A Bang or a Whimper? 

A solid draft creates more questions about the Grizzlies’ offseason.

After building up a mildly disappointing draft record during his tenure with the Grizzlies, Jerry West seems to have gotten pretty good value this year. Hakim Warrick was slated as a top-15 pick in most mock drafts but slid to the Grizzlies at 19. Trade acquisition Lawrence Roberts, a rebounding specialist, at the least should provide a bigger, cheaper replacement for Ryan Humphrey at the end of the Grizzlies’ bench.

A 6’-8”, 218-pound jumping jack, Warrick comes with a scouting report eerily similar to outgoing free-agent Stromile Swift: world-class athlete, unbelievable leaper, highlight-reel dunker. But unlike Swift, a former number-two-overall pick whose promise has always been based more on athletic potential than on-court production, Warrick consistently produced at the highest levels of college basketball and seems to have a mental makeup that is a plus rather than a question mark.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the only area where Warrick and Swift contrast. Most draft recaps in the national press have suggested that the Grizzlies merely selected a replacement for the likely-to-depart Swift. But the truth isn’t nearly so tidy. Swift is a power forward/center who has essentially played in the middle as Lorenzen Wright’s backup. Warrick, a little smaller and not as effective a shot-blocker, is a power forward/small forward. He’s built like a “three” but has yet to demonstrate the ball-handling skills, outside shooting, or perimeter defense required to thrive at that position in the NBA.

It’s easy to visualize the best-case scenario for Warrick. He could develop into a player who combines the explosiveness around the rim of Swift with the scoring knack and consistent production of Washington’s Antawn Jamison, another skinny tweener forward who came into the league without a clear position. That player would be a match-up nightmare on offense at either forward position and a perennial all-star candidate. But it’s just as likely that Warrick becomes more like a cross between Keon Clark and Lee Nailon, journeymen NBA forwards with similar body types and skill sets.

But even if Warrick pans out, that still leaves open the question of where he plays for this team. The Grizzlies had four years to determine if Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift could play together on the frontline and never reached that conclusion. So, if Gasol and Swift couldn’t play together, there isn’t much reason to believe that Gasol and Warrick, a smaller version of Swift, would work. That means that Warrick’s playing time will have to come as Gasol’s backup or at small forward, and it just so happens that the Grizzlies already have three players at those spots under long-term contract -- Brian Cardinal, James Posey, and Shane Battier. So, if Warrick is going to have an impact on this team, there are still moves to be made.

As it stands, the acquisitions of Warrick and Roberts still don’t address the Grizzlies’ primary needs: a star-quality scorer on the perimeter and a good fit next to Gasol up front.

It’s unlikely West can swing a deal for an available star such as Paul Pierce, but there’s no reason the Grizzlies shouldn’t be able to come out of this offseason with the bulky rebounder necessary to pair with Gasol. Here are some suggestions from this armchair GM:

Though the Grizzlies continue to pursue trade possibilities for Bonzi Wells, the bet here is that the Griz would get more value in freeing up Wells’ contract by releasing him than by taking back any contracts teams would be willing to part with to acquire him. (The Commercial Appeal’s Ron Tillery termed the Detroit Pistons’ alleged offer of backup guards Carlos Delfino and Carlos Arroyo for Wells “laughable,” but that sounds about like Wells’ true trade value to me.)

A better bet might be pursuing sign-and-trade scenarios with Swift. The New Orleans Hornets’ rugged center Jamal Magliore is on the trade market, and while it’s true that New Orleans has enough cap room to sign Swift outright, a trade that starts with Swift, unhappy Lorenzen Wright, and up-and-comer Dahntay Jones being sent south for Magliore and P.J. Brown makes a lot of sense for both teams: It gives the Hornets a couple of young athletes to run with new point guard Chris Paul and sets them up to have even more cap room next offseason, when Wright’s contract expires. And it gives the Grizzlies the perfect complement for Gasol up front. If the Hornets require more sweetener, it might be worth giving up a future pick or even Warrick to make a deal happen.

If that doesn’t happen, here are some other underrated young power players the Grizzlies should be taking a hard look at via free agency or trade: Seattle’s Reggie Evans, Milwaukee’s Dan Gadzuric, and New York’s Michael Sweetney, the latter showing up in trade rumors after the Knicks courted Swift over the weekend. 

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