Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Draft Notes: Tyreke Evans Workout, Harden/Thabeet Rumors

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 11:00 PM

A little late chiming in today, but the Grizzlies held their first significant draft workout earlier at FedExForum and there are a few items that have popped up on the internet or on the radio waves that are worth noting:

tyreke_evans1.jpgFormer University of Memphis guard Tyreke Evans became the first of what should be five workouts the Grizzlies will conduct involving the seven players the team would be likely to consider either at #2 or in a trade-down scenario.

Evans went through a roughly hour-long workout conducted by Griz assistant Damon Stoudamire that focused on ball-handling and shooting drills. It's become habit for top prospects to decline competitive workouts, and you can see how this might benefit someone like Stephen Curry, who can wow on-lookers with a solo shooting display. But I think Evans is a prospect that is hurt by a lack of competition. The solo workout format amplified Evans' negatives — his inconsistent slingshot jumper and his erratic ball-handling — but didn't showcase his attributes — the ability to slash past (or through) defenders to finish at the rim or use his strength and wingspan to deny penetration.

I didn't think Evans was at all impressive today, but I doubt his performance really moved the needle either way in relation to the Grizzlies. The team has seen more of Evans than any other prospect in the draft. It will be interested — at least for me — to compare Evans to James Harden, who is scheduled to come in Friday and has a similar physical profile.

Coincidentally, on the day Evans worked out for the Grizzlies, he also ended up at #2 to the Grizzlies on the latest mock draft from CNNSI's Ian Thomsen, becoming the fourth player (along with Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet, and Harden) to be slotted at #2 in a high profile mock. Thomsen wrote:

The Grizzlies face several options: Deal the pick to any number of teams that covet Ricky Rubio; call Rubio's bluff that he doesn't want to play for Memphis and pick him anyway; fill their need for size with the 7-foot-2 Hasheem Thabeet; or, most likely, use the pick on Evans, who, in addition to being a star from the local college, has the makings of a potentially dominant point guard. They could also swap picks with Oklahoma City or Sacramento and probably still get Evans. "No one knows what they're going to do," said a rival GM with a lottery pick behind Memphis.

That last money quote seems to apply to pretty much everyone — myself included — trying to figure out what the Grizzlies will go in this draft. Thomsen's Griz pick at #27: Josh Heytvelt.

While Thomsen is pushing Evans as an alternative to the Ricky Rubio/Hasheem Thabeet options at #2, his most high-profile fellow draft scribes went in a different direction today. ESPN's Chad Ford, who has been consistent on his Thabeet pick, wrote this:

• Arizona State's James Harden also seems to be in a pretty strong position. In addition to getting a lot of attention from the Thunder and Wizards, two league sources told that Harden is in the mix with the Grizzlies. Apparently, owner Michael Heisley thinks that a three-man rotation of Harden, O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley is attractive for the Grizzlies.

6b9c/1245297701-james-harden.jpgUnlike many Grizzlies fans, I take Ford's reporting seriously even if, like most others, he gets plenty wrong in the mists of conjecture and disinformation that is pre-NBA Draft scuttle. What's interesting about this to me is that he's again tying his Griz info to Heisley (and who better given that Heisley is making the final call?) and this time citing "league sources," suggesting more strongly than ever that Ford's Grizzlies information is coming from Heisley-connected people outside the Grizzlies' current organization. I'm pretty sure Ford was wrong on an earlier report claiming Heisley was pushing Thabeet (who may well ultimately be the pick), but I really have no idea if this Harden report is on target, though I've detected less enthusiasm for Harden in recent conversations with team officials than for Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry.

Somewhat corroborating Ford's report, however, is Draft Express' Jonathan Givony, who was a guest on The Geoff and Gary Show today. Givony said that he'd be shocked if the Grizzlies drafted and kept Rubio, citing unnamed Heisley-connected sources. He then said that if the team stays put at #2 it will be to either take Thabeet or Harden.

Additionally, Givony reasserted that the Kevin Love rumors are out there, said he thought Love would be a Top 5 and maybe Top 3 pick in this draft if he'd gone back to UCLA (I agree with this), suggested this might be a good deal for the Grizzlies, and made the point that Love and Mayo have a good relationship. You can listen to the Givony interview via the podcasts at 730FoxSports. Gary Parrish, Harry Long, and I peppered Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace with questions on the station this afternoon. That's not up on the podcast player as I write, but should be soon.

In other local radio news, a stronger indication on Thabeet comes with some ricocheting content on the two local sports-talk stations. Geoff Calkins said on his own show that he's heard that head coach Lionel Hollins is enamored with Thabeet. This morning on his own show on Sports56, Grizzlies beat writer Ron Tillery reportedly (I didn't hear it) talked up Thabeet and talked down Ricky Rubio. Given Tillery's widely acknowledge ties to Hollins and Heisley, this is probably a pretty good indication.

Finally, Scott Howard-Cooper's latest draft notebook for CNN/SI doesn't really have much specific Grizzlies content, but does have some good stuff on prospective #2 pick Thabeet, late first/early second contender Derrick Brown, and a word of warning from an unnamed GM.


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