Picking at the back end of the NBA draft last night, the Grizzlies deployed a strategy that's worked well with a couple of recent picks — take the highly rated prospect that unexpectedly slides.
It worked with Sam Young (an early second-rounder projected to go about 10 picks higher) and especially with Darrell Arthur (a late first-rounder projected to go in the late lottery), and now the Grizzlies hope it will work with young combo guard Josh Selby, whom they drafted at #49 last night.
A former top high school prospect who played one rough year at the University of Kansas, Selby — ranked 32nd on ESPN.com's Chad Ford's big board — was projected to go as high as #17 to the Knicks in this draft, but slipped further than anyone expected due to both questions about his maturity and college production and, apparently, some health concerns.
"I think most people feel like if he'd stayed in college for another year he would have been a certain first-rounder, with upside," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said this morning. "But he didn't have the kind of year at Kansas that people expected."
But Selby is only one year removed from being ranked the top player in his high school class by at least one prominent source, ahead of #1 pick Kyrie Irving and #3 pick Enes Kanter.
Here's what Rivals.com wrote about Selby last April:
A dynamic playmaker, Selby has the ability to excel at either the shooting guard or point guard position. He can score at all three levels, and no one hits the difficult shot with more consistency than Selby. As a point guard, he has the ability to breakdown defenses and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. On the other side of the ball, he is a high level defender. Combine these attributes with his athleticism and competitiveness and you have the top prospect in the 2010 class.
"This is good group to get involved with," Wallace says, citing the history of top-ranked high-school players as NBA prospects — including about half the Grizzlies current roster. "If there's a big-time high school player available late in the draft, I think you take him.
There is a precedent for players like Selby — highly rated high-school combo guards who slip into the second round — having big-time NBA careers, such as Golden State's Monta Ellis and Philadelphia's Lou Williams. On the other hand, there are some other recent former Rivals.com #1 prospects that haven’t panned out, such as Gerald Green and B.J. Mullens.
"It can definitely go both ways," Wallace says.
Selby in high school:
As far as health questions, Selby had suffered a minor foot injury in college and ESPN's Ford cited questions about a swollen knee as one of the reasons Selby slipped so far on draft night.
"There was the foot issue in college," Wallace says. "But [Selby] performed well in the pre-draft physicals, with a 42-inch vertical jump. [Tied with Knicks' first-rounder Iman Shumpert as the highest at the predraft camp.] And, at a certain point, you have to take players. We drafted Leon Powe in Boston [despite a serious knee injury in his past]."
The book on Selby is that he's a quick, physical, attacking scorer who can get to the rim and has deep shooting range. Selby also has good defensive potential. On the downside, he hasn’t demonstrated pure point guard skills — he's more of a combo/tweener. He's struggled with shot selection and consistency. And his one year at Kansas was marred by recruiting controversy, injury, and questions about his maturity.
Selby in college:
DraftExpress.com compares Selby's upside to that of former Grizzlies' reserve Bobby Jackson, who had a nice career as one of the best backcourt bench scorers in the league during his prime.
Draft Express on Selby's pre-draft workouts:
Since arriving at Impact, Selby has been working to improve the polish on his perimeter repertoire. Taking a backseat to the Morris twins at Kansas, Selby wasn't able to showcase his strengths in the NCAA as well as he was able to in three-on-three play in Las Vegas. Few players in this class are as explosive as the Baltimore product, and his ability to hit shots from the perimeter or use his first step to get to the rim presented a problem for the more experienced players in attendance when they were forced to guard him one-on-one.
Selby did lose the ball in traffic on occasion, and he's still working on his decision-making from the midrange and point guard skills, but it was hard not to be impressed with the raw tools and natural scoring ability he brings to the table. Considering he shot 37.3% from the field as freshman, there is going to be an inevitable adjustment period for Selby at the next level, but the 6'3 guard has as high a ceiling as nearly any player projected in his draft range.
To take a player with such a high upside so late in the draft seems like a no-brainer, and this seems to be the reaction from most fans and media. (Good grades from both CBSSports and ESPN.) On the NBA Today podcast on ESPN this morning, Ford said of the pick, "This is no risk. There is only reward ... If he doesn't [pan out] the Grizzlies lost nothing. If he does, the Grizzlies got the steal of the draft."
Given that the Grizzlies used both a soon-to-retire Jason Williams and an offensively over-matched Ish Smith last season as a quicker back-up point guard alternative to Greivis Vasquez, Selby has a chance to fill a need for the Grizzlies next season. "Ish Smith Upgrade" was on the team's off-season checklist. But Selby has a lot to prove first.
"I have no idea where this will go," Wallace says. "I didn't look at [Selby] as someone to fill a role. It's purely an upside, speculative pick. We'll bring him in and if he does look like he'll fill a role for this season, great, but if not we'll have to decide if we want to carry him on the roster."
With the Las Vegas Summer League already cancelled and a potential lockout looming at the end of next week, there could be a limit to how much the team can do with Selby in the short term. The team will introduce Selby at a 3 p.m. press conference this afternoon and hope to have him participate in an already scheduled free-agent mini-camp at FedExForum this weekend. Additionally, the Grizzlies will have him meet with the strength coach and talk about off-season training expectations, and get a feel for the city and the organization.