Friday, June 26, 2015

Draft Night Recap: Grizzlies Draft Jarell Martin, Andrew Harrison, trade Jon Leuer

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 8:19 AM

click to enlarge wallace-070618-74693803jm009-300.jpg

In a move that wasn't as surprising as it should've been, the Grizzlies selected LSU's Jarell Martin with the 25th pick of the draft last night, and then swapped Jon Leuer to the Phoenix Suns for a second round pick, which was then used to select Andrew Harrison from Kentucky.

I don't like either pick, and both were reminiscent of a Grizzlies past that we thought (erroneously, perhaps) was dead and gone.

People whose opinions I respect about such matters—guys like Jonathan Tjarks and Mike Prada—liked the Martin pick:

...but I have a hard time getting excited about a raw combo forward with a lot of potential at 25. And Martin has a foot injury which will reportedly keep him from playing in this year's Summer League, so we won't even get a look at him until preseason to see whether he knows what he's doing on a basketball court or not. (And, Martin didn't even play basketball until his junior year of high school, so he's managed to go from not playing at all to D1 SEC basketball player to first round pick in only four years of playing the sport at all. That's certainly a counterpoint to my disappointment with the pick that I would be intellectually dishonest to leave out: the kid is obviously a fast learner.)

I, along with several other Griz-watchers, heard in the run-up to the draft that the Grizzlies really liked Duke point guard Tyus Jones, and that they were going to try to move up to take him. Stat projections love Jones and have him rated as much higher than the 24th in this draft. Alas, the Griz didn't (and still don't) have much in the way of tradeable assets, so that didn't happen, and when Jones almost fell to them anyway—he was selected by the Cavaliers at 24 on behalf of the Minnesota Timberwolves in a trade—I guess Martin was the next guy up on the draft board chart.

I don't really want to address the fact ("fact") that the Grizzlies promised Martin they'd pick him, except to say this: Those stories apparently originated with Martin's camp, and none of my team sources would confirm it. What I heard from team sources before and during the draft was that Jones was a guy that they liked, and if he'd been available, he'd have been the pick.

Whatever. We'll see. It's unlikely that Martin will play a single minute next season. I anticipate that he'll spend the whole year in Iowa getting minutes and getting in practice time, but that's kind of my whole frustration with the Martin pick: this is a guy who, even if Joerger were willing to play rookies, probably still isn't ready to play for a year or two, and in the meantime, he's going to be taking up a roster spot and salary space to not play. And, the way the Griz have built themselves, without any regard for drafting well, the truth is that he'll probably be dealt somewhere for pennies on the dollar inside of three seasons anyway.

Which is why the Andrew Harrison pick is kinda stupid, too. Sure, it was an opportunity to get some sort of asset in return for Jon Leuer, who was probably going to be waived if he was still on the roster when his contract becomes guaranteed on 6/30, but the same logic applies here as does to the Martin pick: this is not a guy who is likely to play, and in Harrison's case he probably won't even make it through training camp, assuming the rumblings we've heard about the Griz front office "having plans for Russ Smith" are accurate. So why not just use a second round pick on a European player who you can stash for a couple of years without having to pay any money? Obviously those are valuable assets; the Grizzlies turned one (Janis Timma) into Matt Barnes literally the same day as the draft. But no, instead, they drafted a guy who will either take up space on the roster or be gone forever by the end of the summer.

Last year's draft, it felt like John Hollinger was asserting his will. There were others in the front office who liked Rodney Hood more and wanted to take him, but the advanced stat projections loved Jordan Adams, and that's who the Grizzlies picked, and so far we haven't seen enough of Adams to know whether the projections are accurate, but he's shown signs of being a very good player if he can continue his development.

click to enlarge Hey, at least it wasn't as bad as the Thabeet pick.
  • Hey, at least it wasn't as bad as the Thabeet pick.

The advanced stat projections don't really like Martin, and they don't really like Harrison, either. Martin wasn't in the top 30 of Kevin Pelton's (ESPN Insider) statistical projection big board. For comparison, Jordan Adams ranked much higher than 22nd, where he was actually drafted. The projections I've seen have Andrew Harrison somewhere in the mid-40's, which is where he was picked—which is to say, he doesn't seem to have been much of a steal in the second round; that seems to be about where he should be.

So, the Grizzlies drafted a couple of guys who definitely won't contribute this year if they even play a single NBA minute, who probably won't contribute anything in the next three seasons, and who (realistically) probably will be traded before anyone ever finds out whether they can develop as Grizzlies or not. The Grizzlies, in other words, did exactly what they've always done during Chris Wallace's tenure as general manager, which is take draft picks out into the parking lot and light them on fire. Last year's Adams pick gave me just enough hope that things would be different in the future that I was disappointed to see the Grizzlies take another Tony Wroten-style "maybe he'll be good" flyer on somebody who they'll probably trade to the Sixers for second rounders at some point. Instead, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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