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Memphis Grizzlies 2016 NBA Draft Discussion: Part 1

In Part 1, Andrew Ford and Matt Hrdlicka discuss the upcoming NBA draft, split the players available into tiers, and talk about drafting a "project" at 17.

These two veterans could use an infusion of youth on their roster.
These two veterans could use an infusion of youth on their roster.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It's time to truly dive in to this NBA Draft as the Finals end and the offseason begins. Here to help with that are two of GBB's very best- Senior Writers Matt Hrdlicka and Andrew Ford.

Matt: We've got a massive offseason in front of us and the draft is the first piece of that puzzle. Before we get to the actual players available, let's set the table. Andrew and I are co-GMs. He has final say on scouting, and I have final say on....I don't know, scouting seems really important to drafting so maybe Andrew has final say. We did not talk about our opinions of players in advance, so we each arrived at our lists separately. Anyway, the Grizzlies have the 17th pick in the draft, and for our hypothetical purposes, we will not be trading this pick. We will be drafting at 17, and let's assume that only players ranked outside the top 10 at DraftExpress.com will be available at that pick

{Hrdlicka note: this thread was started a while ago, and the DX rankings have changed since then}

Alright Andrew, I like to think of these guys in tiers, so split the players available on DX from 11 to wherever you want to stop into tiers without considering how they fit on the Grizzlies roster.
Tier 1: best guys available
Tier 2: Possible rotation guys
Tier 3: Projects
Tier 4: I'll assume any players not in tier 1 or 2 are in tier 4 and should not be under consideration at 17.

Andrew:

Tier 1: Best Guys Available
• Wade Baldwin
• Furkan Korkmaz
• Henry Ellenson
• Timothe Luwawu

Tier 2: Possible Rotation Guys
• Denzel Valentine
• Demetrius Jackson
• Domantas Sabonis
• Taurean Prince
• Tyler Ulis
• Damian Jones
• Juan Hernangomez
• Brice Johnson
• DeAndre Bembry
• Malachi Richardson

Tier 3: Projects
• Ivica Zubac
• Ante Zizic
• Malik Beasley
• Cheick Diallo
• Petr Cornelie
• Zhou Qi

Matt: Your board is very similar to mine. I'd flip Valentine and Korkmaz personally, and Ulis and Richardson... we'll talk about them, too. Mostly though, our ratings are pretty similar.

I am a big believer in taking best player available, however I don't know if we can afford to take a player who is a massive project (or a draft and stash) player at 17, simply because we have limited ways to get cost controlled production this offseason. With that said, every rule should be flexible and I'm willing to be talked out of this.

Is there a guy in tier 3 you think we should draft from tier 3 over tier 2, or maybe a better way to ask this is: who do you like the most in tier 3, and would you take them over anybody from tier 2, and why?

Andrew: While it might seem "safer" to take a guy from tier 3 like Ante Zizic or Cheick Diallo at 17, I'd reach for Malik Beasley, a guy I have more belief in than both of those guys. The first thing I'm looking for from a guy in tier 3 before I even get to skill set is work ethic and effort. Beasley proved in one season at Florida State that he's not a guy who's going to coast. He gives consistent effort and always competes, and that kind of quality in character makes me believe a guy will put the necessary time in to fill in gaps in his game.

As for Beasley's skill set, he's not ready to contribute for an NBA team right now, but nobody we pick at 17 is likely to be in a position to give us significant minutes on a nightly basis as a rookie. Even with shaky ball-handling skills, Beasley scored the ball incredibly efficiently in a variety of ways for the Seminoles last season. I can project the expansion of his game on the offensive end much more than I can the game of one of the big men I listed who have shown few flashes that lead me to believe a great deal of expansion to their games is even possible.

Even given his rudimentary ball-handling ability, Beasley should shoot the ball well enough on the catch that defenders will have to close out too aggressively, and he should be able to drive around them with a semblance of regularity. That by itself would add significant value to our offense. Defensively, he's athletic enough to get better on that end, and he won't be someone who's going to get in his own way on that end by not working for it. Defensive principles i.e. gap schemes, playing ball screens properly, help defense, etc. can be taught. If the effort wasn't already there, I'd be more worried about his ability on that end.

So yes, Beasley is a guy I might consider taking over three or four guys from tier 2. Perhaps that means I should have placed him in tier two to begin with, but I do have concerns about his lack of elite size which is why he is where he is.

How about you? Is there a guy in your third tier who you think we should consider taking over a guy in tier 2?

Matt: Almost every rookie is below average in their first year, so we sort of chalk up year 1 as a developmental year across the board. The way I think about drafting a tier 3 guy is this: does the potential higher value from a "project" down the road outweigh the (relative) surplus value and certainty I get from a more established player in the first 4 years of a rookie scale deal.

In other words: can we afford to gamble? I don't think we can. Here's why:

The looming free agency hangs over this entire draft, and it creates a situation that compels me away from projects, and  towards certainty. The gap between the rookie scale pay vs the rest of the NBA pay scale is about to be historically massive. Some rotation level free agents will be making $10mm. Starters will be making $15mm plus. If you can get even rotation level production from the 17th pick over the next 4 years, you are getting $10mm of value for 10% the cost.

In real terms, there has never been a larger gap between what you pay to a rookie, and what you will have to pay to a free agent.

If we were to select a tier 3 guy, I'd prioritize a wing, as there is a clearer path to playing time next year for them, so Beasley fits that for me. You not only rate bigs like Zizic and Qi as "further away" from being competent NBA players, but they also face a bit of a roster crunch. The Grizzlies have every front court minute under contract next year. So while this may sound like I'm "drafting for need," a Tier 3 guy needs at least some path to minutes, and I'm not fully comfortable shuffling the roster around the 17th pick in this draft.

I would say if only tier 3 players were available at 17 (and assuming there is no trade scenario available), I would co-sign Beasley just because he has a clearer path to minutes. I would also like to add Isaiah Cordinier to the list of Tier 3 guys. Quite a stretch at 17, but he also fits the bill of a clear path to minutes, and finding a long-term big backup pont guard who can play next to Conley is a must for this team. I think Cordinier belongs on the Tier 3 list just to be included in the discussion more than anything else.

For me, Tier 3 is a backup plan based on your scouting reports. If we could find a team that would trade us a late 1st or early 2nd, then I would be very interested in exploring that to scoop up one of these guys, but as for the 17th pick, I think we need to prioritize Tiers 2 and 1. Who is at the top of Tier 2 for you, or do you see it as a closely grouped bunch? I'm open to a compelling argument to draft a tier 2 big, but you would need to stand up in your cubicle and shout their names in your ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE voice.

Andrew: I love adding Cordinier to the discussion. When I scout players for the draft, I look at the following five major skill categories:

• Create for self
• Create for teammates
• Catch and shoot
• Defend a position
• Rebounding

There are a lot of subcategories that lie underneath those five categories, but if a player is above average (or projects to be above average) at three of the five skills then I have a good amount of faith that he can stick in the NBA as a rotation player. In order for me to consider drafting a player in the first round — particularly with pick 17 — who I think only has two above-average skills, then one or both of those skills need to be elite.

I bring up this part of my scouting methodology because Cordinier is a guy who I could at least see being above average at creating for himself, creating for teammates, and defending a position. I think he's a risk I'm not willing to take at 17, but he's a guy that I would absolutely pull the trigger on if things fell the right way and we could acquire a late first and a second for our pick.

You bring up fit, which I think is important to talk about a little bit. While we will be making this decision based mostly on best player available, the fit undoubtedly factors in at least a little bit. All teams understand which players could have a path to playing time for them and which guys would be likely to be buried on the depth chart for the extent of their rookie contract because of the position they play. It only makes sense to attempt to make your coach's life easier and not force him to under-utilize assets because you as a front office created an unnecessary positional logjam.

There are no bigs from tier 3 worth taking above anybody in tier 2, and I agree that Beasley fits the bill of a guy from tier 3 who would conceivably have a quicker path to playing time. However, I'm not taking Beasley over 75% of tier 2 even though I really like him. There are too many guys I feel more certain about in tier 2, and I think it is unlikely that all of them will be gone at 17.

Tier two has a little bit of stratification for me, as I see Denzel Valentine, Taurean Prince, and Juan Hernangomez as a step ahead of the rest of the tier, particularly when I factor in fit at least a tiny bit. I think a lot of teams are going to be sad that they passed on Valentine. He does so much well on both ends of the court, enough so that I almost put him in tier 1 despite his age.

{Hrdlicka note: concerns over Valentine's knee had not yet surfaced at the time, and we are assuming every player is 100% healthy because we are optimists and it is more fun that way}

Prince is a guy who doesn't always impose his will and place himself in the thick of things where he needs to be, but he's a guy who I envision thriving in a lower usage role than he played at Baylor. As the best player on his college team, he was asked to do far more than befits his natural skill set. That won't happen at the next level if he finds his way onto a good team. I'm not sure I'd draft any of the three aforementioned guys over anybody I have in tier 1, but I could be persuaded.

What if I were to video me standing up in my cube and screaming ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE? If I have to do that in order for us to draft who I want, I will do it. With that said, who from tier 2 do you most covet?

That ends Part 1 of this draft discussion. Tune in later this week for Parts 2 and 3.

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