What to do in a year in which I watched very little college basketball, the Grizzlies stopped letting media in to see draft workouts, and the team has zero picks in the Top 40? Nerd out on stats, profiles, video scouting reports, and conversations with people who know a lot more about this draft class than I do.
I'm not a draft analyst, but I'll play one for the next 2000 words in an attempt to get a handle on what the Grizzlies might do Thursday night and what they should do.
There's been some suggestion that the Grizzlies may try to get into the first round on Thursday night. I'm all for that, but also somewhat skeptical of it happening. There seem to be plenty of teams willing to move off picks, but most seem to be looking for a future pick in return and it's very difficult for the Grizzlies to meet that price given the picks they already owe from past trades.
It's hard to see the Grizzlies obtaining a first-round pick in a cash exchange, a practice that seems to be dying out. Might a combination of the #41 and cash move the Grizzlies into the first round? Maybe. But I doubt it. The best bet for obtaining a first-round pick might be in a deal involving an existing player, with Tony Wroten Jr. and Darrell Arthur the most likely to figure. But most teams interested in trading picks are looking to preserve cap space this summer, not fill it up.
If the Grizzlies do keep all three of their picks — #41, #55, #60 — on Thursday, look for them to take at least one “draft-and-stash” international player and at least one prospect with a chance of making next year's roster. The third pick could go in either direction. It's very unlikely the Grizzlies would bring three second-round picks into training camp this fall.
In the second round, by and large, teams are simply trying to unearth functional NBA players and don't usually take specific roster needs into account. That said, I think there are two types of players the Grizzlies would be unlikely to select: True power forwards (such as Jackie Carmichael, Trevor Mbakwe, or Richard Howell) and non-shooting wings (such as Andre Roberson, C.J. Leslie, or B.J. Young).
To give a sense of where these prospects are expected to go I included, in parenthetical form, the rankings for each player on four different “Top 100” lists — Chad Ford, Draft Express, NBADraft.net, and Hoops World.
THREE LONGSHOTS I LIKE
These players all project somewhere between the very end of the first round and the first third of the second round. I'm very intrigued by all three but will be surprised if they're available when the Griz pick at #41, but it's possible that one slips.
Mike Muscala (33/34/70/34): I'm a sucker for skilled bigs and this versatile forward/center fits the bill. Muscala does pretty much everything well: He's got a full array of post moves, can finish with both hands, can shoot with decent range, rebounds, passes, defends. And all this at 6'11” and 230 pounds. So what's the problem? He's been doing it all at Bucknell, so there's a real question as to how well his relatively modest athleticism will translates in the big jump to the NBA.
Livio Jean-Charles (46/39/30/39): This 19-year-old combo forward from French Guyana is 6'9” with a 7'2” wingspan, is reportedly a high-energy player whose great in transition and was both the leading scorer (27) and rebounder (13) at this Nike Hoop Summit. That all gives me flashbacks to watching Nicholas Batum similarly explode at the Hoop Summit when it was in Memphis. There seems to be a question about whether Jean-Charles will fill out enough to be a “4” or develop his perimeter skills enough to be a “3” or settle in as something of a tweener, but he sounds like a really good second-round draft-and-stash candidate to me.
Nate Wolters (36/26/21/26): Sort of the backcourt Muscala in that he's been a big-time producer at a small school (South Dakota St.) and there are are questions about how much his limited athleticism will hold him back. Is he another Greivis Vasquez or another Dan Dickau? A 6'5” point guard with elevated skills as a passer, shooter, and ball-handler.
DYNAMIC GUARD DERBY
As the Grizzlies roster currently stands, there are three primary needs: Outside shooting, a back-up true center, and, depending on the development of Tony Wroten Jr. and/or the return of Jerryd Bayless, perhaps more ball-handling in the backcourt. I suspect the team will try to address shooting in free agency or in the trade market regardless of what happens in the draft and I'll touch on the back-up center issue in a moment. But if no unexpected candidate slips to #41, there are several potentially dynamic guards who good get into the mix. I have trouble separating out this group, but one hopes the Grizzlies front office doesn't. I doubt late-first/early-second prospects Isaiah Canaan or Pierre Jackson will be around when the Grizzlies start picking, but all of these players could be in the mix:
Lorenzo Brown (42/48/36/48): Brown seems too similar to Wroten — a big true point guard with good athleticism but a poor outside shot — for the Grizzlies to take, but I'll include him here because his talent is too significant to not warrant second-round consideration and because I'm not sure how invested the new front office really is in Wroten.
Archie Goodwin (37/32/50/32): A pure leap-of-faith upside pick as an athletic, 18-year-old scoring guard who might be able to play some point down the road. Goodwin's college stats were disastrous as a freshman and he's really difficult to project. The Grizzlies have had a tendency of late to gamble on elite high-school prospects who underperformed in one year of college ball — Xavier Henry, Josh Selby, and Wroten all fitting that bill. The Grizzlies haven't gotten much return on those investments so far — I still have considerable hope for Wroten — and you wonder if the new front office will be less enamored with this strategy. I'd be surprised to see Goodwin selected.
Ray McCallum (44/33/54/33): Good point guard skills and athleticism, but small wingspan negates his 6'2” size and his mediocre shooting numbers would seem to be a particular demerit for the Grizzlies. Also didn't work out here, for what it's worth.
Myck Kabongo (49/59/42/59): Fits the “underperforming former high school star” mold, except that Kabongo underperformed for two years at Texas. Like McCallum, the mediocre shooting performance gives pause.
D.J. Cooper (59/NA/NA/NA): An interesting case. Doesn't show up on a lot of these boards, but rated very highly on Kevin Pelton's new draft rater for ESPN.com. Pelton's system and John Hollinger's are often divergent and my hunch is that Cooper doesn't grade out as well with Hollinger (though I could be wrong about this). At 5'10”, Cooper's size is a red flag, but is mitigated somewhat by a 6'5” wingspan. Cooper's steal rate in college was very strong, which is a good indicator of NBA-quality athleticism. His shooting was decent his senior year (36% from three on 6.1 attempts per game), but had been pretty bad before that. I could have included Cooper on the next list.
FIVE OR SIX LATE PICKS WORTH A LOOK
Unlike with the trio of prospects with which I led, most these players are likely to be on the board at #41 and there seems to be a good chance that one or more of them will still be available when the Grizzlies pick at #55 and #60. I really like these six as candidates at the end of the second round.
Solomon Hill (79/47/60/47): Shot 39% from three in each of his last two college seasons with good rebounding and ball-handling/passing indicators. Seems to have good “3-and-D” potential with a little bit of extra versatility. Seems like one of the best bet to both be available at the end of the draft and also have a chance to make a roster and contribute.
Ryan Kelly (55/76/49/76)/Grant Jerrett (38/60/41/60): Two intriguing “stretch four” candidates. Jerrett would be the upside play here. He's 19 years old and is a long 6'10” with good shooting (41% from three) and passing indicators despite being a part-time player at Arizona. A four-year Dukie, Kelly has a longer resume with similar results. He's 6'11”, improved from three every year in college (up to 42% on 3.6 attempts last season), and, like Jerrett, seems to have pretty good ball skills. Both players, though, grade out poorly as rebounders, a red flag that warns against any irrationally exuberant Ryan Anderson comparisons.
Colton Iverson (47/43/68/43): Iverson is exactly the kind of guy who would be a terrible pick in the late lottery and in another time might have gotten picked there. A true center, Iverson will turn 24 this month and didn't dominate in college until last season. Those are big red flags. But more than 40 picks into what's considered a weak draft? Adding a true back-up center who can play occasional spot minutes — not every game, but when the team needs to stay big — behind Marc Gasol is going to be on the Grizzlies' offseason checklist, and the team would prefer not to allocate many resources in checking that box. Iverson is a 7'0”, 265-pound bruiser that a lot of people think can step in and be a viable back-up center right away. If the Grizzlies agree, they could check that box in the second round as cheaply as possible.
Carrick Felix (60/69/53/69): A rugged 6'6” swingman who grades out well as a rebounder and defender. Not very good with the ball, but can score in transition and bumped his three-point shooting up to 37% on four attempts a game last season. Maybe there's some “3-and-D” potential here.
SOME OTHER DRAFT-AND-STASH CANDIDATES
As I wrote up top, if the Grizzlies keep all three picks they're almost certain to select one or more international players to keep overseas next season. If not Jean-Charles or Dubljevic, here are some other names you might hear on draft night:
Nemanja Nedovic (51/50/58/50): Athletic Serbian combo guard who's been on the NBA radar for awhile but is still only 22 and now getting significant minutes Euroleague play.
Marko Todorovic (63/55/84/55): A long, mobile, three-point shooting forward from Serbia.
Raul Neto (65/88/78/88): A quick, crafty, athletically limited Brazilian point guard who showed well at the recent Eurocamp event.
Augusto Lima (69/77/74/77): Active, 6'11” Brazilian power forward with raw offensive skills. Also apparently played well at Eurocamp.
Vitalis Chikoko (61/71/64/71): A raw 6'10” German center with a huge wingspan.
Janis Timma (NA/79/55/79): Latvian swingman who worked out for Grizzlies on Monday.
Joffrey Lauvergne (92/56/92/56): French stretch four. Also worked out for Griz on Monday.
Longshot picks even at #55 and #60, but worth a note. Leaving the two University of Memphis players off because I'd be very surprised if the Grizzlies picked them, though D.J. Stephens' athleticism intrigues.
Robert Covington (75/68/39/68): All kinds of good indicators in terms of length, rebounding, and shooting, but performed against lower-level competition and has to transition from college four to pro three.
DeWayne Dedmon (73/61/48/61): Athletic true center but still really raw and about to turn 24.
Ryan Broekhoff (74/NA/NA/NA): Australian swingman with decent length who shot 42% on six threes a game and rebounded well at Valparaiso. Not considered much of a prospect in most quarters, but I wonder about him as a draft-and-stash candidate.
Erik Murphy (62/53/44/53): A stretch-four candidate who's a little more limited athletically than Jerrett or Kelly but shot it even better (45% on 4.4 three attempts a game last season).
Arsalan Kazemi (56/46/77/46): All kinds of good statistical markers, but questions about size, age, and athleticism.
James Southerland (53/72/40/72): An intriguing shooter (40% on 6.2 attempts) with good small-forward length, but doesn't do much else.
STRAY THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST ROUND:
I gave up on my initial attempt to predict what Hollinger's unpublished draft rater would look like for this year, but did take lots of the factors that tend to go into that into account in my own draft-prospect research. I'll offer only a few predictions on that front: I suspect that Nerlens Noel, as in most statistical models, ranks very well and that fellow #1 pick contender Alex Len does not. On the wings, I suspect Otto Porter holds up well, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gets a bump, and Shabazz Muhammad takes a tumble. Nothing surprising in any of that, I think. Based on what little I know, if I were the Cavs, I think I might be tempted to take Porter #1 in lieu of a good trade option.