2019 draft. Still just 22, Culver never found a niche with the rebuilding Timberwolves. He could emerge as a defensive force on a playoff-caliber team.

The Grizzlies’ season:

The preseason didn’t end well for the Grizzlies, as the club revealed starting shooting guard Dillon Brooks will miss time while he continues to recover from a fractured hand. However, Memphis proved last season in Jackson’s absence that it can overcome a lengthy injury to a key player and still make the playoffs.

Naturally, the one player the Grizzlies can’t afford to lose for any extended period is Morant. As long as he’s at the controls, the team will remain in the postseason hunt. A full season from Jackson, as well as a bounce-back campaign from Adams, would also keep the franchise headed in the right direction.

Ultimately, the Grizzlies are still in need of another star at the wing position to become a serious contender. Perhaps they’ll cash in some of those extra first-rounders before the trade deadline or wait until next offseason to pursue that route. An appearance in the second round of the playoffs would probably be the ceiling for the current roster.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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