What Memphis Grizzlies said about drafting Tennessee's Kennedy Chandler

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Ja Morant and Kennedy Chandler have been close since 2020 when the Memphis Grizzlies guard reached out to Chandler to find open gym runs to play basketball. So it was fitting Morant did it again two years later to welcome him as a potential teammate.

The Grizzlies traded with the San Antonio Spurs to get the No. 38 pick in the NBA Draft and select Chandler, a Memphis native. Morant called Chandler to tell him the news and set off a celebration at the Hyatt Centric Hotel.

There was also joy inside the Grizzlies' front office. Chandler was in several mock drafts as a first-round pick so they felt like they acquired a player who could be insurance if Tyus Jones departs in free agency.

"We were shocked that Kennedy slipped to where he was," Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said after the draft. "That wasn't the first team that we called trying to get in using a second (round pick), trading in and trying to get a point guard who fits what we're about."

WATCH: See Kennedy Chandler's reaction to Memphis Grizzlies acquiring him in 2022 NBA Draft

DRAFT GRADE: How we graded Memphis Grizzlies trading for Tennessee's Kennedy Chandler in 2022 NBA Draft

MENTOR: Why Grizzlies' Ja Morant has become a mentor as he grows into NBA stardom

Chandler last played in Memphis during his junior year in 2019-20. He transferred to Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas and then spent his lone college season at Tennessee.

Despite leaving the city, he stayed close to Morant. He knew that after every game, he'd hear from the Grizzlies All-Star or his father Tee as much as his own father Kylan breaking down what he did well or could improve on.

The Grizzlies were also fans as Kleiman praised his defense and long wingspan. He wasn't deterred by Chandler's height (6-foot-1) because with his athleticism and quickness, he sees more potential than growth than reasons to be concerned.

It was all the endorsement Chandler needed as he gets the chance to potentially play for his hometown team.

"He takes a lot of pride defending the ball, his screen navigation is really good, his disruption is really good. He's a really smart team defender as well," Kleiman said. "I think Kennedy Chandler's really going to surprise some people."

Want to stay informed on the latest Memphis sports news? A Commercial Appeal subscription gets you unlimited access to the best inside information and updates on local sports, and the ability to tap into sports news from throughout the USA TODAY Network's 109 local sites.

You can reach Evan Barnes on Twitter (@Evan_B) or by email at evan.barnes@commercialappeal.com

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: What Memphis Grizzlies said about drafting Tennessee's Kennedy Chandler