Killian Tillie

Grizzlies Notes: Morant, Anderson, Brooks, Jackson

Taking into account both regular season games and postseason contests, the Grizzlies now have a 21-6 record without Ja Morant this season, and that mark may actually understate how well they’ve played without their All-Star point guard, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Sixteen of those 21 wins have been by double-digits, including a 73-point rout of Oklahoma City in December.

The Grizzlies’ depth is one reason why they’ve been so effective when Morant has been unavailable, and the point guard’s subpar defensive numbers are another, Hollinger observes. The Grizzlies gave up more points per possession with Morant on the court than with any other single player on the court this season.

However, digging further into the data, Hollinger unearths several more interesting details, including Dillon Brooks‘ positive impact on the Grizzlies (especially defensively) and how infrequently he and Morant played together this season. The Grizzlies’ performance with and without Morant has also been skewed by their opponents’ shooting luck, which is one reason why Hollinger, unsurprisingly, concludes the team isn’t actually better off without the 22-year-old.

Interestingly, Hollinger’s data shows that the Grizzlies have actually played well with no true point guard on the court, with Kyle Anderson serving as the primary ball-handler. Hollinger suggests that could be a factor in how the team approaches Anderson’s and Tyus Jones‘ free agencies this summer.

Here’s more on the Grizzlies:

  • As expected, Morant has been officially ruled out of Friday’s Game 6 vs. Golden State due to the bone bruise in his right knee, per the Grizzlies (Twitter link). Santi Aldama (right knee soreness) and Killian Tillie (lower back procedure recovery) also remain sidelined.
  • After a 5-of-19 shooting performance with four turnovers in Game 4, Dillon Brooks bounced back in Game 5. Although he had just 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, Brooks didn’t turn the ball over and was an eye-popping plus-38 in just 24 minutes. He suggested after the game that there’s still room for improvement. “I’m my worst critic. I know I’m playing like trash,” Brooks said, per ClutchPoints (video link). “I know I’m not shooting the three well, but I’m trying to do all the little things.”
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., who bested Brooks with a plus-42 mark in just 25 minutes on Wednesday, is realizing how dominant he can be at just the right time, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He’s the key,” Brooks said of Jackson. “They’ve got no one to guard him. No one to stop him. He needs to keep demanding the ball and the Warriors are going to have to adjust and double-team him soon. He’s going to have to learn how to pass the ball out to get his teammates shots. That’s what he needs to do. I try to tell him to stay aggressive, and you’re a walking mismatch out there for every single player that guards you, so just keep attacking.”
  • Although the Grizzlies will be playing on the road and missing their best player, Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal isn’t convinced the team’s season will come to an end on Friday in Golden State.
  • In case you missed it, Grizzlies head of basketball operations Zach Kleiman was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year on Thursday.

COVID/Injury Notes: Batum, Hawks, J. Murray, Celtics, More

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters, including Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), that forward Nicolas Batum will be available Friday night at Philadelphia. Batum had been placed in the health and safety protocols as a result of an inconclusive test, missing Wednesday’s 130-128 overtime loss at Denver, but obviously has been cleared by testing negative twice since.

Here are more COVID-19 and injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan told reporters, including Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter), that starting center Clint Capela will return to action Friday night against Miami, but will be on a minutes restriction. Capela had missed Atlanta’s last six games with an ankle injury and the team went 2-4 in his absence. Spencer also tweets that the Hawks will be without Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (sore Achilles), while Gorgui Dieng will be available (non-COVID illness).
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, who’s still rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered last April, has entered the health and safety protocols, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets.
  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka told reporters that Marcus Smart and Aaron Nesmith will miss Friday’s game vs. Portland, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link). Smart is still ramping up his conditioning after battling COVID-19, while Nesmith is dealing with a sprained ankle.
  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma is out Friday vs. Toronto with a sprained neck, per Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated (via Twitter). Kuzma is having a solid first season with Washington, averaging 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 43 games, all starts.
  • Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley and top assistant coach Nate Tibbetts have both cleared the protocols and will be coaching Friday’s game against the Lakers, Orlando’s PR department tweets.
  • Grizzlies forward Killian Tillie has been upgraded from questionable to available for Friday’s game at Denver, so he has cleared the health and safety protocols, Memphis’ PR department tweets.

Grizzlies Sign Dakota Mathias To Second 10-Day Deal

The Grizzlies have signed guard Dakota Mathias to a second 10-day contract using a COVID-related hardship exception, the team announced today in a press release. Mathias initially signed a 10-day pact with Memphis near the end of December.

During his first 10 days with the Grizzlies, Mathias appeared in four games, but was limited to garbage-time action, logging just eight total minutes.

The 26-year-old shooting guard went undrafted out of Purdue in 2018 and spent his first professional season in Spain. He joined the Texas Legends – Dallas’ G League affiliate – for the 2019/20 campaign, then began last season on a two-way contract with the Sixers before being waived in January.

The Grizzlies announced on Thursday that big man Killian Tillie has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, joining Yves Pons. With two players in the COVID-19 protocols and no replacement players signed, Memphis qualified for a hardship exception to sign Mathias without having to open up a spot on the 15-man roster.

Mathias’ 10-day contract will pay him $85,578, but that money won’t count against the Grizzlies’ team salary for cap or tax purposes.

Southwest Notes: Bane, Tillie, Terry, Spurs, G. Green

As the 30th overall pick of the 2020 draft, Grizzlies second-year guard Desmond Bane is used to being overlooked, but he’ll always feel like he should’ve gone off the board earlier, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

I will never let it go,” Bane told The Athletic. “I feel like teams had their chance to get me and knew who I was. It wasn’t like I was one of those one-and-done guys. You had four years to do your research on me. All my background stuff checked out. That’s on them.”

Bane has proven to be an ideal fit with star Ja Morant, Vokunov adds. After putting up 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 68 games (17 starts) as a rookie, Bane has increased those numbers to 17.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists through 39 games this season. He also sports a stellar shooting line of .466/.416/.906 for the 26-14 Grizzlies, currently the No. 4 seed in the West.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Keith Smith of Spotrac provides contract details (via Twitter) for Killian Tillie and Tyrell Terry of the Grizzlies. Tillie was promoted to a standard deal from a two-way contract last week, with Terry taking his two-way spot. Smith relays that Tillie will receive a portion of the room exception for his two-year deal, which is fully guaranteed at $1,901,625 for both 2021/22 and 2022/23, while Terry signed a two-year, two-way contract.
  • Spurs forward Keita Bates-Diop leans on an ancient philosophy to adjust to life as a NBA journeyman, especially during a pandemic, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Bates-Diop, an avid reader, utilizes Stoicism to deal with the uncertainties of life. “I’ve tried to be even-keeled throughout it all, just trusting the work without getting too emotional, too high or too low,” Bates-Diop said. “It’s all about acceptance. Accepting the things that happen, the things you can and can’t control. That was a big thing for me, separating the two.
  • Spurs rookies Joshua Primo and Joe Wieskamp performed well in a blowout loss on Tuesday, but both players know they’re going to spend more time in the G League when the team returns to full strength, Orsborn writes in a separate article for the Express-News. Coach Gregg Popovich says Primo is very mature for his young age (he just turned 19 two weeks ago). “Joshua has an uncanny maturity about him, kind of a steady demeanor,” Popovich said. “He is not awed by the NBA or anything like that. He makes good decisions. He definitely knows how to play. It’s just a matter of getting stronger and aware that these are men and they are coming after your head, so to speak. He just has to get used to that physicality and all that sort of thing.”
  • 35-year-old veteran Gerald Green, who recently decided to unretire and take another shot at the NBA, will be playing for the Rockets‘ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Southwest Notes: Jones, Zion, Tillie, Sengun

Pelicans forward Herb Jones has been one of the surprises of this year’s rookie class, and veteran guard Garrett Temple got an early tip about his new teammate, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports serves as the agent for both players, and Temple said Bartelstein was raving about Jones shortly after he was selected with the 35th pick.

Jones has exceeded expectations for a second-rounder, starting 23 of the 32 games he has played and averaging 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per night. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last season, but there were questions about whether he could provide enough offense to succeed in the NBA. He has been working to develop his jump shot and is connecting at 36.6% from three-point range on 1.3 attempts per game.

“I’ve gotten to know Herb as a person,” Temple said. “He’s the epitome of a great teammate, a great person. He’s someone you want on your team. He’s going to be in the league for a very, very long time.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • There’s an assumption that the Pelicans will offer Zion Williamson a maximum extension this summer, but John Hollinger of The Athletic questions whether that’s wise considering Williamson’s injury history. The third-year forward has only played 85 total games and continues to recover from offseason foot surgery. Hollinger suggests an offer similar to Joel Embiid‘s contract, which protects the team if he can’t play a minimum number of games.
  • The Grizzlies used their room exception to sign Killian Tillie to a two-year contract, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. The former two-way player will become a restricted free agent after the 2022/23 season.
  • Rockets rookie center Alperen Sengun may face an extended absence after spraining his right ankle in Friday’s game, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston (Twitter link). “It’s not day-to-day,” coach Stephen Silas said. “It’s probably about a week and then we’ll see.”

Grizzlies Give Two-Year Deal To Tillie, Waive Merrill, Sign Terry To Two-Way

6:30pm: The moves are official, the Grizzlies announced (Twitter links).


6:10pm: Two-way player Killian Tillie will sign a standard contract with the Grizzlies, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The second-year big man will get a deal worth $4MM over two years.

Tillie signed a two-way contract after going undrafted out of Gonzaga in 2020, then inked another two-way deal in August. He’s averaging 3.4 points and 1.7 rebounds in 22 games this season, but his playing time has increased recently with the Grizzlies short-handed due to health and safety protocols.

Memphis will open a roster spot by waiving injured guard Sam Merrill, Woj adds (Twitter link). Merrill will undergo a surgical procedure on his left ankle that will keep him out of action for three to four months, sources tell Wojnarowski.

A rookie with the Bucks last year, Merrill was acquired by the Grizzlies in an offseason trade. He only appeared in six games for Memphis, averaging 4.2 PPG in 9.7 minutes per night, and last played on November 18. The move will include a $1.5MM cap hit, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Wojnarowski adds that the Grizzlies believe Merrill has potential and may consider bringing him back once he’s healed.

The open two-way slot will be filled by guard Tyrell Terry, who signed as a hardship player last week, adds Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Terry has made two brief appearances since coming to Memphis, playing a combined three minutes.

Grizzlies Re-Sign Killian Tillie To Two-Way Contract

The Grizzlies have officially re-signed free agent forward/center Killian Tillie to a two-way contract, the team announced today in a press release.

Tillie, who went undrafted out of Gonzaga in 2020, caught on quickly with Memphis last fall, signing a two-way deal with the team in November. He played sparingly for the NBA club as a rookie, averaging 3.2 PPG and 1.3 RPG in 18 games (10.1 MPG), but made enough an impression to earn a qualifying offer from the team prior to free agency.

That qualifying offer, which made Tillie a restricted free agent, was equivalent to another two-way deal with a $50K partial guarantee. It’s unclear if the 23-year-old simply accepted his QO or if he and the team negotiated a new agreement with a more significant guarantee.

Either way, Tillie now occupies one of Memphis’ two-way contract slots. Sean McDermott currently holds the other, as our tracker shows.

Nico Mannion, Saben Lee, Others Receive Qualifying Offers

The Warriors have issued a qualifying offer to two-way player Nico Mannion, making him a restricted free agent, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Because Mannion, the 48th overall pick in the 2020 draft, was on a two-way contract during his rookie season, his qualifying offer will be the equivalent of another two-way deal, with a partial guarantee worth $50K. The QO will give Golden State matching rights in the event that another team signs Mannion to an offer sheet next week.

Here are more updates on players on two-way contracts receiving qualifying offers:

  • Saben Lee, a 2020 second-round pick who spent his rookie season on a two-way deal, has received a qualifying offer from the Pistons, making him a restricted free agent, tweets Smith. As expected, Detroit also officially renounced the draft rights to Jaylen Hands, Smith notes.
  • The Bulls issued a qualifying offer to two-way player Devon Dotson, making him a restricted free agent, tweets Smith. Chicago also gave a QO to Lauri Markkanen on Friday.
  • Nuggets guard Markus Howard, another two-way player, received a qualifying offer that makes him a restricted free agent, tweets Smith. Howard appeared in 37 games for Denver last season as an undrafted rookie out of Marquette.
  • The Spurs extended a qualifying offer to forward Keita Bates-Diop to make him an RFA, tweets Smith. Like the other players listed above, Bates-Diop has fewer than four years of NBA experience and is therefore eligible to sign another two-way contract after spending the 2020/21 season on a two-way deal.
  • The Cavaliers gave a qualifying offer to two-way shooting guard Brodric Thomas, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Thomas appeared in a total of 32 games for Houston and Cleveland as a rookie in 2020/21.
  • The Grizzlies announced they’ve issued a qualifying offer to big man Killian Tillie, making him a restricted free agent. Tillie appeared in 18 games for Memphis as a rookie on his two-way deal.

Since all of these players are coming off two-way contracts and have only spent one season with their respective teams, their QOs are one-year, two-way offers with $50K guarantees.

Killian Tillie, Sean McDermott Sign Two-Way Deals With Grizzlies

NOVEMBER 24: The Grizzlies have officially announced their two-way deals with Tillie and McDermott.


NOVEMBER 19: Undrafted Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie has agreed to a two-way deal with the Grizzlies, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Memphis will sign Butler swingman Sean McDermott with its other two-way contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The French-born Tillie played four seasons for the Bulldogs. As a senior, the 6’10” Tillie averaged 13.6 PPG and 5.0 RPG. His calling card is his ability to stretch the floor. He shot 44.4% on his 3-point tries during his college career.

Another four-year college player, McDermott started for Butler in his last two seasons. He averaged 11.7 PPG and 6.3 RPG as a senior. He’s also a prolific 3-point shooter, knocking down 40.3% of his attempts during his college career.

Two-way players can be active for 50 games this season, up from the usual 45-day limit.

Draft Decisions: Bone, Harper, Simonds, Brooks, More

The NCAA’s withdrawal deadline for 2019’s early entrants is less than 12 hours away. Players who want to pull out of the draft and retain their college eligibility have until 11:59 pm eastern time tonight to officially do so.

We’re tracking all the players who have withdrawn from the draft on our early entrants list. Here are the latest decisions:

Staying in the draft:

  • Tennesee junior guard Jordan Bone announced in a video on Twitter that he’ll keep his name in the 2019 NBA draft pool. Bone is the No. 58 prospect on ESPN’s big board, making him a solid candidate to be drafted.
  • Auburn junior guard Jared Harper is expected to go pro too, keeping his name in the draft, reports Jeff Goodman of Stadium (via Twitter). Harper is at No. 64 on ESPN’s top-100 list.
  • Despite not showing up in ESPN’s top 100, Georgia State junior guard D’Marcus Simonds will also remain in the draft, forgoing his final year of his college eligibility, sources tell Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
  • Another prospect outside of ESPN’s top 100, Houston junior guard Armoni Brooks, has announced (via Twitter) that he’ll stay in the draft and begin his professional career.

Withdrawing from the draft:

  • Gonzaga got some good news on Tuesday night, as a source informed Rothstein (Twitter link) that forward Filip Petrusev will return for his sophomore season. Additionally, Goodman reports (via Twitter) that forward Killian Tillie is expected to rejoin the Zags for his senior year.
  • Freshman forward Emmitt Williams, who was one of six LSU players to test the draft waters, will head back to school for at least one more season, a source tells Goodman (Twitter link).
  • Glenville State junior forward Phil Bledsoe told Kyle Boone of CBS Sports (Twitter link) that he has withdrawn from the draft. However, as Aaron Beard of The Associated Press explains, Bledsoe may have eligibility concerns going forward, since the new NCAA rule allowing prospects to hire an agent while testing the waters only applies to D-I players, rather than D-II players like Bledsoe. Agent Jerry Dianis remains confident that the NCAA will allow Bledsoe to return for his senior year.
  • A pair of early entrants are withdrawing from the draft and transferring. UNLV freshman forward Joel Ntambwe announced (via Twitter) that he’s making the move to Texas Tech, while SMU junior guard Jimmy Whitt will return to Arkansas, where he began his college career.
  • Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry announced in a Twitter video that he’ll be back for his sophomore season.
  • Boston College forward Nik Popovic is expected to take advantage of his final year of NCAA eligibility by going back to school for his senior season, sources tell Rothstein (Twitter link).
  • Louisiana Tech junior guard DaQuan Bracey and South Florida junior guard Laquincy Rideau will both withdraw from the draft and return to school, according to a pair of tweets from Goodman.
  • Rothstein reports (via a pair of tweets) that TCU freshman center Kevin Samuel and Xavier junior guard Quentin Goodin will pull out of the draft after testing the waters.
  • Maryland junior guard Anthony Cowan is expected to withdraw from the draft tonight to return to school for one more year, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com.
  • Creighton guard Davion Mintz will report back to the Bluejays for his senior year, he tells Goodman (Twitter link). Goodman’s full list of prospects returning to school also includes UNC Greensboro junior forward James Dickey, so it appears he withdrew from the draft too.