The NBA Draft is where hope wells eternal, where every player looks like he has unlimited, ridiculous upside. Generally half the first rounders selected look fantastic before the draft, but probably only half those pan out as respectable contributors, and about a quarter of those reach their "potential."
If you trust those ratios, that means you've got about a 6 percent chance of nailing a draft pick. If you're a Grizzlies fan, it probably seems like it should be closer to zero.
That doesn't mean that drafting is just a game of chance -- not by any means. There's a reason the Spurs and Thunder seem to hit every year; note that Sam Presti used to work for the Spurs organization.
What it does mean, however, is that expectations must be tempered, which is what you'll see more of in my scouting reports then the usual write-ups. Again, everything is relative, but this is not going to be NBAdraft.net where every player gets an 85 or higher. This is a hard, critical look at each player and how they're most likely to fit in the NBA and the Grizzlies' system.
This group of players -- Xavier Henry, Paul George, and Luke Babbitt -- are the wings that the Grizzlies will most likely be looking at with the #12 pick, though admittedly Gordon Hayward and Damion James could be in play here as well. I'll be using DraftExpress.com for my stats and measurements.
Xavier Henry - Kansas, Freshman, SG/SF, 6'6", 210 lbs., 19 years old
Scouting - Xavier Henry is not your average one and done. Playing just one season at Kansas, who underwhelmed in the tournament, Henry is leaving for the NBA with college star Cole Aldrich.
Unlike most one and done's, though, Henry's rep sounds more like a 5th year senior. He has an NBA-ready body at 6'6" and 210 pounds, a slick jumpshot, and an excellent ability to move around screens and through set plays to get his excellent jumper.
This was Xavier Henry at 17. His biceps outweigh Paul George's thighs.
The knock on Xavier, though, is that running off screens and shooting jumpers was essentially his only offensive role in college. While he had a couple top-notch performances -- including a 4 game stretch averaging 20 points against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado, and Kansas State -- Henry has the lowest usage and scoring of anyone the Grizz might be looking at with the #12 pick. In other words, that "upside" you hear so much about with most picks is largely missing.
Watching this video of Henry, its clear that even his best plays typically are not made off exceptionally explosive moves. He uses his weight well to pressure his defender and create space on the drive, but rarely shakes them with dribble-drive moves. His ball handling and repertoire of moves would certainly be below average for a full-time NBA shooting guard, and his turnovers are very high given his role.
The shooting is as good as advertised, with a high release point and a near-perfect stroke. Henry is almost always square to the basket when he catches and shoots -- even for fadeaways and turnarounds -- but gets sloppy off the dribble at times. His form is generally excellent off jab steps and dribble step-backs, though on leaners and off crossovers he doesn't show the same consistency.
As a finisher he clearly lacks any creativity, his entire highlight reel is filled with fairly routine layups. On the break and in space he often will stop and fake his man, then put his body into them and shoot a two-handed layup. That move rarely works for even the strongest two guards in the NBA.
I doubt Henry will be a plus defender immediately in the NBA, but he does have a strong team-defense pedigree from Kansas. His 1.5 steals did not come off picking pockets -- they were often hustle plays and jumping passing lanes. That part of his game may not translate to the NBA at all, since his lateral quickness is lacking, or his focus and work ethic could allow him to interrupt the opposition within a strong team defensive scheme.
Comparisons - Xavier Henry is a full-sized shooting guard, though he could fit better offensively as a small forward. With that in mind, here are his likely comparison players:
Short term - Best case: Courtney Lee, a solid defender and great shooter who's probably best suited as a "role-player starter," because he does not have the shot-creating ability of a 6th man on the wing. Worst case: Gerald Henderson, simply unprepared to contribute at the NBA level because he does not have the quality of moves or athleticism.
Long term - Best case: Shorter Ron Artest (without the attitude questions), it's impossible to not think of Artest's awkward dribble-drives and YMCA finishes when watching Xavier's offensive game, and both are defensive bullies with their size at their position. Worst case: Cuttino Mobley, Quentin Richardson, you name them, he could be just any old decent, full-sized shooting guard, probably a 5th wheel starter playing 30 minutes a game.
How does he fit on the Grizzlies? - Perhaps Xavier is just too similar to Ronnie Brewer in role; with both being unable to create but are efficient, low-usage options (Ronnie Brewer as a finisher, Xavier as a 3 point shooter) and likely much better defenders than O.J. Mayo.
I doubt the Grizzlies would like to concede they reached on O.J. Mayo by sending him to the bench, but a Mike Conley - Xavier Henry backcourt with O.J. Mayo playing 6th man to create his own offense might be the smartest roster configuration for the Grizzlies. Xavier would be a fine fit in this sense, especially if he can shoot above 38% from three with the NBA line. In this case, or if Rudy Gay leaves and Xavier platoons with Ronnie Brewer at forward, a contribution like James Harden or Wes Matthews could be expected.
Paul George - Fresno State, Sophomore, SF/SG, 6'9", 215 lbs., 20 years old.
Could there be any two players in the same draft spot with more different collegiate careers? While Xavier was dumping it into Cole Aldrich, Paul George effectively WAS Fresno State's offense, scoring over 25% of his team's points and using almost 25% of his team's possessions.
George is extremely long, standing almost 6'9" tall with a 6'11" wingspan. He's also a superstar-level athlete, which helped him to a filthy combination of 2.2 steals and .8 blocks, as well as a 72% field goal percentage in transition.
Of course George was also not tremendously careful with his touches when he wasn't just shooting immediately, turning the ball over on over a fifth of his possessions. With all the turnovers those assists are probably fool's gold, as he won't be facing the same kind of double-teams at the next level.
Even though George is actually heavier than Xavier Henry, he's a skinny guy and his body could definitely use filling out. That shouldn't necessarily dissuade potential drafters, since Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Carmelo Anthony, and many other superstars were undersized as they entered the league.
Watching George's play, its clear that his offensive game is nowhere near as refined as Henry or Babbitt, though it is significantly more impressive then the players beneath these three -- Gordon Hayward or Damion James. George uses his long arms and legs to pull off a number of filthy crossovers and step-backs, getting a jumper whenever he wants. His first step is probably about average for a starting small forward.
His technical play is pretty limited, however, mostly because his athleticism is such an excellent crutch in isolation. George will pump-fake a little, but his fake is not particularly convincing. He rarely rips the ball or jab-steps very effectively, and will typically start dribbling before he's set the drive up with isolation play. Turnovers could remain a problem in the NBA because of his tendency to over-dribble.
George's shot, as you can see in the video, is pretty unorthodox, and isn't extremely consistent. Despite having a short flick for a release, at times George's jumper is extremely slow to develop and sits in front of his face. That's probably not a huge problem, though, because of his size and elevation. His turnarounds and other more risky, advanced jumpshots are rarely fully squared off to the hoop -- he also takes lots of these bad shots as the primary option. Even with these quirks, George is efficient from deep and shoots around 39% from three over his two year career.
NBA teams would rather see George attacking the rim, since he was a 90% free throw shooter this season, and his lanky, athletic build should be great for drawing fouls. He doesn't attack the basket as hard as, say, Blake Griffin, and doesn't dunk in the half-court nearly as well as he should, but still finishes right around rim-level and close to the basket.
Defensively George is a stud in counting stats, but is hardly a lock-down defender in one-on-one situations, and that's against weak collegiate competition. George doesn't stay down in his stance like he probably should. He also lacked focus on that end of the court while at Fresno State. That being said, the tools of an elite defender are there, and listening to George's interviews you almost get the sense that he has just been waiting for the NBA to fully commit himself to the game.
Comparisons - Paul George is a hyper-athletic swingman with great offensive skills, but rough fundamentals.
Short term - Best case: Very young Tayshaun Prince, he could make an impact right away in the same glue-guy mold as a player like Tayshaun Prince. He'll collect blocks, steals, and threes, and you won't be scared using him as a third or fourth option on offense. Worst case: Julian Wright, how many of these types of guys do we see every year that just don't figure out how to apply their abilities?
Long term - Best case: Rudy Gay, the comparisons are obvious and probably unavoidable. George does not, however, seem to have true superstar upside. Worst case: Thaddeus Young, again, a player with a confused role who can't really fully integrate themselves into an NBA offense. It happens to many, many talented wings, and George certainly shows similar bust potential.
How does he fit on the Grizzlies? - If the Grizzlies don't trust Rudy Gay to stay, Paul George absolutely must be the pick. He has every bit of the potential to step right into Rudy's shoes and play a good number of minutes. He will excel as a finisher instead of a facilitator in transition, and should put up similarly efficient numbers to Rudy. Additionally, he shows the potential to avoid some of Rudy's flaws, namely below average shooting from three and excellent free throw shooting.
The isolation and fast-break offense is definitely well suited to George, though he could use a little more structured, capable team defense for his own individual growth. Even if Rudy Gay stays onboard, he'd likely still play major minutes in the place of Sam Young, though its not clear how much better he'd play since George shows some similar faults -- especially over-dribbling -- though his shooting is significantly better.
Luke Babbitt - Nevada, Sophomore, SF/PF, 6'9", 218 lbs., 20 years old.
Luke Babbitt and Paul George are two sides of the same coin. George isolated and took lots of his teams' shots last season, but Babbitt isolated and used more of his team's possessions than any other player in basketball.
Unlike Paul George, Babbitt does not look like either an overwhelming or even NBA-average athlete. His game is much more predicated on clever ball-handling, very tight footwork, and creative finishes. He does just about anything you could want a forward to do with the ball and rarely turns it over.
Babbitt is quite a bit of an enigma because his reputation and style make him seem to lack an NBA position. He is supposedly neither fast enough to guard NBA small forwards nor strong enough to keep NBA power forwards out of the post. Most scouts believe he's clever enough to score at either position, but Babbitt is said to lack defensive athleticism.
The combine seems to have added another level of analysis, though. As several locations have reported, Babbitt's combine scores were nearly identical to Blake Griffin in terms of athleticism, and his bench press reps were higher than Derrick Favors and matched Greg Monroe. In other words, it sounds like he should be able to guard power forwards as well as any rookie.
Babbitt is a lefty, which is a huge bonus, and has no fear of shooting from any range. Check the video at 1:36 for a perfect example of a Babbitt play -- he uses a long jab stab to stun his defender and clear space, then drills the three with no fear. Babbitt is a true stretch four, and looks to be more capable of either shooting or putting the ball on the deck than a player like Rashard Lewis.
He alters his speed in an impressive fashion, constantly challenging his defender with a wide range of different moves, and creates tons of space both with crossovers and ball fakes. Watch his rip and stepback at 3:16, which literally knocks his defender's feet out from under him. Babbitt truly has the moves of a star isolation scorer, with fundamentals reminiscent of Brandon Roy. Yes, a shooting guard.
The main concern with Babbitt is whether his combine scores can translate to his game. As you can see Babbitt dunks off alley-oops and uncovered off two feet easily, but he does not use his athleticism well in tight spaces and he often finishes below the rim. If his driving game isn't effective in the NBA for those reasons, he'll also struggle to fool defenders into creating space to shoot in.
Babbitt is also one of the few wings whose hustle and intangibles are true assets. He rebounded extremely well in college for his size, which is a skill that typically translates well to the NBA. He also runs out on shooters and hustles to get into the transition game.
Defensively, as noted, Luke Babbitt cannot guard an average NBA small forward, and is nowhere near being able to guard a swingman at the position, like Trevor Ariza, for example. His perimeter defense is as shaky as his perimeter offense is impressive. In the post Babbitt does not leverage himself well and probably isn't heavy enough. If he switches onto a center, his only real hope is to strip the ball. That being said, he's not much weaker in this regard than Darrell Arthur or a slew of young power forwards.
Comparisons - Luke Babbitt is a stretch power forward with decent size who can dribble and create his own shot like a shooting guard.
Short term - Best case: Jeff Green, Green is also truly a defensive tweener, and Babbitt could probably play at least an equal offensive role to Green even in his rookie year. Worst case: Yi Jianlin, Babbitt's toughness is largely untested, although his good rebounding and hustle would suggest that he won't be as inconsistent and easily abused as Yi.
Long term - Best case: Really, really poor man's Larry Bird, after writing about the temptations of overrating am I making a Larry Bird comparison? Yes, well, kind of. Imagine if Bird was like a third option or came off the bench. Alternatively, Toni Kukoc if he didn't play with Jordan and Pippen throughout his prime. And I'm not even taking away all of the assists, Babbitt is a great passer but didn't have teammates to pass to. Worst case: Adam Morrison, you knew it was coming.
How does he fit with the Grizzlies? - Strangely, to say the least. The Grizzlies already have Zach Randolph at power forward, and subbing Babbitt for him would probably not get Babbitt enough minutes to really see his game. Playing him at small forward is a recipe for under-performance or disaster. That means the Grizzlies would probably have to run some sets of Babbitt-Randolph, which would be a disaster defensively.
If Randolph doesn't re-up his deal, however, a future frontcourt rotation of Babbitt-Gasol-Thabeet would be extremely intriguing, as it would not be a defensive mess, and could be incredible offensively. O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Luke Babbitt could put up some points in the Grizzlies' isolation offense.
My Pick: I've been waffling between the three all week, but the more I watch, the more I love Luke Babbitt. Xavier Henry is truly as offensively limited as advertised, though he could have some growth. Paul George is raw, probably will never outplay Rudy Gay, who the Grizzlies can keep. And even if George does play like Rudy, he'll end up costing just as much because he's equally flashy.
The pick is Babbitt because he's the only player we've both seen enough of, and haven't seen enough of. Babbitt will be an excellent offensive player and at worst will be useful as a sixth man. In that role defense isn't the main concern (see: Ben Gordon, Jason Terry), and we still really don't know whether he can defend or not.
At the 12th pick, you have to swing for the home run. But where the Grizzlies are at in their team development, they need safety as well. Paul George provides a home run. Xavier Henry is safe. Luke Babbitt is both -- he might be a reach, but he's the pick.