Since we’re on the topic of the NBA, as if there are any other topics at the moment, let’s talk about the upcoming draft. This, of course, assumes that Memphis indeed agrees to build an arena and does, indeed, get the team. The Grizzlies came up with the lucky number six in the 2001 NBA draft lottery. It’s actually not all that lucky of a number. The Grizz should have gotten -- numerically based on their abysmal record -- at least the number-four pick. However, the ping-pong ball gods frowned on the Grizz and poof, there’s you a number six. It’s not such a bad number, but with so few outstanding choices in this year’s draft, it makes choosing hard. Another factor influencing the Grizzlies choice is a deal that brought Otis Thorpe from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for, among other things, a first-round draft pick from the Grizzlies. The upside is that pick must fall between the sixth and eighteenth slots. The downside is that the Grizzlies must either give the Pistons the pick this year or give it away next year. The really mean trick by Piston executive VP Rick Sund, the fellow who brokered this deal and who just this week was named GM of Seattle, is that the decision had to be made by June 1st. And in case you haven’t heard, the NBA draft ain’t until June 27th. That means that the Grizzlies have no idea how much of a steal they might get. Or how much of a loser they could give to the Pistons. They also have only a minimum amount of time to check out talent in individual workouts. In a recent Detroit News article, Grizzlies GM Billy Knight said, “It’s terribly unreasonable to have a June 1st deadline. No one has had the opportunity to evaluate the talent in the draft yet.” This is a deal by former Grizzlies GM Stu Jackson, by the way. Not Knight, who really has only three choices. He could just give the Pistons the pick this year and become unfettered. However, according to Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley in his brief press-conference in Memphis on Tuesday, the Grizzlies have no cap room with which to make any free-agent acquisitions over the summer. Without the draft, they will have to rely on a mid-level exception (like the Larry Bird exception, only much smaller) or on trades. That limits their off-season choices and changes. Remember, the idea is to get better after the season ends. Oh, and then there is the small matter of the team moving to Memphis. If that happens, this summer’s draft will be the first big party for the franchise. The first time the people can meet their very own Memphis Grizzlies player, one who didn’t play “up north” before all this went down. Another option for the Grizzlies is to wait this year and give their pick to the Pistons next year. However, that might be even more of a gamble since they don’t know how they’ll do in 2002-2003, which pick they might get, who is in the draft, etc. And next year will mean that the Grizzlies will have their back against a wall and will be forced to give up their pick, be it a 6 or an 18. If the Grizzlies don’t have a pick from 6 to 18, then the deal goes to the next year. And so on. That’s just not fun. A final option, the one the Grizzlies are doing their best to make happen, is to find themselves a second dip in this year’s draft and hand that over to the Pistons. Currently, the Grizzlies could upgrade their second pick of the first round (spot 27 via the Lakers via New York) with a trade. The Grizzlies have plenty of deadweight in the form of Bryant Reeves and his fat contract. There’s also the young but talented shooting guard Mike Dickerson and point guard Mike Bibby. While both of these players are big-time, they didn’t exactly help the team win many games. For a team looking to overhaul, the Grizzlies could do worse than to drop some salaries, get cap room for a free-agent or two, and pay the Pistons their due. AND the team would be able to keep their number six spot this year. And idea along the same lines is to trade Grizzlies star power forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. But this guy is a franchise player and the loss of his scoring and rebounding would hurt far worse than a giving up a draft pick. Besides, ‘Reef has already said he wanted some Riverfront property. Good thing Memphis has itself a river. All this doesn’t address, of course, who the Grizzlies will pick if they get the chance. Your guess is as good as any this writer could put up. The Grizzlies are said to be interested in Michigan State Shooting guard Jason Richardson. According to espn.com, Richardson is an improving shooter, moves to the basket well, and defends well. However, there is some question about his passing and ball-handling skills. Not such a great thing to say about a shooting guard. He’s also supposed to be a phenomenal athlete, a good complement to Grizz coach Sydney Lowe’s interest in running and gunning. Most pertinently, he’s probably the best player that won’t be chosen in the top five. The Grizzlies also might have a shot at Shane Battier, who could be a real steal if the top five teams choose teeny-boppers ... I mean underclassmen. Battier doesn’t have the most incredible physical presence for a forward, but he handles and shoots the ball like a guard. He understands team basketball, sees the floor very well, has a killer (if streaky) mid-range jumper, and defends extremely well. He is arguably the most mature player in the draft, having played four years in college and could be perhaps a terrific role player in the future. That said, he’s probably going to go within the top five picks. Past that ... well it all just depends, don’t it? If the Grizz come to Memphis. If they keep their pick. If they don’t trade their pick up or down or whatever other funny things can happen on draft day. If they can sign who they pick. If. Only time will tell, obviously, but isn’t it fun nottalking about the arena for five minutes?

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