Friday, April 10, 2009

Griz Draft Board: The Lottery (Take One)

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 10:54 AM

With the college season over and the NBA season winding down, it's time again to start focusing on the draft. Like last season, I'm going to do multiple installments of my Grizzlies draft board following each step in the process: the lottery selection, the pre-draft combine, the individual workouts. Unlike last season, I expect some significant changes to the following list.

Last year, the only big difference between my initial draft list and my final one was moving Anthony Randolph off the board after seeing his individual workout (and getting a sense of how much of a project he was going to be). But this is a more difficult draft to get a handle on and I've watched less college basketball than I did last season, so I expect to learn a lot more over the next two months that will impact my thinking on the draft.

So, consider this a very preliminary ranking of who the Grizzlies should be looking at in the lottery. I'm going nine deep on the list, because #9 is the lowest the Grizzlies will possibly be picking. I'll have a follow-up post in the coming days on players to potentially target with the team's two later picks.

Griz Draft Board

1. Blake Griffin

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Griffin doesn't require much commentary: The hands-down top pick and exactly what the Grizzlies need. I don't think he has the length or all-around game to be a Duncan/Garnett-level league-MVP-caliber player at the 4, but I think he can be a physical force from day one and a monster rebounder and (emerging) scorer. He's Carlos Boozer with hops and toughness. We can only hope…

2. Greg Monroe

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I gather Monroe's stock has slipped a bit after Georgetown missed the tournament and Monroe's own numbers didn't keep climbing. But I've heard from NBA people that Georgetown players are hard to gauge based on college production because of their system, and I think Monroe is a big-time talent at the Grizzlies' position of greatest need.

I'd compare Monroe to Lamarcus Aldridge, the Blazers' power forward who was a #2 overall pick in a weak draft and has become a very good pro. Monroe is like Aldridge in that he has 6'11" size and excellent perimeter shooting skills, but isn't a high-level rebounder. But I think Monroe has a more well-rounded game: Better ball-handling and play-making skills, better potential as a post player and off the dribble. More shot-blocking potential. He needs time to develop and won't be a physical monster, but I think he's got all-star ability as an NBA 4. There is a decent chance he goes back to Georgetown, though.

3. Ricky Rubio

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I don’t think the Grizzlies need a point guard, but Rubio is the second safest pick in the draft to be a high-level pro. If he's the best player on the board when the Griz pop up, then the team needs to find a trading partner — either for Rubio or Mike Conley — but you can't let Rubio slip by based purely on value.

4. Hasheem Thabeet

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I don't love Thabeet and don't think the Grizzlies need him with Marc Gasol at center. But I think with his physical tools he's going to be a quality center, at least in the Theo Ratliff/Samuel Dalembert mold, and this would be a value pick in a weak draft. Even more than with Rubio, if the Grizzlies find Thabeet as the highest-rated prospect on the board, then the pick should become trade bait.

5. Jordan Hill

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I can't believe I have this guy this high. But: Hill has been a consistent high-level producer as a scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker against quality college competition and seems to have taken significant steps forward each year. He's an excellent athlete with a strong motor. He's quick off the floor and good in transition.

Downside: He seems to be undersized for a pro "4" and doesn't seem to have much of a perimeter or developed post game. I worry he's just a guy at the NBA level, but he plays the Grizzlies' position of greatest need without a clearly better player at another position on the board. Hill is a guy I could move down after seeing him in person if he doesn't look big enough to be a pro "4."

6. DeMar DeRozan

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With his size (6'6"), wingspan, and athleticism, DeRozan would probably be able to back up Mayo and Gay on the wings. He's an explosive athlete with what looked like a pretty decent mid-range game when I saw him and the ability to be a quality defender. His outside shooting was disappointing, though, and putting him this high makes me nervous. Consider this a placeholder based purely on raw talent in a weak draft.

7. Cole Aldrich

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I really like Aldrich to be a quality rotation player — at least — at the NBA level. He's a better athlete than people think, with the ability to play above the rim, dunk on people, and block shots. He's a quality rebounder and a fundamentally sound defender. He's a good outlet passer and can make plays from the high post. And though he has a funky release on his shot, he seems to have the ability to be a factor from mid-range. The big question with Aldrich, from a Grizzlies perspective, is whether he has the athleticism and skill-level to thrive as a power forward or whether he's going to have to play center in the NBA. Can he and Gasol play together? Also, there appears to be a good chance he won't come out.

8. Tyreke Evans

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Like a lot of people, I was impressed with Evans' improvement over the course of his college season. At 6'6", 220, he's got a prototype NBA body for a two-guard. He handles the ball well for that position. (He won't be playing point at the pro level.) And he's deadly attacking the rim. Maturity and lack of a reliable outside shot are the question marks, but he's someone who might fit well as a third guard playing behind Conley and Mayo.

9. James Harden

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This is a tough one. I watched Harden a couple of times last season and, while he was very productive, he just didn't look like a high-level pro. Maybe it was the beard or maybe it was his stocky build, but my immediate reaction was, "Who is that fat, old dude scoring all those points?" In fairness, Harden has a lot of stuff in his game — three-point range, playmaking ability, crafty moves, the ability to take contact and finish. But I can't shake the fear that he's too small and too limited athletically to be a big-time pro. I'll be very interested in seeing him in person if he comes in for a workout.

Others worth a look:

James Johnson: When I watched Wake Forest early on, I was focusing more on Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu, so I didn't get a close enough look at the Wake player that's now probably most likely to be a Grizzlies draft target. I was hoping to take a second look in the NCAA tournament, but that didn't exactly work out. Seems to have toughness, athleticism, and versatility. If he's really as big as his 6'9", 245 listing, he could be intriguing. I'll be interested to see him workout if and when he comes in.

Willie Warren: Very talented combo guard with good size and deep range. Probably needs another year and doesn't really fit a big need for the Grizzlies.

DaJuan Blair: Love him as a college player and his rebounding and toughness at the "4" fits the Grizzlies biggest need. But his size and conditioning are big red flags. I've watched him struggle to get his shot off against 6'9" college defenders. In those cases, he typically misses the shot but gets the offensive rebound and putback. Not sure if he'll be so effective on the block in the NBA. Still, rebounding tends to translate. If he goes on the Kevin Love diet and comes into workouts looking more sculpted, this is a guy I could see myself moving up the list.

Al-Farouq Aminu: Not sure he'll ever be a high-level scorer, but is athletic, active, and versatile. Can defend, handle, run the floor. Would be a nice player to develop behind Rudy, but this team needs a lot more than that out of its lottery pick.

Earl Clark: Unlike Aminu, I think Clark might have the height and frame to play quite a bit at the 4, and I like the diverse skills he'd bring to that spot. Could develop into a decent three-point shooter. He's been inconsistent, though. And, again, not the type of player that is a priority for the Grizzlies.

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