Jake LaRavia, David Roddy NBA draft picks show Memphis Grizzlies plan

2022-06-25 03:39:56 By : Mr. Larry Ma

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant sent out a tweet Thursday night that describes the NBA landscape.

"It’s a wings league," the tweet read.

The way the Memphis Grizzlies handled the 2022 NBA Draft shows that they agree with Durant. Memphis moved up to draft two versatile wings — Jake LaRavia at 19th and David Roddy at 23rd overall. Both can play small forward, power forward and even some small-ball center in the case of the 6-foot-5 250-pound Roddy.

Memphis won 56 games last season, and it's clear that general manager Zach Kleiman and the front office feel this is the next step to championship contention. Some may argue against that because both players are rookies, but the Grizzlies believe they won't be in over their heads. 

If history is an indication, this may be true. The Grizzlies drafted Desmond Bane 30th in 2020 and Brandon Clarke 21st in 2019. Each spent four years in college. Roddy (Colorado State) and LaRavia (Wake Forest) each played three seasons of college basketball. Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee) was the lone one-and-done Grizzlies pick. Second-round selection Vince Williams Jr. played four seasons at VCU. 

"As we've done with a lot of our prior picks, I think we have mature rookies coming in," Kleiman said. "Guys who are a little bit more experienced. We feel like we were able to bring in a group that fits what we're about, and that's going to help us move the needle."

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Why is the NBA a wings league now? The NBA is increasingly becoming a game of position-less basketball. The days of point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers are gone. Today's game focuses on players who offer the most in terms of versatility and playing multiple positions. 

Take the two NBA Finals teams, for example. The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors had lineups of multiple players who played different positions throughout the series. 

Memphis had a versatile roster last season, but adding the 6-9 LaRavia and Roddy gives Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins even more options. 

"Having combo forwards, that's kind of a place on our roster where we haven't had as much depth in the past," Kleiman said. "Guys who can play and defend both the four and the three. I think from a lineup standpoint, that's going to allow us to do some interesting stuff."

Memphis has its core in place with Ja Morant, Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. Dillon Brooks is one of the premier defensive wings in the NBA, Ziaire Williams has this offseason to prove he is an emerging young talent and Steven Adams is a rebounding machine.

The Grizzlies are out to prove that even though veterans are key components to winning a championship, drafting guys ready to contribute can have a similar impact. And that starts with the two players they drafted in the first round.

"I think we got two very unique players that have skillsets that if you really look at it and think about how many players in the NBA have all those skills for a combo forward, I think it's more rare than you might think," Kleiman said. 

Contact Damichael Cole at damichael.cole@commercialappeal.com and on Twitter @damichaelc