MikeCheck: Two takeaways from Grizzlies 3-0 Vegas start and a look-ahead to Celtics clash

LAS VEGAS – Although both Ja Morant and DeAnthony Melton are sitting out of summer league action, the Grizzlies made a strong play this week off the court to solidify the point guard position by agreeing to terms with restricted free agent Tyus Jones.

Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball during the game against the Toronto Raptors on April 9, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Jordan Johnson via Getty Images.

Memphis signed Jones to a three-year, $28 million offer sheet and Minnesota bypassed Tuesday night’s deadline to match the terms to retain the fourth-year playmaker. Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas confirmed the decision in a statement wishing Jones “nothing but the best in Memphis.”

In the 23-year-old Jones, the Grizzlies land a player who statistically ranks among the most sure-handed point guards in the league. He averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 assists in 68 games for the Timberwolves last season, committing just 47 total turnovers in 1,560 minutes.

Jones, a first-round pick in the 2015 draft, stands to be the most experienced point guard on a roster in major transition at the position. Memphis traded franchise pillar Mike Conley and backup Delon Wright in separate deals that became official in recent days. Morant was added with the No. 2 pick in last month’s draft and Melton was acquired in a trade with Phoenix.

TAKE TWO: Stingy Grizzlies topping Vegas charts

The Grizzlies, at 3-0, entered Wednesday’s games at the MGM Resorts Summer League as one of five unbeaten squads in the 32-team field. While new coach Taylor Jenkins’ up-tempo offense has garnered attention, the Grizzlies’ defense has largely set the tone for their early success.

Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins

Head Coach Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies coaches during a game against the the Phoenix Suns during Day 5 of the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League on July 9, 2019 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by David Becker via Getty Images.

Memphis ranks first in scoring defense in Vegas league play, having held its three opponents to just 73 points per game. The Grizzlies have also outscored opponents by an average margin of 16 points, which is the third-best differential among the field. The team’s performance in Las Vegas is a continuation of the spark ignited last week in the Salt Lake City Summer League.

Memphis is 5-1 overall in summer play, counting its performance in both leagues, and has won all five games by double figures. Balance has defined the team’s play, with five different players leading the team in scoring, including twice when two players were tied as the top scorers.

“As we’re trying to build this environment in Memphis, we want great people that compete, that are great teammates, that are willing to get better,” Jenkins said. “We’ll have great balance. Hopefully, in this system that we’re going to play, guys can feel the freedom they’re going to have. Everyone from the point guard to the five man will have the ball in his hands. Defensively, just play the right way and stick to our principles. In the end, we’re building chemistry now that will carry into the regular season.”

UP NEXT: Grizzlies vs Celtics, Thursday 9:30 p.m. (central) ESPN2

The Grizzlies close out the preliminary portion of the Vegas schedule with Thursday’s game against the Celtics in a battle of 3-0 teams at Thomas & Mack Center. Memphis and Boston were both idle on Wednesday.

The Celtics are led by former Purdue point guard Carsen Edwards and Las Vegas crowd sensation Taco Fall, the 7-foot-7 rookie center from the University of Central Florida. Edwards scored a game-high 23 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range in Tuesday’s win over Denver. Fall is averaging 7.3 points on 77-percent shooting from the field, along with 3.3 rebounds and a block in 13 minutes off the Boston bench.

The Grizzlies are led by Yuta Watanabe in scoring (13.5), Ivan Rabb in rebounding (10.5) and John Konchar in both assists (3.7) and steals (3.0) in Las Vegas entering Thursday.

We’ll have great balance. Everyone from the point guard to the five man will have the ball in his hands … In the end, we’re building chemistry now that will carry into the regular season.

Taylor Jenkins

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