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Memphis Grizzlies exercise contract option on Xavier Tillman

Tillman is headed back to Memphis.



Xavier Tillman
© Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Tillman is headed back to Memphis for a fourth year after the Grizzlies exercised their option for him.

The Memphis Grizzlies formally announced that they will exercise their option for a fourth year of Xavier Tillman. He will make $1,930,681 during the 2023-24 season, after which he will become an unrestricted free agent. This brings his total earnings over four years to $6,531,283.

Tillman averaged a career-high 7.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game during the 2022-23 regular season. He appeared in 61 games, including 29 starts, and averaged 19.3 minutes per game.

Late in the season, the Grizzlies suffered a knee injury to center Steven Adams, which opened the door for Tillman to take on a bigger role. And he visibly stepped up when given the opportunity.

Tillman’s importance to this team was apparent in the playoffs, where he averaged 8.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 30.7 minutes per game. Ultimately, the Grizzlies fell to the Lakers in the opening round, however, Tillman certainly left his mark.

He showed himself to be a savvy defender, an effective rebounder, as well as a threat in pick-and-roll situations. MSU fans knew that whatever team grabbed him in the draft was getting a steal. Often times teams are hesitant to take an older player due to their lack of upside. But you cannot replace the big-game experience of an older player such as Tillman.

Tillman is the latest example of an Izzo-developed player that will last in the league for many years.

Coming out of high school, he was a bit of a project. But during his sophomore season, Xavier once again stepped up after a Nick Ward injury and became a valuable piece on an eventual Final Four team. His junior season, he led MSU to their third straight Big Ten title before the season was cut short.

One cannot help but point to his story as having Draymond-esque tendencies. Both power forwards ranked No. 1 in the state of Michigan. Green was the No. 97 overall recruit and Xavier Tillman was the No. 106 overall recruit. Both of them transformed their bodies and became irreplaceable parts of their respective MSU teams. They show a tenacity and cerebral style of play, particularly on defense. And each was selected as the 35th pick in the NBA draft. And now they are both earning big-time money for their families.

You just love to see Spartans continuing to thrive in the league.

I graduated from MSU in 2016 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. I met my wife there, and we now live in Madison, WI with our two boys (ages 2 and 0). I write on here and spew on Twitter as an outlet for my useless MSU sports knowledge.