Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
A look back at the 2008 NBA draft. What would look different in a redraft? Would O.J. Mayo still be a Grizzly? What, if anything, would Chris Wallace do differently?
After the Grizzlies got
cheated hosed screwed (ahhh that feels right) out of the first pick in the 2007 draft, Grizzlies fans were not exactly looking forward to the 2008 draft process, particularly the lottery. The Grizzlies finished the 2007-08 season with a record of 22-60, the same as the previous season and bad enough for the fourth worst record in the league. On May 20, 2008, the Grizzlies sent Rudy Gay to Secaucus, New Jersey to be their representative at the draft lottery. If Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace knew then what he knows now, he might have just told Rudy to stay there. The Grizzlies secured the fifth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, which once again was lower than the pick they deserved.
June 26, 2008, the night of the 2008 NBA Draft, was one of the wildest nights for the Grizzlies in recent memory in terms of movement. Chris Wallace was clearly gunning for O.J. Mayo that night, but that dream appeared hapless after the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Mayo with the 3rd overall pick. The Grizzlies were then forced to either play the trade game with the Timberwolves or change their strategy. The Grizzlies selected two-time NBA All Star power forward Kevin Love with the fifth pick in the draft, whom then Timberwolves General Manager Kevin McHale loved. The Grizzlies had chosen the trade game.
The morning after the draft, Grizzlies fans that went to bed early learned Kevin Love was traded in the wee hours of the morning. The trade sent Love's draft rights, Mike Miller, and Jason Collins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for O.J. Mayo's draft rights, Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric, and Greg Buckner. Chris Wallace got his man in Mayo. However, Mayo came at a price. The Grizzlies were forced to take on Marko Jaric's contract, which at almost $7,000,000 a year, cost the team $21,300,000 over the next three seasons. It would not have been so painful for Grizzlies fans had his supermodel wife Adriana Lima showed her face at games. SPOILER ALERT: she didn't, which made Jaric less than useful to Grizzlies fans.
The second player the Grizzlies received in the 2008 NBA Draft, Darrell Arthur, found his way to the Grizzlies in a much more roundabout way. Arthur was selected with the 27th pick in the draft by the New Orleans Hornets. The Grizzlies selected Donté Greene with the very next pick. Not long after that pick, Darrell Arthur was shipped to the Portland Trailblazers, then to the Houston Rockets, and finally made his way to the Grizzlies in exchange for the Rockets receiving Greene's draft rights.
Arthur addressed the Grizzlies need for more frontcourt players in what was then a backcourt-laden team. Arthur was and is to this day considered a steal in that draft at the 27th pick. Arthur was one of the more underrated big men in the 2008 NBA Draft, and he is still incredibly underrated today. A series of injuries throughout his young career have kept Arthur from being fully appreciated in the league. Enough cannot be said about Darrell Arthur on both sides of the ball. On offense, he is a maestro in pick and pop situations, and his ability to consistently hit long twos helps the Grizzlies floor spacing when he's on the floor. On defense, DA has a knack for defending pick and rolls, which is an extremely valuable skill in today's NBA. Arthur rarely hedges to high when cutting off the ball handler, thus making it extremely difficult for the guard to split the defense and get in the lane. This also makes it easier for Arthur to get back to cover his man after the guard fights over the screen and recovers. When teams do manage to force a switch where Arthur is on a guard, Arthur's exceptional athleticism and quickness allow him to contain most guards fairly well. Big men like this are few and far between in the NBA, especially one only making a little over $3,000,000 a year.
This is one of Chris Wallace's best drafts since becoming the General Manager of the Grizzlies. He was able to get a top shooting guard with tremendous potential and also an underrated role player for almost nothing in return. But what if the 2008 NBA Draft could be redone? Knowing what we know now, should Wallace have gone a different route or done something different?
While it is irrefutable that Kevin Love has turned out to be a better player and far more valuable than O.J. Mayo since entering the league, Mayo made crucial contributions during his tenure with the Grizzlies, especially in the 2010-11 season when the Grizzlies won their first playoff series. Mayo hit some big shots, and if not for some of his performances against the Thunder, the harsh reality is that several of the games in that series would not have been close. During his tenure in Memphis, Mayo struggled to be a team player and with the idea of coming off the bench. He started to fully embrace the roll when he saw the impact he could have while filling that role in the 2010-11 playoffs, but by then the seed had been planted in Wallace's mind that he did not fit. It was too late.
It's hard to say the Grizzlies should not have taken someone other than Mayo, seeing as he is not even on the roster anymore. Not only is Mayo not on the team anymore, but also the Grizzlies let a talented player walk for free, which is unacceptable. It is egregious that Wallace did not get something, anything in return for the talented shooting guard. Mayo is realizing his full potential this season averaging 16.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, and 4.3 assists per game. Mayo is in the final year of his rookie contract, and he is due to make bank this offseason. Someone is going to throw big money at OJAM. Good for him.
Now, to answer the true question: What would the Grizzlies do if there was a 2008 NBA redraft? The first three picks would be Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love in that order. It starts to get iffy at the fourth pick. The Thunder, then the Seattle SuperSonics, would likely take Eric Gordon with the fourth pick. They needed guard play badly at the time of that draft.
After the first four picks, that would leave the Grizzlies with four solid options. First, the aforementioned O.J. Mayo would be available at pick five if the draft was held again today. However, the Grizzlies would certainly not take him again with a do over. That leaves three other excellent choices in Danilo Gallinari, Brooke Lopez, and Roy Hibbert. Gallinari would provide a dynamic threat that can fill up the basket every night on offense, and he would certainly provide much better defense than O.J. Mayo. His length would make him a matchup nightmare on offense, and his ability to hit the three and space the floor could have been exactly what the Grizzlies needed to push them past the Thunder in the 2010-11 playoffs. With all that said, that makes Gallinari the Grizzlies most likely pick in a 2008 redraft. At age 24, it is not out of the question that Gallinari could become an All Star. If he increases his three point field goal percentage to what it was in his New York days, he will be the complete package at the small forward position. That is something that would certainly attract the attention of the Grizzlies front office.
However, there are still other good options to consider. Brooke Lopez and Roy Hibbert are All Star caliber centers. Roy Hibbert is a defensive force and rebounds at an incredibly high rate, whereas Lopez has a more refined, consistent offensive game than Hibbert, at least when it comes to scoring. Hibbert has better court vision to find open shooters when posting up than Lopez does. Despite both players' incredible ability, the Grizzlies would not likely consider either of the two giants. Why would they when they have the complete Spanish package in Marc Gasol? Both Lopez and Hibbert would seemingly be excellent choices for the Grizzlies in a redraft. However, both big men are just playing for second when it comes to the best center in the NBA today. Marc Gasol is far and away the most complete center in the NBA today, and it is not close.
If the 2008 draft was redone, the Grizzlies would certainly want to grab Darrell Arthur with the 28th pick. Too bad for them, Arthur would, in all likelihood, not still be on the board at pick 28. There are about thirty players from the 2008 NBA Draft that are still contributing to a team today, so maybe Arthur could fall to the Grizzlies. They certainly would not fail to snatch him up a second time.
Posing the next question, would the Grizzlies have gotten closer to a title had they had Gallinari instead of Mayo? I am inclined to say yes. Gallinari provides the same scoring threat that Mayo does, has tremendous slashing ability like Mayo, but he plays much better defense, which fits the Grizzlies style of play. Imagine a lineup of PG Mike Conley, SG Tony Allen, SF Danilo Gallinari, PF Zach Randolph, and C Marc Gasol. That lineup would be nasty. As for this year, the Grizzlies should be more than satisfied with their current starting five.
With the Grizzlies current roster being almost perfectly crafted for the playoffs with the exception of several small flaws, Chris Wallace probably does not lose much sleep at night over the 2008 draft, one of his best so far in his time with the Grizzlies. Thoughts?