The Memphis Grizzlies may have missed the playoffs this season, but despite that, they may have found a few potential building blocks for the future.
They started the season strong and were actually near the top of the Western Conference standings, but ended up spiraling into a freefall that culminated in them trading away longtime franchise cornerstone Marc Gasol, as well as rotation players like JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple.
Mike Conley also saw his name mentioned in trade rumors, but the team ultimately decided to hold on to him for the remainder of the season. As often happens when teams decide to head down the rebuilding path, young players with potential often get the bulk of the rotation minutes.
The front office and coaching staff opt to see what they have in as of yet unproven players in the name of development rather than waste time playing already established veterans. Two players that used that opportunity to show that they should be considered for the future were Tyler Dorsey and Jevon Carter.
Dorsey arrived in a deadline deal with the Atlanta Hawks and just finished up his second year in the NBA. Carter was the Grizzlies second-round draft pick this season. Dorsey played sparingly with the Hawks and Carter spent the majority of this season in the G League with the Memphis Hustle.
When the Grizzlies suffered injuries during the final months of the season, both Dorsey and Carter got their opportunities to go out and play. They both offer different skillsets to the team.
Dorsey, in particular, showed glimpses of being a solid scorer off the bench. In the Grizzlies’ final 16 games of the season, he scored in double-figures eight times including a career-high 29 on March 22 against the Orlando Magic. When given playing time in Atlanta, Dorsey also put up similar performances.
“Your opportunity is going to come sooner or later, you just got to be ready when it comes. It’s been a blessing to get a chance here in Memphis and get that opportunity to contribute,” Dorsey told Basketball Insiders. “I bring a scoring threat, I’m a facilitator, and I can defend. I bring that every night, I go out there and play hard.”
Dorsey grew up in Los Angeles, graduating from Maranatha High School in nearby Pasadena. His ability to score was on display as far back as then when he led both St. John Bosco and Maranatha to California state championships and won the 2015 Gatorade CA State Player of the Year.
Many of the league’s top players hail from the golden state, so it should probably come as no surprise that Dorsey’s talent is translating well to the NBA.
“The west coast got a lot of good basketball players. You look around the league, a lot of the top players are from Los Angeles or from the west coast and California,” Dorsey told Basketball Insiders. “I think L.A. basketball is pretty good every year, a lot of good players coming out of high school and college.”
Carter, on the other hand, wasn’t noticed based on his scoring prowess, but for his ability on the other side of the ball. At West Virginia, he was a two-time NABC Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.
His college coach Bob Huggins recounted a story to reporters last year at the NCAA Tournament in which he remembered seeing Carter for the first time at an AAU tournament. He recalled Carter employing a press at eight in the morning and knew right away he wanted him at West Virginia.
Prior to Carter’s arrival, Memphis had adopted a mentality of “Grit and Grind.” His skill set seemed a perfect fit with the team, and when given the opportunity, he displayed some of that defensive intensity.
“That’s always been a part of who I am. I just try to stop my man and put some pressure on them on the defensive end,” Carter told Basketball Insiders. “I can be a facilitator, guard, and just help the team in any way that I can.”
One adjustment that both Dorsey and Carter have had to make is getting used to the level of the play in the NBA. Both have spent extensive time in the G League since getting drafted, and have had to adjust that level as well.
Carter put up impressive numbers in the G League with 18.4 points per game while shooting 39.3 percent from three-point range. He also tacked on 4.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Although defense is his calling card, he can score as well.
In the Grizzlies’ final 11 games of the season in which he was a regular in the rotation, he scored in double-figures three times, including a season-high 32 points against the Golden State Warriors the final game of the season.
“It’s been a learning experience. I’ve spent a lot of time up here, a lot of time in the G League, it’s just been a real learning period,” Carter told Basketball Insiders. “It’s [the G League] pretty good, the basketball is just different but the talent level is up to par. The style is just different.”
Dorsey also put up big numbers in the G League. This season, during split duties with the Erie BayHawks and the Memphis Hustle, he put up 26.6 points per game on 50 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals.
When he arrived in Memphis after the trade, he played in 21 games, including 11 starts, and put up 9.8 points per game and shot 36.6 percent from distance.
“It’s a grind every night, that’s what I would say,” Dorsey told Basketball Insiders. “Once I got this opportunity I figured out just how much of a grind it is.”
Although he didn’t really get his kind of an opportunity with Atlanta, Dorsey was already somewhat used to the NBA grind as opposed to Carter who was a fresh-faced rookie.
While Memphis had a disappointing season, there was still quite a bit that Carter was able to take away from his rookie season.
“I just want to learn as much as I can, especially from guys like Mike [Conley],” Carter told Basketball Insiders. “Just watching how the guys play and pick up on all the things that I feel like can help my game, go into the summer and just work as hard as I can and try to improve for next year.”