The NBA's free agent season got underway today and though the actual negotiating period is still a few hours away, the situation as it could relate to the Grizzlies has come into focus a little bit:
Carlos Boozer deciding not to opt out of his contract with Utah took a longshot option off the table for the Grizzlies, but it may have put a more reasonable option on it in the form of Paul Millsap, whom the Jazz are now at least somewhat less likely to re-sign.
The Milwaukee Bucks surprisingly neglected to tender a qualifying offer to Charlie Villanueva, making him an unrestricted free agent and making it all but certain that he'll be switching teams this summer.
If there's one thing the Grizzlies have made clear in the aftermath of last week's draft, it's that this team still needs some backcourt depth and they plan to get it. Expect the Grizzlies to acquire an experienced ball-handling guard in the coming weeks, someone who can come off the bench behind Mike Conley at the very least.
As I did with the power forward spot a couple of weeks back, allow me to help the front office out with a few suggestions.
Unlikely targets: There are a few attractive targets potentially available via trade or free agency that will be too costly for the Griz, who will spend the serious money on power forward if they spend it anywhere . That's why you won't Kirk Hinrich, Leandro Barbosa, Ramon Sessions on this list.
1. Keyon Dooling (Under Contract): 29 year old combo guard, shot better than 40% from three last year. Good defender. Not a pure point but can get by. Dooling is owed $7.4 million over the next two seasons and may not have a role after the Nets just acquired Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee. With Nets looking to maximize cap space in 2010, would they deal him straight up for Greg Buckner?
On the day after the draft, the Grizzlies' team talking points seemed to be broadcasting the need for a "back-up point guard" and down-playing the still-gaping hole at power forward. But, despite some mixed-messages recently regarding the prospect of tapping significantly into the team's considerable cap room this summer, there have been indications that the Grizzlies recognize the need and may well be willing to do something about it: The team pursued a trade with the Clippers for Zach Randolph that the Clippers mysteriously turned down, and also made a play for Miami's Michael Beasley. The Randolph deal, which would have added an additional $20 million to the team's payroll over the next two seasons, makes it clear that the team will be willing to spend under what it considers the right circumstances.
So assuming that the Grizzlies are going to attempt to bring in a new starter at the four, who are the likely candidates?
This didn't take long, and I didn't think it would:
Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun-Sentinel has a story up today refuting the Commercial Appeal's account that the Grizzlies turned down offers from the Miami Heat for Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers:
The Heat on Saturday said it was the Grizzlies that contacted it and tried to trade the No. 2 pick for Michael Beasley, not the other way around. A Heat spokesman confirmed that it was the Grizzlies who made the overtures.
In addition, that same report in the Commercial Appeal said that the Heat offered starting point guard Mario Chalmers for the No. 27 pick. Again, a Heat spokesman quickly corrected that it was Memphis that attempted to peddle No. 27 pick for Chalmers.
This version, of course, makes a lot more sense.
The schedule for the Las Vegas summer league — which the Grizzlies will participating in again this year — came out last week, but I never got around to posting it amid all the pre-draft goings-on.
The Grizzlies team is set to play five games, starting July 12th against Oklahoma City. The official roster for the squad hasn't been announced yet, but a team official I spoke to after yesterday's press conference said the team's three new draft picks will be joined by Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi from the current roster. (O.J. Mayo apparently expressed interest, but will not play.) Among free agents, I was told UCONN power forward Jeff Adrien and former Clipper point guard Daniel Ewing will be on the squad. A subsequent media report has said that center Greg Stiemsma will be on the Grizzlies' team. Stiemsma participated in the team's recent free-agent mini-camp and a team official at the time had told me he was the most impressive player there, so this makes sense.
I haven't seen a television schedule anywhere yet, but the Grizzlies' game schedule is as follows:
A sampling of reaction around the web on the Grizzlies draft:
He likes us! He likes us! He really likes us!
ESPN's Chad Ford gives the Griz draft an A-:
Analysis: I am not a huge fan of Thabeet but understand why the Grizzlies went that way. Ricky Rubio wasn't cooperating, and Thabeet can help the Grizzlies, who needed a big, athletic shot-blocker. He is limited offensively, but he can change the game on defense.
Later in the draft is where the Grizzlies really shone. I loved the Carroll and Young picks. They give the Grizzlies toughness and two players who can come in and contribute immediately.
I've been pretty harsh about some of the Grizzlies' shortcomings in the past, but for the second year in a row, I think they've drafted really well.
CNNSI's Scott Howard-Cooper is even more generous, with the A:
Commercial Appeal beat writer Ron Tillery delivered a doozy of a blog post today about trade offers that didn't come to fruition.
This is juicy enough to go through one by one and take a look at:
The Grizzlies had agreed in principle to acquire power forward Zach Randolph Thursday night but Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling later nixed the trade, according to two NBA sources.
During the NBA draft, executives from both teams hammered out a package with Randolph and Darko Milicic as the key pieces. Griz guard Greg Buckner would also have been included in the transaction.
The Griz ended up dealing Milicic to the New York Knicks for swingman Quentin Richardson after they waited on a final answer from the Clippers and received a curious no.
And aside from Randolph's off-the-court, character issues, the deal could have been costly for the Griz.
The 6-9 beefy scorer and rebounder is owed more than $33 million over the next two seasons. With Milicic entering the final year of a deal that pays $7.5 this season, the Griz would have absorbed more than $22 million in additional costs when the final math was completed on the deal.
Okay, in all honesty this is the only one of the bunch of which I have independent knowledge. I got tipped to some kind of Randolph deal last night and was able to confirm that there was a trade offer involving Randolph that the Clippers turned down. At the time I assumed it was a last-ditch effort to get Blake Griffin, because I couldn't imagine any other Randolph-to-the-Grizzlies scenario that the Clippers would reject.
I'll have a report from this afternoon's press conference later and will probably wait until this weekend to deal with the aftermath of the draft in War and Peace form, but for now some quick thoughts:
1. Hasheem Thabeet: I'd voiced my opposition to the Thabeet pick here, but clearly my "value" objection was not, um, valid. Last night's draft made it clear that the #2 pick, and the rights to Ricky Rubio, did not have the trade value that many assumed (or maybe hoped). Sacramento clearly wasn't going to offer a significant package to get Rubio at 2 when they weren't even going to take him at 4. The Knicks never had a compelling package to offer. As for Minnesota, there were some reports yesterday that Hasheem Thabeet was their target at #2, but if it was Rubio they were clearly right in not making a significant offer to move up. They got him at #5 anyway.
Via a combination of his legal issues in Spain and taking a closer look at his game, the shine clearly came off Rubio in the run-up to the draft. Did teams like Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Sacramento make a big mistake in passing up Rubio? Time will tell.
My other objections to the Thabeet pick are interrelated: There's a long history of teams making a mistake by reaching for size high in the draft. Taking out the few centers considered obvious franchise players (Shaq, Yao), the bust-to-star ratio is something like three-to-one. And I especially didn't like the Grizzlies taking the risk when center was not a position of need with Marc Gasol already in place.
Alright. Here we go. This will be the forum for tonight's draft. I'll pop in here occasionally with commentary or maybe even news if I have any.
Let's do this.
We're only a few hours away from tonight's NBA Draft. The latest, per ESPN's Andy Katz, is that the Griz haven't reached any trade agreements and are set to draft Hasheem Thabeet at #2:
Memphis and Minnesota talked again about trading the No. 2 pick (Memphis) to Minnesota for the No. 5 and 6 picks or the No. 5 or 6 and Kevin Love. But the price was too high for Minnesota, so Memphis plans on keeping the pick. According to multiple sources, Memphis would pick Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet.
There's also a rumor going around that the Grizzlies have made a promise to Missouri forward DeMarre Carroll at #27. I know that the team likes Carroll and it would not surprise me to see him drafted there, but I do not believe a promise was made. After getting burned with a draft promise in Boston (see: Kedrick Brown), Chris Wallace has been adamant that he is out of the promise business. Additionally, I've talked to one team official who proclaimed that Derrick Brown would be preferable to Carroll and another who speculated about players thought to be safely ahead of the #27 pick who might fall to the Grizzlies, the way Darrell Arthur (almost) did last year.
Don't expect any more here until the draft starts. I'll be making an appearance on The Chris Vernon Show during the 4 o'clock hour. Vernon is broadcasting live from Jason's Deli at Poplar and Highland. Other guest will include the Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins, Grizzlies radio voice Eric Hasseltine, CNNSI's Chris Mannix, and hoops legend Sonny Vaccaro, who is scheduled to call in live from the draft in New York.
Vernon will be hosting a draft party tonight at Jason's Deli, but I won't be sticking around. I'll be following the draft from Beyond the Arc's own Vollentine-Evergreen war room, surrounding by fresh-made sangria, barbecue, and friends. After all, the NBA draft rivals Thanksgiving as our most precious national holiday.
I'll set up live draft post later tonight as a template for commentary and any tips I might happen to pick up. I'm not expecting as much activity as last year, but hope to be surprised.
See you all back here later.
With the NBA Draft only hours away, it is looking increasingly likely that the Grizzlies will select UCONN center Hasheem Thabeet with the second pick in a draft. A trade could still send the Grizzlies in a different direction, but the safe money at this point is on Thabeet. I've been against the pick but haven't really summarized my objections, so it's time to get those in before it's too late. Three reasons not to draft Hasheem Thabeet:
1. Value: My primary objection to a Thabeet pick has been that I don’t think it maximizes the asset the Grizzlies obtained by getting the #2 pick. This notion is predicated on Ricky Rubio being the consensus #2 player in the draft. If it’s true that the shine is coming off Rubio a little as NBA teams take a closer look, then maybe that’s no longer true. But I tend to believe that there is still sufficient interest in Rubio that what you can obtain in trade for the pick is more valuable than Thabeet.
2. Precedent: My radio partner Chris Vernon has been talking a lot this week about the lack of a correlation between being a big-time college shot-blocker and being a high-level pro, citing such former NCAA shot-blocking machines as Calvin Booth and Adonal Foyle. This is a persuasive point, but the counter-argument would be that none of the players Vernon cites were quite as highly regarded coming out of college as Thabeet.
But what's the history of players of both Thabeet's type and draft ranking? Not good. By my count, there have been only nine true centers taken with Top 5 picks since 1990. (There is a degree of judgment call here about what constitutes a true center. I can hash that out in the comments if anyone wants to challenge the list.)
ESPN.com's Andy Katz has a strong story up about the status of the Grizzlies' trade negotiations involving the #2 pick.
The core graph:
Memphis discussed sending the No. 2 to Minnesota for the No. 5 and No. 6, but the Timberwolves have been consistent that they don't want to give away two top 10 picks. The TWolves also rejected the offer for No. 6 and Love. The Timberwolves offered either No. 5 or 6 and Craig Smith for the No. 2, but Memphis rejected that trade, too. The source said there was never any discussion involving Minnesota's No. 18 pick.
Katz also reports that the Wolves are the only team the Grizzlies are in active trade discussions with for the #2 pick.
While all the focus for the Grizzlies draft has been on the #2 pick, the team also has picks at #27 and #36 and the roster spots to absorb them. I preparation for Thursday’s draft, let’s take a quick look at all (or at least most) of the reasonable options at those two spots, taking into account their Grizzlies workouts (where applicable), their combine results, whether I’ve heard them talked about by any team officials, and a general feel for how their game looks to shape for the next level. To give a sense of where these players are expected to go in the draft, I’ve included in parenthesis their current mock draft slot according to DraftExpress.com, Chad Ford, and NBADraft.net (in that order.)
Slippage Candidates: Last year, the Grizzlies didn’t expect to see Donte Greene or Darrell Arthur at the end of the first round and someone projected to go much earlier is likely to slip down this year as well. Based on conversations with Grizzlies officials, there seem to be the most likely candidates to fall. Most of these players will be off the board by the time the Grizzlies pick at #27, but the thought is that one or two of them might fall:
Sam Young (18, 21, 31) — Very popular among some in the Griz front office and fits a clear need as a back-up three who can both defend and shoot, so would be a near-certain pick at #27 if he drops. My concern is his age — 24 — and the fact that he didn’t become an impact college player until his junior season. Is he really this good or was he a man beating up on kids in college?
DeJuan Blair (21, 13, 22) — Questions about his knees seemed to have his stock plummeting, but now he seems to have stabilized and probably won’t be on the board. If he is, he’d be hard to turn down at #27, but I sense the team has plenty of doubts about him, so he picking him even that low wouldn’t be a given.
Eric Maynor (23, 24, 21) — A big-time producer in college. Probably not there at #27, but with his size (over 6’3”) and skill would be an attractive pick even with the team not pursuing a point guard.
Ty Lawson (13, 17, 17) — I’d be very surprised if he was there at #27 but he was mentioned to me as a possible dropper, so I’ll thrown him on the list. Not a need, at all, but I don’t know how you’d pass on him that late. Big-time talent in a small package. I believe in him as an elite back-up. Beyond that, I don’t know.
BJ Mullens (15, 18, 15) — This year’s DeAndre Jordan. Top high-school big man flails through a year of college. Rumored to have a promise in the mid-first. If not, could drop. Haven’t detected much enthusiasm from the Grizzlies, but if he’s there they’d have to consider it.
Austin Daye (22, 15, 35) — Long and skilled but hasn’t shown it on the court. An all-upside pick that, like Mullens, I haven’t heard much interest in from the Grizzlies.
Chase Buddinger (28, 25, 20) — 6’7” backcourt size, deep three-point range, and raw athleticism make him attractive, but he never really put it all together in college and there’s the thought that his explosiveness doesn’t translate to the basketball court. Doesn’t have to be a leading man at the next level though, so his ability to both spot-up and finish strong in transition could make him an excellent role player.
The rest of these players are likely to be available at #27 and many of them at #36. I’ve divided them into types, with the idea that the Grizzlies are probably unlikely to pick two players from the same group.
ESPN's Marc Stein brings back up a previously rumored Darko Milicic for Quentin Richardson trade in his draft column today:
The Grizzlies aren't just entertaining the idea of parting with the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday's draft. They've also engaged in advanced discussions with the Knicks that should put former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic in New York by week's end ... unless Memphis winds up needing Milicic's expiring contract in another draft-related trade.
Sources say that the proposed swap would send Milicic to the Knicks for swingman Quentin Richardson and cash. Milicic is scheduled to earn $7.5 million next season in the final year of a three-year deal he received from the Griz in 2007; Richardson has a player option for next season at $8.7 million.
This trade makes a lot of sense if the Grizzlies take Hasheem Thabeet at #2 and and not much sense if the Grizzlies trade down for a perimeter player. My best guess: This is a sign of the Grizzlies preparing for the Thabeet pick in the event that the right trade offer doesn't emerge.
I'm not going to bother wading through every Griz-connected report or opinion piece over the past couple of days, but will throw out a couple of the better ones before forging ahead. But first, a couple of other notes:
I made a mistake during a Chris Vernon Show appearance earlier this week, letting slip a comment concerning Lionel Hollins' take on Ricky Rubio that shouldn't have been aired. The statement was accurate but possibly misinterpreted and not fit for public airing regardless. Sometimes you get rambling on the radio and find yourself saying things you wouldn't feel comfortable putting in print, and this was one of those times. I do think that there are no strong proponents for taking and keeping Rubio among the team's top brass. That certainly includes Hollins, but is not at all exclusive to him.
Jefferson Deal: The big NBA news of the day, at least until Minnesota acquired a second Top Ten pick, was the Spurs picking up Richard Jefferson from the Bucks for a pu-pu platter of expiring and partially guaranteed contracts. This relates to the Grizzlies for obvious reasons: It's yet another trade that puts the Pau Gasol deal into context.