Despite missing Ja Morant, Grizzlies win Summer League title behind MVP Brandon Clarke

Jack BaerYahoo Sports Contributor

If you’re an NBA team looking to rebuild for the future, you could do worse than what the Memphis Grizzlies have accomplished in the last few months.

A summer of significant change for the Grizzlies was capped off with the team capturing the 2019 NBA Summer League title. The most impressive part? The team’s No. 2 overall pick this year, point guard Ja Morant, didn’t even participate after undergoing minor knee surgery last month.

Instead, it was the team’s other first-round pick dominating the league.

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Brandon Clarke wins Summer League MVP

The Grizzlies traded up to grab Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke with the 21st overall pick in the draft. In his first action in a Grizzlies uniform, Clarke more than outperformed his draft slot.

In games in Las Vegas, the 22-year-old averaged 14.7 points on 55 percent shooting with 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. That was good enough to win both Summer League MVP and Championship Game MVP as the Grizzlies marched to a franchise-first Summer League championship.

Clarke looked like a pro throughout the campaign. One of the most advanced defensive players in the draft, Clarke also led his team in scoring and even made some 3-pointers along the way. Oh, and a game-winning dunk in the semifinals.

Granted, we’re only talking about Summer League. Success in Las Vegas will mean little to NBA veterans. Then again, winning the Summer League is definitely better than not winning the Summer League. And winning Summer League MVP puts Clarke in some decent, but not spotless company.

Here’s the complete list of past Summer League MVPs: Randy Foye, Nate Robinson, Jerryd Bayless, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Josh Selby, Jonas Valančiūnas, Glen Rice Jr., Kyle Anderson, Tyus Jones, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart.

So you’ve got some All-Stars in there, and also Josh Selby. Funny enough, the Grizzlies now have four of the last seven MVPs with Clarke, Jones, Anderson and Valančiūnas, having added the latter three via free agency or trade between this summer and last.

Grizzlies already have a solid core

The Grizzlies don’t have an absurd treasure trove of picks and assets like the Oklahoma City Thunder or New Orleans Pelicans, but they seem to have gotten as much value as they could have once they decided to finally take the big step and rebuild with the Marc Gasol trade and then again with the Mike Conley trade.

The Grizzlies' 2019 NBA draft haul is looking pretty good between Brandon Clarke and Ja Morant. (AP Photo/John Locher)
The Grizzlies' 2019 NBA draft haul is looking pretty good between Brandon Clarke and Ja Morant. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Morant looks like a star in the making at the league’s most important position, and last year’s fourth overall pick, Jaren Jackson Jr., showed last season he was on his way to becoming just what you want from a modern NBA big man.

Add that to the four Summer League MVP’s, a reclamation project in former fourth overall pick Josh Jackson, additional young depth like Grayson Allen and De’Anthony Melton and whatever they can get in an Andre Iguodala trade. Odds are a good team will emerge soon.

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