Friday, June 12, 2009

Draft Links and Notes: Annotating the 'Experts'

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2009 at 4:52 PM

The most Griz-specific story of note around web today comes from's Scott Howard-Cooper, who quotes an NBA executive warning the Grizzlies off Ricky Rubio:

A rival general manager is on the phone discussing the Grizzlies' options with the No. 2 pick. Ricky Rubio is the second-best prospect in the draft, he says, echoing the feeling of most peers, and Rubio would make Memphis better.

But ...

"If I'm the Grizz, I probably trade the pick."

Pretty much everyone who has any contact with the team considers a trade at #2 a strong possibility, but the reasons Howard-Cooper cites in addition to the difficulties surrounding Rubio: The emergence of Mike Conley at the point and the need for more size up front.

While those things may well factor into the Grizzlies' decision-making, they shouldn't factor too strongly: The team needs to be focused on getting the most talented player it can get and sorting the rest out.

Howard-Cooper's story also includes this rival GM talking up Hasheem Thabeet in connection with the Grizzlies. While the Griz do have interest in Thabeet, I think you have to consider the source here.'s Chad Ford has a rumors piece up with a couple of Griz items.

For starters, there's this:

The Celtics could trade Allen to Memphis for a combination of Darko Milicic, Greg Buckner and Marko Jaric. That could save the Grizzlies a little money now and a lot of money next year … but that seems like a stretch. The Grizzlies don't need Allen and I'm sure he wouldn't be thrilled to play there.

Which gives me a good excuse to vent about one of my Griz-coverage pet peeves. Clearly Ford doesn't take this scenario seriously — and for good reason — but I've seen several references over the past few weeks to trade scenarios that would cut costs for the Grizzlies, which is something that NBA writers seem to reflexively look for when speculating about the team (again, not without reason). So let's clear one thing up: The Grizzlies might enter the offseason UNDER THE LEAGUE SALARY MINIMUM.

Based on information at the salary page, which tends to be pretty accurate, the Grizzlies salary structure heading into next season looks like this:

Darko Milicic $7.5 million
Marko Jaric $7.1
O.J. Mayo $4.2
Greg Buckner $4.0 (with a $1 million buyout)
Mike Conley $3.9
Rudy Gay $3.3
Marc Gasol $3.2
Hakim Warrick $3.0 (qualifying offer)
Hamed Haddadi $1.8 (this is my own estimate)
Darrell Arthur $1.1

Assuming the $1 million buyout for Buckner, that puts the Grizzlies at approximately $36.1 million.

Now let's add in estimated first-year salaries for the three draft picks:

#2 $4.5
#27 $1.0
#36 $0.5

That puts the Grizzlies at approximately $42.1 for 12 roster spots (subtracting Buckner, who will certainly be bought out if he isn't traded).

If we assume, conservatively, that the cap comes in at $56 million (which would be about $2.5 million below last season), then the team minimum (75% of the cap) will be $42 million, putting the Grizzlies right at the line. And that's with a conservative estimate of the cap and assuming all picks are exercised and players signed. There's a good chance the team will be slightly under the minimum salary requirement. In other words, the Grizzlies aren't going to be looking to shed salary this summer: They can't.

Even long term, the only "bad" contract on the roster is Marko Jaric's which, at about $14.7 million left over the next two seasons, isn't really much of an albatross at this point. The Grizzlies aren't going to part with the #2 pick in this draft just to get off Jaric's $7.6 million next season.

Another selection from the Ford story is notable for not mentioning the Grizzlies:

• Stephen Curry finally got his workout for the Knicks on Wednesday. There was your typical media frenzy and Curry gushing about playing in New York.

Curry, as expected, shot the lights out and wowed the Knicks brass. But whether Curry actually lands in New York on draft night is still up for debate. A number of teams including the Wizards, Wolves and Warriors could take him before then. And if an elite player slips, like Thabeet or Harden, the Knicks may be persuaded to go in a different direction.

But all things being equal, the chances that Curry winds up in New York, something we pegged back in January, remain high.

I don't think I've seen a single national source mention Curry in conjunction with the Grizzlies, but I can tell you that if the Grizzlies, for whatever reason (trading down, throwing the draft for an unexpected loop, etc.), don't select Rubio or Thabeet at #2, there are three players likely to get strong consideration: Tyreke Evans, James Harden, and Stephen Curry. And I've gotten some indications that Curry might be at the top of that list right now. Anything can happen between now and draft day, but Curry definitely needs to be considered in the mix for the Grizzlies.

Similarly, Draft Express has a piece up about team needs in the Southwest Division that lists Rubio, Thabeet, Harden, and Evans as the team's potential targets. Add Curry to the list.

I don't have much else to take issue with in the Draft Express piece, but will quibble slightly with this:

Their most immediate need is for a guard to play alongside O.J. Mayo, who can provide scoring and distributing when needed.

No. I do think that is what the team is most likely to get with the #2 pick, but it is not the most immediate need. That would be a more significant, more physical power forward to pair with Marc Gasol up front.

Other notes:

We'll find out soon which fence sitters will remain in the draft, but Griz sources I talk to tend to think Damien James will stay in. Jodie Meeks of Kentucy is a toss up, but one suggestion I've heard (not from a team official) is that the Grizzlies could win some fans by promising Meeks at #27 just to screw John Calipari. Sign me up! I think James or Meeks would be excellent picks at #36.

The team's lackluster workout schedule should finally start picking up next week. There's a workout Monday with a "lottery prospect" that I've heard — but haven't confirmed — is Demar Derozan. I've also heard that James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Jordan Hill, and Hasheem Thabeet will be coming in, though I'm not sure if Thabeet will workout. As far as I know, the team is still trying — or hoping — to get something set up with Rubio and Curry. There are also likely to be some additional workouts scheduled with late first and second-round prospects, with Chris Vernon favorite Jeff Adrien one name I've heard.

There's also another free-agent camp next week, with names like Michael Dickerson and Eddie Gill. I will not be reporting on that, but will try to get to any meaningful draft workouts the team has.

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