With Tuesday's draft lottery in the books, Grizzlies fans can officially start focusing on the team's three picks: #12, #25, and #28. Chances are pretty good one of these later picks will get moved, if even just for cash, on draft night. But for now we have to assume the team could be drafting at all three spots.
Off the board: At the moment there seem to be eight players fairly certain to taken before the Grizzlies make their first selection at #12, so we can take these names off the team's draft list (barring an unforeseen trade up):
Longshots: Beyond merely the prospects not good enough to be considered in the first round, there are a couple of types of players I think the Grizzlies are unlikely to select. One of these types is wing players who aren't good three-point shooters. Currently the Grizzlies have three back-up wings (Sam Young, DeMarre Carroll, Ronnie Brewer), all of whom are poor outside shooters. I think it's unlikely the team would draft another player like this, taking some prospects (Stanley Robinson, Quincy Pondexter) off the board. The other category I think you can scratch is a project center. The Grizzlies took one of those with the second overall pick last year in Hasheem Thabeet, and with Thabeet and Marc Gasol commanding all the center minutes, there doesn't seem to be room for a developmental center (Daniel Orton, Solomon Alabi) on the roster.
This leaves us with three categories of players the team is likely to consider. Were the Grizzlies to keep all three picks, I think there's a good chance they would draft one player from each group. After each player, I'm including the current mock-draft position from Chad Ford, DraftExpress.com, and NBADraft.net in parenthesis to give a feel for where they're currently projected. And I'm putting the players in each group in the rough order I think they should be considered.
With Mike Conley still not firmly established, the coaching staff not comfortable giving O.J. Mayo consistent point guard minutes, and no other options under contract, it is certain the team will be adding another point guard to the roster. And there's a good chance that player will come out of the draft. The candidates
Eric Bledsoe (18, 25, 36): An interesting prospect. Only 6'1", but a big-time athlete with a strong frame and long wingspan, so size shouldn't be a problem. Wasn't supposed to be a strong shooter, but hit over 38% from three last year. Supposed to be a bulldog on both ends. Sounds a little like Kyle Lowry with a better shot. Seems like a reach at #12, but if the Griz go for a swingman shooter or a big at #12, would be a very enticing pick if he falls to #25.
Elliot Williams (31, 26, 26): Local product twice over. Nice combo of athleticism and shooting ability in the backcourt and a solid citizen. The key is whether teams think he can be a combo guard or whether he's just a "two." Should be under consideration late.
Terrico White (27, 35, 29): Local product, combo guard with good size. Downside is shaky jumper and doubts about whether he can really be an NBA point. Should be under consideration late, but has the look of another Javaris Crittenton.
Willie Warren (29, 27, 33): Had a rough second season at Oklahoma and has some red flags, but his talent would be hard to ignore late in the first round. An athletic combo guard with versatile scoring ability.
The Grizzlies are also almost certain to add a swingman who can provide a three-point threat and, at the moment, I think this is the group the team is most likely to focus on at #12. Luckily, this draft is pretty deep with wing shooters. The top candidates:
Luke Babbitt (12, 20, 19): Chad Ford has him going to the Griz, citing team-connected sources, and the Griz are definitely taking a look at him. I've never seen him play beyond highlights, but initial research is interesting: Shot 42% and 43% from three-point range in two years at Nevada while rebounding well for his position. Those two skills in concert are rare and intriguing. The video evidence suggests he's got a pretty good handle, decent hops, and some play-making ability, so maybe the Chris Mullin and Toni Kukoc comps aren't crazy talk. Babbitt was a Top 25 player coming out of high school, so he's always been on the radar and isn't just the case of a middling prospect putting up numbers in a weaker conference. On the other hand, there seem to be big questions about his ability to defend at the NBA level. He doesn't look anywhere close to the 6'9" he's listed (I'm guessing 6'7"). And I can't help but think of forgotten prospect Luke Jackson (another skilled white forward from the West named Luke) when I think of him.
Gordon Hayward (15, 18, 21): Shot 45% from three-point range as a freshman but somehow fell under 30% as a sophomore last season. Supposed to be an elite shooter, but is he? Based on what I saw in the tournament, I think he's a legit 6'8" and an NBA athlete. I would like him a lot at #25 but feel like he might be a reach at #12. Likely to fall somewhere in-between it seems.
Paul George (16, 23, 17): Good size and (allegedly) athleticism for a pro wing. Shot 45% from college three as a freshman and 35% last year as a sophomore. I haven't seen him. Interesting upside pick, especially if he slid down to #25.
James Anderson (17, 17, 16): Haven't seen him play, but his profile doesn't excite me. Three-point shooing in college was good not great. Nice size for an NBA two guard, but doesn't seem to have the height or frame for the three. Probably falls in between the Grizzlies picks.
Jordan Crawford (34, 32, 38): Reminds me a little of Marcus Thornton from last year's draft (who had a good rookie year in New Orleans): A slightly undersized two guard, but a good athlete who can flat out score. Put up over 20 a game for Xavier last year with 46% shooting from the floor and 39% from three and came up big in the tourney. A pure two fits less of a need for the Grizzlies than someone who can back up the point or swing over to the three (neither of which Crawford seems able to do), but talent is always the biggest need, and I'd take a hard look at Crawford if he's on the board at #25.
Damion James (20, 16, 24): A tough, athletic combo forward who's strong in transition. He improved his outside shooting during four years at Texas and seems like the kind of player the Grizzlies go for, but I think he duplicates what the team already has without providing much upside. I'd stay away.
Lance Stephenson (39, 58, 25): A big, powerful scorer at the two. Lots of red flags and not really a shooter. Doubt the team would spend a first-rounder on him, but his high-school rep earns a look.
With Zach Randolph a free agent after next season (pending a possible contract extension) and Darrell Arthur still not fully established as a rotation player after two seasons, there's an immediate opportunity for a back-up power forward and potentially a long-term need for a starter. Over at center, the position is theoretically manned, but the doubts about Hasheem Thabeet are considerable and no one really thinks Hamed Haddadi is going to be more than a third-stringer. A promising big who can play both spots would be strongly considered.
Ed Davis (10, 10, 13): Potential slider would be an upside pick and potential starter-in-waiting were the team to not extend Zach Randolph beyond next season. Athletic finisher and rebounder needs to fill out his body and game to be a big-time pro.
Hassan Whiteside (14, 14, 14): Fits the "raw center" designation that would seem to be a no-go for the Grizzlies after taking Thabeet last season, but his upside is such that he would probably be considered at 12. Long, athletic. A dominating shot-blocker at Marshall. Interesting prospect, bad fit.
Donatas Motiejunas (21, 12, 11): Lithuanian seven-footer theoretically fits the "stretch four" ideal better than anyone in the draft, but doesn't appear ready and may not come over next season. I doubt Griz would take him at #12. Would be an interesting pick later, but my guess is he pulls out of the draft if it looks like he could slip that far.
Patrick Patterson (22, 11, 8): Clearly under consideration at #12, but I just don't see it with Patterson. A productive college player, but he's an undersized four (6'8") without deep range on his jumper or elite athleticism. I can't see him being a quality starter in the NBA and at #12 you're still shooting for that. Won't be around at #25.
Larry Sanders (28, 22, 20): A super-long shot-blocking four who would give the team a different look and — theoretically — more upside behind Randolph than Arthur currently does. Supposedly very raw offensively.
Kevin Seraphin (23, 24, NA): Raw French big man. A pure athlete in the Serge Ibaka mold. A guy you take and let develop overseas. Could be an interesting flyer for the last pick if the team doesn't sell it.
Craig Brackins (25, 39, 31): A big power forward with range is something that will intrigue the Griz as a potential upgrade over Arthur, but nothing in Brackins' college resume jumps out at me.