The Memphis Grizzlies needed to make a move by Tuesday when Ja Morant is expected to make his return from suspension. According to Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies have decided to part ways with Kenneth Lofton Jr after exploring the trade market, apparently finding no suitable trade partner.
NBA Rumors: Several Teams Expected To Be Interested In Recently Released Memphis Grizzlies Young Forward
Memphis has 16 players on standard contracts, thus making it necessary for the Grizzlies to release a player before Morant can officially return. The Griz signed Bismack Biyombo after being awarded an injury exception from the NBA after Steven Adams was declared out for the season during the preseason.
When disclosing Memphis’ plans to release Lofton, Cole said that Lofton wouldn’t be traveling with the Grizzlies on their two-game road trip. The Grizzlies (6-18) travel to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday and then are in New Orleans on Tuesday. Morant’s 25-game suspension concludes following Monday’s game, meaning he will be eligible to play against the Pelicans.
Lofton, who had his two-way contract converted to a standard deal at the end of last season, saw little playing time this year. The 21-year-old power forward produced 2.6 points and 1.0 rebounds in seven minutes over 15 appearances this season. He last saw action on December 8 against Minnesota, totaling five points and two assists in four minutes of playing time.
Lofton has two years left on his contract after this season, but both are non-guaranteed. That means if he clears waivers, the Grizzlies will only be on the hook for his ’23-24 salary of $1,719,864.
Cole added that Lofton is expected to garner interest from other clubs once he hits the open market.
Lofton went undrafted in 2022 following two seasons at Louisiana Tech. The 6-foot-7, 255-pounder, who reportedly recently dropped 20 pounds, is known for his scoring ability with his back to the basket. He produced a 42-point, 14-rebound double-double in his lone start last year in the regular season final.
Lofton is a strong rebounder and willing passer. Lofton was named the 2022-23 G-League Rookie of the Year.
Which Teams Potentially Be Interested In Lofton?
Lofton isn’t a franchise changer, but he is an intriguing prospect who is skilled and possesses a high motor. He would be an ideal fit for a team looking to develop players.
Eight teams currently have an open roster spot. Chicago (10-17) makes the most sense of those eight teams, as they have some important decisions to make and will likely be in a rebuild shortly. The Bulls can use some influx of talent.
Cleveland (13-12) has a few injury concerns. The Cavaliers could use another big man with Evan Mobley out for a while. But if the Cavaliers see them as a playoff team, they may opt to go the veteran route.
The Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, and New Orleans Pelicans are also teams with an open roster spot that would benefit by adding front-court depth. However, those teams are unlikely to do so unless there is an injury, at least now.
The Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and Portland Trail Blazers are three teams with 15 players under contract that would be foolish not to make a play for Lofton. The Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs are other potential suitors.
Detroit (2-24) reportedly wants to move several of their veterans. The Pistons could waive James Wiseman or Kevin Knox as they are on expiring contracts. Knox is the more likely candidate, as Wiseman is still uber-talented and getting more run lately.
Washington (4-20) needs some young talent. The Wizards may be willing to part with a few of their veterans before the trade deadline. But they also have some players they could outright release. Mike Muscala and Anthony Gill would be the most likely candidates of the four Wizard players on expiring deals.
Portland (6-18) has an opening in the frontcourt with Robert Williams III out for the remainder of the season. Duop Reath, on a two-way deal, has seen considerable action with the Trail Blazers due to Williams’ absence and has played well. The Blazers have flexibility with Moses Brown and Skylar Mays‘ contracts, which are not guaranteed until Jan. 10.