Looking ahead to the 2015 NBA Draft can create a lot of anxiety for a team in the situation that the Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in. On one hand, holding the 25th overall selection in next week's festivities means another successful season for one of the NBA's best current franchises when it comes to sustained winning. On the other hand, Memphis' roster is inherently flawed, needing multiple pieces to really reach the next level of success, namely the NBA Finals and a real shot at an NBA championship.
Too good to take a true game-changing talent, not good enough to compete for an NBA title. Truly caught between a rock and a hard place with regard to one of the major ways to improve your team. Of course, not all is lost for the Bears of Beale Street. There are three ways that this NBA Draft can go down and end well for Memphis' hopes at a title.
Scenario One: Trading Up
This potential situation has been floated in numerous places. Teams with multiple picks in the draft or with a need for a wing could maybe be interested in talking turkey with the Memphis Grizzlies, who certainly have a lot of wings who could possibly hold some value to other teams in the NBA.
Here's an example:
Memphis Receives: Mike Scott, #15 Overall Pick in 2015 NBA Draft, #50 Overall Pick in 2015 NBA Draft
Atlanta Receives: Tony Allen, Jon Leuer, #25 Overall Pick in 2015 NBA Draft
Memphis stands to save albout $3 million in 2015-2016 and over $2 million in 2016-2017 in this deal that ships out "The Grindfather" to Atlanta. The Hawks will possibly need to replace DeMarre Carroll in their starting lineup, and Allen's defensive prowess would come in handy against some of the wings Atlanta sees in the East. If Allen doesn't fit what they want to do within scheme, substitute Courtney Lee in and the trade also works. They also receive the last year of a good Jon Leuer contract and still hold on to a first round pick in this year's draft.
Memphis, meanwhile, secures the services of a big in Mike Scott who can space the floor and provide valuable room for either Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol to work with in certain sets and situations. His 34.4% shooting percentage from range would be more than helpful, and he is more than willing to shoot that shot as his shooting chart would indicate:
He took over 40% of his shots this season from beyond the arc, exactly what the Grizzlies could use from a bench big.
The main attraction of the trade, of course, is the #15 overall selection in the draft, making it possible for Memphis to replace Tony Allen or Courtney Lee. Allen is irreplaceable in terms of Grizzlies history and his role in the "Grit and Grind Era" and Lee has had his moments of floor-spacing brilliance. Finding a longer and more athletic dual threat wing will make Memphis more dangerous long-term, however. Which wing should be taken? Take your pick between two likely possibilities- the upside-laden Kelly Oubre from Kansas who has great defensive potential and a nice jump shot, or Sam Dekker of Wisconsin, a versatile wing who could potentially defend multiple positions both in the post and on the perimeter while attacking the rim and making teams honor his ability from range.
The thing these two have in common? They're unlikely to be available at pick #25. If Memphis wants to upgrade the offensive production on the wing via the draft, they will have to move up in some way, shape or form. Atlanta isn't the only possible trade partner: Boston (#16 overall), Milwaukee (#17 overall), Washington (#19 overall) and Chicago (#22 overall) could also be potential teams on Memphis' radar for moving up the draft board, among others.
Scenario Two: Staying Put
Perhaps the Grizzlies think they can stand pat at #25 and see a viable bigger wing fall to them. It is unlikely, but possible, that this happens; DraftExpress currently has the Grizzlies selecting Justin Anderson from the University of Virginia at #25 overall, a 6'6" player with a 6'11" wing span, athleticism and real good three-and-D potential. He was a James Naismith award contender last season until injuries derailed his 2014-2015 campaign for the Cavaliers. He showed good growth throughout his career in Charlottesville, and one would assume that development could continue in Memphis.
Other possibilities at #25 on the wing include Anthony Brown of Stanford, Jonathan Holmes of Texas and Jarell Martin of LSU. All three are bigger than Anderson (Brown is 6'7", Holmes and Martin are 6'9") but neither have the combination of athleticism/defensive acumen/floor spacing that Anderson has. Another possibility is a smaller wing such as a Rashad Vaughn of UNLV, offensively gifted but more of a guard than a forward, more Jordan Adams than Jeff Green in terms of size and position.
Memphis could also take a big like Christian Wood of UNLV, Robert Upshaw of the University of Washington or Kentucky's Dakari Johnson. Kosta Koufos' likely departure leaves a big hole in the Grizzlies' front court and the Memphis front office could opt to fill the void via the draft and make Head Coach Dave Joerger play him out of necessity. Questions abound about these players though, ranging from health concerns to motor/maturity problems, and they may well be a stretch at #25 overall.
Another possibility? Taking the future backup Point Guard of the Grizzlies. Beno Udrih is coming off of ankle surgery and is aging, and Nick Calathes' long-term future in Memphis is questionable. If Russ Smith has not convinced the Grizzlies he could be the answer just yet, Delon Wright of Utah could be an option as a 6'6" creator with great length and facilitation skills. Terry Rozier of Louisville could also be on the Grizzlies' radar, making either Calathes or Beno more expendable in a potential trade post-July 1.
Plenty of options, but all of these choices still do not move the needle much for this coming season. Free Agency, and attempted masterful use of the mid-level exception or a trade involving Jeff Green in July, perhaps are more likely in this spot.
Scenario Three: Trade Back
There is a possibility that all of the players at or near the top of Memphis' board are gone by the time the Grizzlies' turn to pick comes around. In this case, it may make sense to trade back and garner either a later first or multiple second rounders, who do not command guaranteed money and years like first round picks do. That flexibility could mean a lot down the road.
Another potential trade example:
Memphis Receives: Kevin Martin, 31st and 36th Overall Picks in 2015 NBA Draft
Minnesota Receives: Courtney Lee, Jon Leuer, 25th Overall Pick in 2015 NBA Draft
It hurts to ship out a player like Lee who is so capable of scoring the basketball from range, but the acquisition of Kevin Martin offsets that and then some. Martin, albeit on a terrible Minnesota Timberwolves team, launched a ton of shots from outside the paint.
39.3% converting from beyond the arc, a welcome sight for sore eyes, and Martin shot two more threes per game than Lee did (4.9 to 2.9) in 2014-2015 so he is most certainly is not afraid of chucking it from range. Trading Lee instead of Tony Allen also allows for the Grizzlies to maintain their "Core Four" that is so beloved in Memphis and means TA coming off the bench more than likely (assuming Jeff Green opts in to his player option), a role he is more than capable of filling. Leuer's departure simply means more opportunity for JaMychal Green and Jarnell Stokes, and Minnesota gets back in to the first round while moving on from the veteran Martin in favor of a youth movement.
Replacing Lee with Allen also works in the trade, and Minnesota has been interested in TA in the past. Regardless, these two second round picks could fill additional voids. Christian Wood, Robert Upshaw and Dakari Johnson are all projected to be available in and around those two selections, so a big could very much fit into the Grizzlies' plans if they were to execute a deal like this. Point Guards like Olivier Hanlan of Boston College and Andrew Harrison of Kentucky should also be on the board, or if the Grizzlies wanted to take a flyer on a John Hollinger-approved potential overseas draft-and-stash player like Nikola Milutinov, Arturas Gudaitis or Cedi Osman, that could also be a possibility.
The Philadelphia 76ers could also be potential trade partners for Memphis, given their multiple second round picks. It's an unlikely avenue, but one worth exploring for a team like the Grizzlies who could use another veteran to help make the offense run with a little more efficiency and spacing.
The draft has not always been kind to the Memphis Grizzlies, but things seem to be trending in the right direction. Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes, while not making an immediate impact this past year, appear to be in the Grizzlies' long-term plans and should see increased roles for Memphis next season. The impending free agency of Marc Gasol and Jeff Green's decision with regard to opting in to his player option weighs heavily on the decision making of the front office to be sure, and the recent acquisition of Lance Stephenson by the Los Angeles Clippers perhaps changes some plans for Memphis in free agency. Matt Barnes, expected to be a free agent after the trade is finalized, is disliked in Memphis but he has a skill set that is valuable to the Grizzlies and he should fit within the mid-level exception, alongside perhaps a Kyle O'Quinn or another free agent big.
Memphis' choices are not easy ones. They have an aging core and a closing championship window. The next month or so will indicate just how open the front office believes that window is.