NBA draft season is in full swing and the Grizzlies front office has some crucial decisions to make in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see what the Grizzlies choose to do in this draft, seeing as it is the first under new CEO Jason Levien and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger. Levien and Hollinger have already shown they are not afraid to make big decisions in their new roles. The two undoubtedly played a large part in shipping Rudy Gay north of the border at the trade deadline, and more recently, the firing of Head Coach Lionel Hollins.
Judging from their propensity to meddle with roster decisions more than they maybe should since they've taken over, it is not unreasonable to assume that General Manager Chris Wallace will be sitting on the sideline come draft day while the two head honchos call the shots. However, that's unlikely news to Wallace. He is used to people not giving him the freedom to make big decisions that typically comes with his position. Wallace knows he is not treated with the amount of respect that both his resumé and expertise have earned him. That's why it is likely he will bolt for the same job with the Sacramento Kings organization. But I'll save that for another piece.
As for the actual draft, the good news is the Grizzlies have three draft picks. The bad news is that those three picks are all late in the second round. Having picks that low can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, a team can afford to take a flyer on a player that they like, and if he doesn't pan out it is not that big of a deal. But then again, every prospect that is taken with the 42nd, 55th, and 60th pick, the three picks the Grizzlies have, is going to be a player with loads of potential, but with a good chance he will not pan out.
Now it's time to address the burning question. What should the Grizzlies do with their three draft picks?
I have listed the players from top to bottom in terms of who I think the Grizzlies best draft choices would be. I have also excluded international prospects because that's not really my turf. Look for more in depth international prospect analyses soon by GBB contributor Scott Beattie.
Nate Wolters, 6'5", 196 Lbs, PG, Senior, South Dakota State
The Grizzlies likely won't have enough free cash to go out and sign a premier three-point specialist in free agency, so I think it would be best if the Grizzlies try to address that need via the draft. Wolters is the top prospect on the board for me when it comes to who the Grizzlies should draft. He fills two needs for the Grizzlies: 1) Three-point specialist 2) Back-up point guard. He is the Grizzlies two biggest needs in one 6'5" package. Wolters' game shows the maturity of a senior. When watching his film, it is clear that he has spent many hours in the gym perfecting his craft on offense. While he is a point guard with very advanced handles that would be more than capable orchestrating the Grizzlies offense, that's not why I slotted him in my top spot. Wolters can flat out score the basketball. He can use the pick and roll in multiple ways, spot up, drive to the rim, run off screens, etc. You name it, Wolters can do it. His biggest question mark for scouts is probably his ability to defend his position at the next level. While he plays smart defensively, that won't be enough to keep him in front of NBA point guards. Can he lock them up well enough to have above replacement level value? That's the question that scouts have. The problem is we won't know until he actually gets in the league. If Wolters, by some miracle, is still hanging around when the Grizzlies pick 42nd, they should definitely pull the trigger. Ian Levy over at Hickory-High is putting together similarity scores for draft prospects. The three NBA players Wolters is most similar to? Eric Maynor, Charles Jenkins, and George Hill. Hey, that's good enough for me.
Ricardo Ledo, 6'6", 197 Lbs, SG, Providence, Freshmen
After watching Ledo's workouts, two things stuck out to me: His smooth jump shot coupled with his quick release. A quick release is an extremely valuable skill for a jump shooter in the NBA. Just ask Ray Allen. Not only does Ledo sport a quick release, but he also shot threes at a clip the last time he played competitive basketball, his senior year of high school. This brings me to my next point. Ledo was never able to become eligible to play a single minute at Providence during his one season with the team. Ledo definitely has some character concerns, but with the value he brings on the court, he is worth one of the three Grizzlies picks. If they want him, they better nab him with their first pick because he won't be there late in the second round. He might not even be there at the start of the second round. That's how talented this kid is. The unheralded Ledo might be the steal of the draft.
James Ennis, 6'7", 201 Lbs, SF, Long Beach State, Senior
Several draft analysts have Ennis slotted to the Grizzlies, and it's easy to see why. Ennis is a prototypical small forward with athleticism out of this world, and his 6'11" wingspan gives him the potential to be a terror defensively. His athleticism makes him a nightmare to guard in the open court, so he could really breathe some much-needed life into the Grizzlies transition offense. He also has a nice mid-range game coupled with a decent three-point stroke. Just from watching his workouts, I could tell he was a decent spot up shooter. I could tell by looking at his form. Although it is not without flaws, his delivery is consistent which helps his shots find the net more often. He has work to do on the defensive end, but if I trust any team to teach a young buck defense it's the Grizzlies. Taking Ennis with any of their three picks would mean little to no risk for the Grizzlies. If he doesn't pan out, that's okay. But if he does, he could be the next Tayshaun Prince with more of an offensive game. He would be great value at any of the Grizzlies second round picks.
Lorenzo Brown, 6'5", 189 Lbs, PG, Junior, North Carolina State
"That's a pocket pass!!" -Uncle Drew
Brown is your prototypical point guard. He brings a steadiness to the floor and always seems to play under control. That's exactly what the Grizzlies need in a backup point guard. Brown is not a strong scorer which makes him a pass first point guard. Brown displays exceptional quickness and is incredibly big for his position. At times, he reminds me of John Wall with his size, and ability to distribute the basketball. I'm not saying he is going to turn into John Wall, just that their games are similar in certain aspects. One part of Brown's game that lags behind Wall's and most other NBA point guards is his quickness. That could be a problem for Brown at the next level, but it oddly does not bother me as much as it bothers other people. After all, he would be drafted by the Grizzlies to be Conley's back up, not the starter. His quickness should serve him just fine facing fellow role players. Brown more than makes up for his own lack of offensive production with his ability to create buckets for others. Couple that with the fact that he rarely turns the ball over, and it's easy to see how he could fit with the Grizzlies. While Brown is not a good shooter, he can create his own shot well. With some coaching at the next level, his shot could come around. If that happens, there will be a lot of teams that will wish they had not passed on Brown in this draft.
Brandon Paul, 6'4", 201 Lbs, SG, Senior, Illinois
I am a lot higher on Brandon Paul than most draft analysts. I watched upwards of fifteen of Paul's games this year because his natural ability intrigued me so much. Paul is one of the most athletic two-guards in this year's draft class. He is explosive which makes him a human highlight real at times. His gangly body, he has a 6'10" wingspan, allows him to be an above average defender. Paul is best in situations where he is slashing to the basket. He is an excellent finisher and can create plays for himself with ease. On top of all of that, he can shoot the three ball well, which I'm sure you beat me to it, is the Grizzlies biggest need. All of this, yet analysts still have him going undrafted. Why? Well, Paul struggles with consistency. That was what always fascinated me about him. When I watched him, I never knew if I was going to see the all-star of scrub version of himself. He also has a bit of a tendency to take bad shots, and sometimes when things are not going his way, he mentally checks out. The thing is all of those cons can be fixed with good coaching, which is something I don't think Paul got in his first three years at Illinois under Bruce Weber. I would definitely take a flyer on him. What do the Grizzlies have to lose?
James Southerland, 6'8", 215 Lbs, SF/PF, Senior, Syracuse
Southerland is undoubtedly one of the best three point shooters in this year's draft class. While this makes him a natural fit for the Grizzlies, not much else about his game does. Given his slight frame, weighing only 215 pounds, and his mediocre lateral quickness, it is easy to see why he is considered a tweener. While it is difficult to tell much about Southerland's defensive ability due to Syracuse basically always playing a 3-2 zone, it is easy to see why scouts have expressed concern about him not being quick enough to guard a three and not being strong enough to guard a four, it begs the question can he find his way onto an NBA court without being a complete defensive liability? I say yes. If the Grizzlies are willing to play Jerryd Bayless, the definition of a defensive liability, then they could surely find court time for Southerland who would bring that much needed three-point threat the Grizzlies have needed for years. He would never materialize into a starter, but he could be a solid role player if he can prove he can defend either the small forward or power forward position with relative success. Southerland has deep range and is a superb spot up shooter, which fits the Grizzlies needs. They do not necessarily need someone that can create his own three point shot. That should be considered a luxury of sorts. As long as he can float into space and wait for Mike Conley to drive and kick or for Gasol to execute a deft pass beyond the arc when the defense doubles down, he has value in my book. However, if he ever shoots below 40% from beyond the arc in the league, he won't stay on a team very long. That shouldn't be a problem for him though. He is worth taking a flyer on, especially if he is there for the Grizzlies 55th or 60th pick.
D.J. Stephens, 6'5", 187 Lbs, PF, Senior, University of Memphis
Why the hell not with pick 60? Fans need pregame entertainment, too.
Be sure to let me know what you think and who you want the Grizzlies to take in the comments. Let me know if there is anybody you want me to do a full profile on. Oh, and don't forget to vote.