Over the last few seasons, one of the NBA teams that have really utilized D-League talent has been the Memphis Grizzlies. The team have still looked to the NBADL to find potential “diamond in the rough” talent. The best example of that is former NBADL All-Star and Austin Spur JaMychal Green. During his two-year stint with the team, Green has become a reliable role player, as he averaged 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds on 46% from the field in 18.5 minutes per game.
The Grizzlies’ search for that next “diamond in the rough” has continued. On Thursday, The Vertical’s Shams Charania announced that the Grizzlies signed Iowa Energy alum DJ Stephens to a partially-guaranteed deal. Their interest in DJ Stephens is warranted, as the 6’5 guard played the 2nd half of the D-League season with the Iowa Energy, the Grizzlies D-League affiliate.
During that Energy stint, Stephens looked like a completely different as he averaged 16 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game on 55% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. While he’s been known as a terrific athlete and one of the best dunkers the D-League has ever seen, he was never any kind of perimeter threat during his whole career. That transition from a non-shooter to shooting 42% from beyond the arc on four 3-point attempts per game.
That improvement as a perimeter shooter probably turned Stephens into a legitimate prospects rather than someone that would throw down sensational dunks in D-League arenas. During his Summer League stint with the Grizzlies, Stephens was able to maintain that perimeter efficiency by shooting 36% from 3 on 3.7 attempts per game.
Stephens combining his fantastic athleticism with a reliable jumper could allow him to have a permanent NBA role. A steady jumper would allow Stephens to be a threat on the offensive end as you’d have to always put a defender on him to prevent him from moving off-ball or hitting an open perimeter jumper. While that fit probably might not be in Memphis, due to their influx of young guards that are hungry to get playing time on a viable playoff contender.
No matter what happens with DJ Stephens, the young guard has proven that he deserves a chance in the NBA. Over his career, he’s progressed from just being a flashy athlete to someone that can combine a stable perimeter jumper with his insane athleticism. That progression deserves to give him an opportunity to be on an NBA roster for the 2016-17 season.