If the Grizzlies have one primary need this offseason, beyond just the obvious "more talent," it's an upgrade at power forward, where the team currently employees two good back-ups in Darrell Arthur and Hakim Warrick. With the #2 pick in the draft, tons of cap space, and plenty of options available either in the draft, via free agency, or potentially via trade, if the Grizzlies open next season with Arthur or Warrick in the starting lineup then this offseason will have been a failure.
Here's a list of my Top 20 candidates to be the Grizzlies' new starting power forward next season, ranked in order of preference — not likelihood.
A pre-emptive note: There are a few obvious names I left off either because I find their acquisition wildly unlikely (Chris Bosh, Lamarcus Aldridge) or because neither I nor — I suspect — the team would be interested (Antawn Jamison, Shawn Marion).
1. Blake Griffin
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate-to-High. Griffin was a monster rebounder in college and is a beast physically, so he projects as a big-time pro rebounder as well. Defensively, he should be strong enough to hold his own on the block, but his average height and wingspan suggests he's unlikely to develop into a defensive force.
Impact Potential: High. Griffin projects as a scoring and rebounding machine as his game develops and is a tough-nosed kid. He'd be a great fit for the Grizzlies, obviously.
Availability: Low. There have been no signs so far that the Clippers are interested in dealing out of the #1 pick, but until draft night comes and goes, I'm not ruling it out.
2. Amare Stoudemire
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Stoudemire may be an explosive athlete, but he's never been a great rebounder and was pretty bad last season. He's capable of giving much more as a defender/rebounder, but is anyone expecting him to transform his game at age 26?
Impact Potential: High. Despite his under-recognized deficiencies, Stoudemire can be such a dominant scorer that he's still an elite option at the four, and should be for a long time to come.
Availability: Moderate-to-High. There are conflicting reports about Stoudemire's availability this summer, but there's a good chance the Suns will listen to offers even if they don't seek them out. And the Grizzlies have a demonstrated interest. The big issue, again, could be that Stoudemire can opt out of his current contract after next season. Could the Grizzlies afford to offer a big package for Stoudemire without an extension in place?
3. Al Horford
Rebounding/Physicality: High. A rugged 6'10", 245 pounds, Horford is a big-time rebounder who can handle the best post players defensively. He's not a great shot-blocker, but would thrive playing his natural position next to a true center in Marc Gasol after spending most of his time out of position in Atlanta.
Impact Potential: High. Horford's offensive development as been disappointing and if he doesn't improve significantly as a scorer it may prevent him from developing into the all-star player he's capable of being. But as a rebounder, physical defender, and high-character, high-energy player, he's exactly what the team needs. He's also only 23.
Availability: Low. The only way you could see Horford available to the Grizzlies is if the Hawks really got a jones for Ricky Rubio, but it sounds like Josh Smith is more likely to be the odd-man-out in Atlanta.
4. Michael Beasley
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Beasley was a monster rebounder at Kansas State but gave a disappointing performance on the boards his rookie season and doesn't seem to have much potential as a shot-blocker and post defender. With his emerging three-point shot and ability to attack off the dribble, Beasley is more of a face-up four and could even develop into a power three in the Jamal Mashburn/Carmelo Anthony mold. I like "moderate" here only because he has the potential to improve greatly as a rebounder.
Impact Potential: High. Whether Beasley is the right kind of power forward for the Grizzlies is debatable. Whether he has the raw talent to be a big-time scorer is not.
Availability: Low. It would take a major deal for the Heat to move Beasley, and I doubt they're that interested in the #2 pick. One deal that might make some sense: A three-way that would land Beasley in Memphis, Chris Bosh in Miami, and perhaps Rudy Gay (or the #2 pick) in Toronto.
5. Carlos Boozer
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Boozer has been a consistently prolific rebounder, and while he's not a defensive force, he's strong enough to hold his ground in the paint.
Impact Potential: Moderate-to-High. Two big questions about Boozer: Can he stay healthy? And will his motivation hold up after he signs his next big contract? The upside is there. Boozer is still only 27 and is a high-level scorer and rebounder who has proven himself in the post-season.
Availability: High (if he opts out). Boozer has an opt-out that he's sent mix signals about. If he does opt out and Utah doesn't resign him, then his options are limited for a big payday. Detroit's the likely destination, but if the Grizzlies are interested, I'm sure he would listen.
6. Emeka Okafor
Rebounding/Physicality: High. Okafor has averaged better than 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game every season of his career and would immediately become the best rebounder in franchise history. At 6'10", 255, he's been a slightly undersized center for most of his Bobcat career, but would be a nice fit next to Marc Gasol at the power forward.
Impact Potential: Moderate-to-High. Okafor is an extremely limited offensive player, but the Grizzlies need rebounding and defense at the "4" more than a go-to scorer. At 26, Okafor probably won't get any better, but should be able to play at his current level through the length of his current contract. Okafor's had some injury problems but has played a full 82 the past two seasons.
Availability: High? I hadn't really thought about Okafor as a Grizzlies' target until veteran NBA scribe Sam Smith suggested earlier this week that the Bobcats would seek to slash payroll this summer and would be willing to sacrifice Okafor to do so. If that's true, then the Grizzlies — who need a player of Okafor's attributes and have the cap space to bring the Bobcats immediate relief — are an obvious trade partner. Okafor is well-compensated, but if he can stay healthy he's probably only moderately overpaid, with a contract that's $10.5 million next season and tops out at $14.5 in the 2013-2014 season. I like this possibility.
7. Kevin Love
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. The Love Train is a beast on the boards — one the league's best per-minute rebounders as a rookie. A little undersized and floor-bound, he's not a great defender, but is at least willing to put a body on somebody.
Impact Potential: High. As long as his conditioning and knee questions don't pop up again, Love is going to be a high-level pro, maybe even the new Bill Laimbeer. The rebounding is already there. I suspect the passing and shooting skills Love showed in college will come along next. Not a perfect fit next to Marc Gasol — that would be a slow frontcourt, but also a tough, smart one.
Availability: Low-to-Moderate. Hard to tell, really, with a new GM at the helm in Minnesota, but there are rumors out there of the Wolves looking to move up to #2, with Love as the bait.
8. Jason Thompson
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. At 6'11", 250, Thompson has great size and rebounded well as a rookie. He's not a monster, but as he develops can certainly be a presence at the four and also play some minutes at center.
Impact Potential: Moderate. Coming off his rookie year, it's clear that Thompson is a quality young player, but it's not clear how much better he will get. At minimum he'll be a good third big on a team, but he could well become a high-level starter. I think I'd rather role the dice on his size and youth heading into the second year of his rookie deal than spend big on David Lee or Paul Millsap
Availability: Moderate. Sacramento has made no noises about being willing to deal Thompson. But how much do they want Ricky Rubio? And how willing are the Grizzlies to play hardball?
9. Al Jefferson
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Jefferson isn't exactly Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan on the defensive end, but has the size to hold his own on the block against pretty much anybody, is a decent shotblocker, and a very good rebounder.
Impact Potential: High. A healthy Jefferson is one of the most talented post scorers in the league and is still only 24. A 20-10 machine.
Availability: Low-to-Moderate. There's been talk of the Wolves trying to move up, but the focus has been more on Kevin Love than Jefferson as a trade commodity. Jefferson's situation is complicated by his ACL injury late last season. Would a team really trade for him before he's proven he's made it all the way back? Despite the rapidly improving success rate of players dealing with that injury, probably not. A healthy Jefferson is worth his considerable contract, but it's probably too much money to risk on a player coming off a major injury. One thing I do know — Chris Wallace was involved in the scouting and drafting of Jefferson in Boston and is a big fan. I think he'll come back fine and am tempted to rank him as high as third.
10. Josh Smith
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. A tweener at 6'9", 240, Smith is more of an open-court terror than a low-post banger and his rebound rate of 12.1 may have been a career low, but even his career best (14.1) is lower than Darrell Arthur's rookie rate (14.5). Smith is one the league's top shot-blockers, however and can be more of an Andrei Kirilenko-like defensive force.
Impact Potential: High. Putting Smith at the "4" requires a team to commit to an uptempo style to take advantage of the mismatch he provides, but if used correctly he's an all-star caliber talent who can still get better at only 23. The contract Smith signed with the Grizzlies last year and that was subsequently matched by the Hawks is generous, but not outrageous, paying Smith $10.8 million next season with incremental raises.
Availability: High in general, Moderate for the Grizzlies. ESPN.com's Chad Ford lead with Smith's availability in a recent column, though he didn't speculate on potential destinations. The Grizzlies have certainly demonstrated an interest in Smith, but the deal they negotiated last summer includes $7.2 million trade kicker that the Grizzlies are unlikely to want to pay. The offer sheet last summer would also prevent the Grizzlies from dealing for Smith until later in the summer.
11. Paul Millsap
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Millsap would almost certainly upgrade the Grizzlies rebounding and is strong and tenacious enough to hold is own defensively, but he's too small (6'8") to really be a great post defender.
Impact Potential:: Moderate. I don’t see Millsap ever appearing in an all-star game, but I do think he can be a quality starter and a significant upgrade for the Griz. Only 24.
Availability: Moderate. Millsap will be a free agent and his availability may depend in large part on Boozer's plans. If Boozer opts out, the Jazz are likely to resign Millsap. If Boozer doesn't opt out, Millsap could be gettable.
12. David Lee
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Lee is not much of a shotblocker or post defender, but is a high-energy guy and a legit big-time rebounder.
Impact Potential: Moderate. Lee's per-game averages may have been a little inflated in Mike D'Antoni's system, but his rebounding and ability to finish around the rim is legit. He's 26, is big enough to play spot minutes at center, and would be a good fit.
Availability: High. Lee is a restricted free agent on a Knicks team looking to maximize cap space in 2010. A big offer could pry him loose or at least get the Knicks to engage in a sign-and-trade.
13. Anthony Randolph
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Randolph might be a stick figure at 6'10", 210, but he was a high-level rebounder and shot blocker in limited minutes as a rookie. He'll need to get a lot stronger to be able to defend the post, but he's got the potential to be a 10-rebound, 2-block guy sooner rather than later.
Impact Potential: Moderate-to-High. Randolph is only 19, is still developing physically, and there have been questions about his focus and overall demeanor, so it's impossible to say where his career is heading. But I think Randolph's potential is huge — he can board and block like a power forward and handle the ball and run the floor like a skilled small forward. I'd love to get him.
Availability: Moderate. It's hard to say, really. Randolph and Brandon Wright are so similar that you suspect one could be moved, and Randolph spent some time in Don Nelson's doghouse last season. There are no substantial rumors concerning Randolph right now, but he certainly doesn't seem to be untouchable.
14. David West
Rebounding/Physicality: Low-to-Moderate. West has become a big name in recent years, but has been a spotty rebounder and at 6'9", 240 is not really a huge defensive presence.
Impact Potential: Moderate. What West can do is score and bring general toughness. He's worked great with Chris Paul in New Orleans, especially as a pick-and-pop threat, and could similarly help out Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo. At 28, he's probably at the upper end of the age scale the Grizzlies would be looking at.
Availability: Moderate. New Orleans has said West isn't available, but the reality is that they're facing a huge, perhaps unsustainable luxury tax hit next season with Chris Paul's extension kicking in. They don't want to move Paul and probably can't move Tyson Chandler or Peja Stojakovic. Moving West is probably their only chance to get under the tax next season, especially if they can pair him with another expendable contract (James Posey/Morris Peterson/Rasual Butler). And the Grizzlies are one of the few teams that can make that happen.
15. Jordan Hill
Rebounding/Physicality:Moderate. Hill was a productive rebounder at the college level and measured out bigger than I expected at the Chicago camp, but doesn't look like a dominant pro defender and is obviously untested at the NBA level.
Impact Potential: Low-to-Moderate. An athletic energy guy, Hill is probably more likely to be the next Chris Wilcox than the next Amare Stoudemire, but until proven otherwise there's at least the chance for something significant here.
Availability: High. Obviously the Grizzlies can have him at #2 if they wanted, but he's also likely to be on the board for potential trades down to #4 and #6.
16. Brandon Wright
Rebounding/Physicality: Low. Two years older than teammate Anthony Randolph, Wright is built like his teammate but doesn't have the raw athleticism and or the same potential as a rebounder and a shotblocker.
Impact Potential Low-to-moderate. Wright has a bigger frame and much more all-around upside than the Grizzlies' incumbents at the four, but is a bit of a gamble.
Availability: Moderate. See the Anthony Randolph entry above.
17. Tyrus Thomas
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. A tweener forward, Thomas is, so far, a comparable rebounder to what the Grizzlies already have at the position and isn't likely to be able to guard the better true power forwards. He is a high-level shotblocker, though.
Impact Potential: Moderate. Thomas is an elite athlete, is only 22 years old, and finally made some strides in his third season. But he's been an erratic figure on and off the court and I question how much better he's really going to get.
Availability: Low-to-Moderate. There have been scattered reports that the Bulls might be shopping Thomas, but I suspect Kirk Hinrich is the more likely Bull to move. I don’t think Thomas is a great fit for the Grizzlies anyway.
18. Anderson Varejao
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate-to-High. Varejao is an energetic player on both ends of the floor. He's not a dominant rebounder, but is better than anyone on the current Grizzlies roster. He's not much of a shot-blocker but is a good post defender who can handle both frontcourt spots.
Impact Potential: Low-to-moderate. At age 26, Varejao should be able to maintain his current level of play for several more seasons, but seems to have plateaued as secondary player. He's a great third cog in a big-man rotation, but an average-at-best starter.
Availability: Moderate. Varejao has a player option that he's expected to exercise. The Cavs are over the luxury tax but have not been bashful about spending as long as Lebron James is around. I suspect that paying Varejao enough to pry him from Cleveland would be paying him too much.
19. Charlie Villanueva
Rebounding/Physicality: Low. Villanueva is a big guy but is a softer, more perimeter-oriented forward. He was comparable to Arthur on the boards last season, but will probably be worse going forward. And he offers even less as a defender.
Impact Potential: Moderate. Despite his deficiencies, Villanueva is a talent. He's a 6'11" scorer who can shoot and handle the ball and has been a consistent producer. He's still only 24.
Availability: High. Villanueva is a restricted free agent and the Bucks don't have much money to spend. If they end up going big in the draft (say, if Jordan Hill slips), then Villanueva is almost surely changing teams this summer.
20. Marreese Speights
Rebounding/Physicality: Moderate. Speights' rebounding was just okay last year as a rookie, but he certainly has the size and talent to be a factor.
Impact Potential: Moderate-to-High. After averaging 16 minutes a game as a rookie, Speights' future is very much up in the air. But he was very good per-minute. There were red flags surrounding Speights coming out of Florida, but he's got the raw talent to develop into a quality starting power forward.
Availability: Low. Speights can presumably be had for the right deal, but I doubt the Sixers are eager to move him, especially given the uncertainty around Brand.
Also under consideration: Luis Scola, Drew Gooden, Zach Randolph, Elton Brand, Carl Landry, Chris Wilcox, Glen Davis.