Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NBA Draft 2014: Getting Down to Grizzness

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 8:52 AM

These two guys were drafted last year. Can the Griz find a diamond in the rough this year?
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • These two guys were drafted last year. Can the Griz find a diamond in the rough this year?

As I write this, the air conditioner has gone out in my house, and my wife and infant daughter have left for cooler undisclosed locations, leaving me here in a stuffy living room with two large greyhounds sleeping in front of a box fan and large quantities of George Dickel #12 on hand—all of which is actually secondary to my real point here:

I'm just not much of a "draft guy." I probably shouldn't admit as much in a column on my basketball-related blog here, but I believe in being upfront with folks, and so there you have it. Evaluating incoming college basketball players is not something I feel I'm particularly great at. I don't really watch college basketball; it's just not really my thing. The game is played so differently—the 35-second shot clocks, the zone-heavy defenses, the pared down offenses—that it doesn't really hold my attention the way the NBA game does (and I don't intend any value judgment with that, so please don't write letters to the Flyer about how much of an idiot I am for that. We get plenty such letters already).

This may be the heat and/or it may be the Dickel, but I just don't care that much about trying to read the tea leaves and figure out who the Grizzlies are going to draft before they do it. As a wise International Man of Mystery once said in a certain Swedish situation, "it's not my bag, baby."

That said, I'm not about to let that stop me from making all sorts of wild prognostications based on hours of YouTube footage, reading scouting reports, and talking to people who know more than I do. These are the four names I've heard the most about heading into tomorrow night's draft:

Jarnell Stokes

A very, very good basketball player, and one of our own. But... for the Grizzlies' purposes, is that last part a good thing? No matter how good of a player he is—and he's certainly good enough to be drafted at 22, if not higher—one wonders whether Stokes returning to Memphis would be the best idea. Playing in your hometown comes with advantages and disadvantages—but I would think for a young guy looking to make his way in the NBA as a late-first-round guy, they're mostly disadvantages. Pressure. Family around. Friends around who knew you in high school (or earlier), before you went off to college to play. Just... extra stuff that doesn't need to be around; making it in the league is hard enough as it is without any external distractions.

I'm not saying Stokes is a guy who struggles with this stuff; I'm saying he's a good player who deserves to start his career on the right foot somewhere else, where he can be whoever he wants to be.

P.J. Hairston

I'm probably the most intrigued by Hairston out of all of these names, and really for one simple reason: his experience (and success) in the NBA D-League last season after leaving North Carolina. Hairston is a good player, if not a great one, and last year in the D-League he was used in catch-and-shoot situations a great deal, which is a type of scoring opportunity the Grizzlies, as currently configured, are great at creating. This Draft Express article uses the words "explosive shooting" to describe Hairston, and that's something that—even though the Grizzlies are more than a little crowded at the 2 spot right now—I think it'd be wise to take a chance on.

Kyle Anderson

Anderson is an intriguing prospect here. He has a high turnover rate and doesn't score much in transition, but he can shoot as well as anybody, and what he lacks in athleticism he seems to make up for in ball-handling abilities. He's got an impressive wingspan—one of those things that doesn't seem like it should be a big deal in determining the NBA effectiveness of prospects, but actually matters a whole lot—and could probably slot in to what the Grizzlies are doing an start to contribute immediately.

The catch with Anderson (of course there's a catch—this late in the first round there's always a catch) is, as Chris Herrington pointed out in his draft roundup, that he's not very athletic, and that's not a direction the Grizzlies should really be going in. They need speed, quickness, and ability to explode to the rim. I'm convinced that part of why fans loved James Johnson so much was that it'd just been so long since fans had seen someone in a Griz uniform who could do that. Anderson just isn't athletic. I'm not convinced that drafting Anderson moves this team toward where they need to be headed, but at the same time, it never hurts to have another shooter on the floor for this team. I'm going to file Anderson under "I don't like him as much as I like Hairston but I'm fine with it."

Rodney Hood

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad defender. I'm sure that can be learned, but I'm not sure that Hood's skillset—basically, a scorer who can't play defense and doesn't really rebound much either—is worth picking him here over guys who are already more developed on both sides of the ball, even if they may not have the same scoring punch as Hood.

Trading Up

There's another possible scenario here: the Grizzlies could trade an asset and their 22nd pick in order to move up and get a better pick. One wonders exactly how far they'd be willing to go to move up and get a player they want, but if they're ever going to do such a thing, this is probably the draft to do it in, loaded with talent who will probably all end up being decent rotation players somewhere at some point.

The Grizzlies have guys they could trade, too. They've accidentally stockpiled several wing players who are all very similar: Courtney Lee, Quincy Pondexter, Jamaal Franklin, and even Tony Allen. Guys who defend, guys who can shoot the three if they have to (except TA, obviously), guys who aren't very athletic (Franklin is the exception here but he's such an unproven young "asset"-type player at this point that it doesn't matter much). If the right team—say, the Timberwolves, who were interested in Tony Allen but only wanted to give the Griz back Chase Budinger and JJ Barea in exchange—calls and asks for Tony Allen and the 22nd pick in exchange for a pick somewhere between 10 and 14, do the Grizzlies do it?

I'm not sure. I think they'd seriously consider it, and I think if a guy currently in the top 10—guys like Nik Stauskas, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, et al—falls out of that top 10 for whatever reason and is still available somewhere around 12-14, the Grizzlies would be idiots if they didn't at least make some phone calls trying to move up and grab him. But... whether or not that will happen is anybody's guess. I tend to think they'll probably just stick with what they've got at 22, since the prevailing mindset at Griz HQ these days still seems to be to tweak the current roster rather than overhauling large portions of it (although, we'll see what happens with Zach Randolph, as I wrote about last week.

Conclusions

I'm going to be a lot happier come Friday when we can all start dissecting the choice that the Grizzlies made and how it'll affect the team going forward. Right now, in the land of speculation and blind guessing, I'm not really sure what comes next. I don't have a crystal ball to see into the minds of the Pera/Wallace/Hollinger/Joerger collective who will be making the draft decision (one hopes for THE MACHINE to have some sort of a voice in the process), but I do think the Grizzlies are in a position to take a player who can contribute to the long-term continued success of the team, which is nice after not having a first round pick last year.

Besides, I only have so much whiskey on hand.

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