When I took my first Grizzlies-specific look at the NBA Draft a couple of weeks ago, I identified the three types of players the Grizzlies might target (particularly with their first pick, at #12) and divided them into groups.
With take two, I'm making my first attempt at ranking all the players the team might be considering. There are seven players I'm taking off the board as all but certain to be gone before the Grizzlies pick: John Wall, Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson, Greg Monroe, and Al-Farouq Aminu. I had an eighth name on this list the last time — Kansas center Cole Aldrich — but it now appears that Aldrich could drop into the Grizzlies range, so I'm adding him to the Griz draft list.
There is some new information taken into account since my last post: The most important is probably the data that's emerged from the NBA's draft combine. The athletic testing results from that event are of only modest interest, but the thorough physical measurements are more important. Secondly, more statistical analysis has emerged, most persuasively John Hollinger's annual prospect rater rankings. Hollinger's system misses on plenty of players, but has proven over the years to be a slightly more accurate predictor of NBA success than the actual draft. Finally, I've had more time to talk to people who know these players better than I do. I take what I hear from team officials most seriously, but also value the observations of other media members and friends who follow college basketball much more closely than I do.
Below I rank my 10 favorite prospects (for the moment) that have a chance to be available at #12. It is highly likely that four of these players will be off the board when the Grizzlies pick, but it is a near certainty that the team's pick will come from someone on this list.
This is my own at-the-moment ranking of players I'd like the see the Grizzlies take at #12, not an attempt to guess what the team will actually do; that will come closer to the draft. Given how comparatively low the Grizzlies are picking and how comparatively little college basketball I watched last season, I anticipate my take on this year's prospects being more fluid than in years past. I'll revisit this list following the team's individual draft workouts, when, hopefully, I've had a chance to see most of these players up close. I won't be surprised if this list changes significantly at that time.
As in the earlier draft post, I'm including a parenthetical with each player that includes where they current stand on the mock drafts from ESPN.com's Chad Ford, DraftExpress.com, and NBADraft.net, respectively.
Grizzlies Draft Board:
1. Luke Babbitt (9, 20, 12):
Measured out at just under 6'9" and with a wingspan just under seven feet. Given his solid rebound numbers in college, this suggests he's a natural three who's big enough to be a stretch four in smaller line-ups, the kind of player the Grizzlies don't currently have and could really use. To put Babbitt's size/skill combo in more context: He measured slightly taller, slightly heavier, and with a slightly longer wingspan than Darrell Arthur did at his draft combine, and given Babbitt's superior 37.5 max vertical (the best for any player at the combine 6'8" or taller), his max vertical reach was five inches higher than Arthur's. Also had the best lane agility score of all players 6'8" or taller. Ranked 7th on Hollinger's draft rater. To reiterate what I wrote in the initial draft post, Babbitt's college production (50/40/90 shooting percentages) and the video evidence suggests he's the most legit pure shooter in the draft. And now his athletic and physical markers are backing up the stats to suggest he can be a lot more than just a shooting specialist. Comps: Keith Van Horn/Chris Mullin (NBADraft.net), Chris Mullin (Chad Ford).
2. Avery Bradley (13, 14, 17):
I stress here, especially: This list is my own ranking of prospects for the Grizzlies in a "perfect world" situation. Bradley is complicated because he doesn't have a history at the point and doesn't seem terribly interested in making the move there as a full-time position. Ideally, this shouldn't be a problem for the Grizzlies. Bradley measured over 6'3" with a wingspan over 6'7". Add in his big-time athleticism and defensive stopper reputation and he seems equipped to defend either backcourt position. So you can play him with Mike Conley in a super-quick alignment and he should be able to hold his own against bigger two-guards. But he should also fit with O.J. Mayo: Defensively, Bradley could take the most difficult match-up, taking pressure off Mayo. And on the offensive end, you can let Mayo (who is eager to play more on the ball) initiate the offense. Theoretically, this would all make Bradley a potentially excellent fit in the team's backcourt rotation. The problem, of course, is that this is dependent on the Grizzlies being willing to develop Mayo as a combo guard rather than a pure two guard, which is a big source of contention in the organization. But I still see Bradley as an upside pick who also fills a team need. Bradley ranks poorly on Hollinger's scale, but with a big asterisk as a one-year collegian on a troubled team. Comps: Monta Ellis (NBADraft.net, Chad Ford)
3. Xavier Henry (15, 13, 14):
Measured 6'6.5" with a near seven-foot wingspan and a strong 210 build and should be able to play at both wing positions immediately. Ranked 6th on Hollinger's draft rater, just below five consensus top prospects. Chad Ford has him ranked 7th on his prospect list despite having him 15th in his mock draft. As I wrote in the first installment, Henry will come into the league, at age 19, with a pro body and a pro shot. I think he's probably as safe a bet to be a quality NBA player as the team can hope for at #12. But I also worry he lacks the ball skills to thrive as a two guard and the size and athleticism to thrive as a small forward and will instead end up being a complementary wing shooter in the mold of a Martell Webster or Morris Peterson. I've heard that (like Hayward and Babbitt as well) he's a particularly bright kid who should fare well in the "basketball I.Q." area the team is stressing this year. Comps: Jimmy Jackson (NBADraft.net), James Posey/Martell Webster (Draft Express).
4. Paul George (12, 12, 11):
Just under 6'9", wingspan just under 7'0" — has the length to play the four but might have the game for the two. 16th in Hollinger. Size/skill combo tantalizes, but his mundane shooting percentages (42/35) against lower-level college competition concerns me. An upside pick. Comps: Trevor Ariza/Danny Granger (NBADraft.net), Wilson Chandler (Chad Ford).
5. Patrick Patterson (22, 11, 6):
I'm warming up a bit on Patterson. Measured out a little better than I expected. Over 6'9"and 240 pounds, with a wingspan over 7'1". Tested out well athletically all around. Still a little undersized for a pure four, but not dramatically so. (Significantly longer and bigger than Darrell Arthur, for instance.) Ranks poorly in Hollinger. Considered to be one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. As a one-position guy who would play behind Zach Randolph, might have more problems carving a significant role than the multi-position guys I'm currently ranking above him. Comps: Buck Williams (NBADraft.net), Carl Landry/Kris Humphries (Draft Express).
6. Cole Aldrich (11, 9, 13):
Doubt he'll be there at #12, but it's starting to look possible. Not a seven-footer but certainly big enough to be an NBA center and though his athletic testing was mediocre, I've always thought he had the mobility and shooting range to play some at the four as well. Even if he slips, he would be hard for Griz to take with Gasol and Thabeet already on the roster, but from a talent standpoint you would have to consider him. Like Henry, seems a pretty safe bet to be a productive pro, but ranks poorly on Hollinger. Comps: Joel Przybilla (Chad Ford), Przybilla/Josh Boone (DraftExpress.com), Przybilla/Eric Montross (NBADraft.net).
7. Gordon Hayward (8, 15, 10) :
6'8" in shoes, but one of the few players with a wingspan smaller than his height. Tested out well athletically, but looked winded at the combine and had a higher body-fat percentage than the other wings in his range (Babbitt, George, Henry). Probably too small to swing to the four except in really small lineups. Does he have the game to play some at the two as a Mike Miller type? Supposed to be a deep shooter, but that 29% from three last year is worrisome. 17th on Hollinger. Comps: Luke Jackson/Mike Dunleavy Jr. (NBADraft.net).
8. Ed Davis (10, 10, 9):
Just under 6'10" but with only a seven-foot wingspan. A little thin, but has hops. Active bigs are always intriguing, but I don't see enough size or enough skill here to get too excited. Ranks poorly on Hollinger. Comps: P.J. Brown/Alan Henderson (NBADraft.net), Al Horford/Udonis Haslem (Draft Express).
9. Ekpe Udoh (14, 8, 16):
6'10" with 7'5" wingspan, tested out well athletically. Smallish hands. Ranks poorly on Hollinger. The positive take is that he can defend both frontcourt spots and can develop a useful face-up game. I have him this low for two reasons: I'm inherently skeptical of the NBA prospects for anyone who doesn't dominate in college until age 22, and I'd rather see the team get a shooter or a guard here. Comps: Jerome Moiso/Chris Gatling (NBADraft.net), Jason Thompson/Hilton Armstrong (Draft Express).
10. Eric Bledsoe (18, 25, 25):
Nearly 6'2" with a nearly 6'8" wingspan. A little bigger than Mike Conley. Hard to read after one year of college playing alongside a better point guard who dominated the ball. Could be a better-shooting Kyle Lowry, but could be just another non-descript small guard (see the first NBADraft.net comp for what I fear). I'm skeptical. 21st on Hollinger. Probably the only player on this list with a chance to slip to 25th. Comps: Marcus Banks/Keyon Dooling (NBADraft.net)
None of these players are really candidates at #12, barring a big surprise, but all should get consideration at #25 (or #28 if the pick is kept). In no particular order:
Damion James (20, 17, 28): 6'8" 230, wingspan over seven foot. Probably big enough to play some small-ball four. (A little shorter than DeMarre Carroll, but with more bulk and a bigger wingspan.) 13th on Hollinger. Probably falls between the picks. Comps: Shawn Marion (NBADraft.net), James Posey (Chad Ford), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Draft Express).
Larry Sanders (28, 19, 20): Nearly 6'11 in shoes with a near 7'6" wingspan. Something the team currently lacks is a long, athletic power forward. Higher standing reach than lots of centers in the draft. His athletic testing was unexpectedly average and there are questions about his motor/hoops I.Q. Comps: Theo Ratliff (NBADraft.net).
Kevin Seraphin (23, 22, 26): If the team doesn't sell or deal one of the late picks, taking a foreign player to stash is probably a likely scenario and this raw big man is the most likely target.
James Anderson (17, 23, 19): Under 6'6" and with a negligible wingspan, probably more of a true two than a multi-position prospect a la Babbitt, Henry, George, or Hayward. Likely to fall between the picks. 15th in Hollinger. Comps: Nick Anderson (NBADraft.net)
Elliot Williams (25, 26, 22): Skipped combine, so no measurements to factor in yet. Local product would be worthy pick at #25 but so far hasn't schedule a workout. Comps: Michael Dickerson (NBADraft.net), Jason Terry (Chad Ford).
Dominique Jones (NA, 27, 31): 6'5", wingspan over 6'9". Strong, slashing scorer. Not a pure shooter, but could be a Marcus Thornton-style sleeper. Interesting. Comps: Rodney Stuckey (NBADraft.net).
Willie Warren (29, 28, 33): Good size if he can play the point, but otherwise nothing leaps out. Hard to read after bad sophomore campaign. Concerns that the McCants comp might be accurate in more ways than one. Ranks poorly on Hollinger. Comps: Ben Gordon/Rodney Stuckey (NBADraft.net), Gordon/Rashad McCants (Draft Express).
Devin Ebanks (NA, 30, 23): Good size for the three at 6'8" and a seven-foot wingspan. Otherwise don't have much of a read on him, but don't buy the Rudy comp at all. Comps: Corey Brewer (NBADraft.net), Rudy Gay (Chad Ford).
Jordan Crawford (NA, 32, 38): Nothing special physically, but big enough for the two. Like Jones, a pure scorer in the Marcus Thornton mold, less athletic but a better shooter. One of those guys who just makes shots. 24th on Hollinger. Comps: Terry Teagle/Bob Sura (NBADraft.net)
Terrico White (27, 34, 21): Big, explosive guard. 6'5", with a 40-inch max vertical, but questions about his skills and consistency. Ranks poorly on Hollinger.
Lance Stephenson (25, 37, 34) : 6'6", 225 power guard. Risk/reward pick could be good gamble late. Comps: Aaron McKie/Ron Artest (NBADraft.net).
Craig Brackens (26, 39, 32): Similar size as Ed Davis. Bigger hands, but not as athletic. More skilled. Ranks poorly on Hollinger. Comps: Jason Thompson (NBADraft.net), Channing Frye (Draft Express).
Trevor Booker (NA, 42, 37) : An undersized four (6'7.5"), but has bulk, athleticism, and a history of production. Fits the Carl Landry profile, but most prospects that fit that profile don't become Carl Landry. Comps: Brandon Bass (NBADraft.net), Jason Maxiel (Chad Ford),
Greivis Vasquez (NA, 51, 42): Big guard, nearly 6'7", but with short wingspan. None of the mocks have him anywhere near the first round, but he definitely has fans in the organization and will be under consideration. The biggest surprise in the Hollinger rankings, coming in 10th. As with all prospects that seem like they spent a decade at the college level, I'm skeptical. Comps: Zoran Planicic (NBADraft.net).