Matt: If you do an ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE video from your cubicle during the middle of a workday, then this (fake) draft pick is all yours!
Your ranking is very similar to mine. I have Valentine and Hernangomez above the rest, with Prince and Sabonis slightly below them. You mentioned age with Valentine, and that's my biggest concern. How much better can he get?
With Prince, I think his defense is slightly more of a question than most. Baylor played so much zone, and I can't give him credit for something he probably wasn't asked to do much in college, even though I think it's probably smart to go with consensus that he projects as a plus defender. But I want to pair the question marks I have about Prince's defense with doubt that he will ever be more than an eventual catch and shoot/attack a closeout guy. Put those things together and I think Prince's ceiling is a "3 & D" guy, and his tools are a little more up in the air than maybe some think.
The best way to put Prince in perspective is to contrast him with Valentine. Both are older, they have nearly identical standing reaches and wingspans, and I'd argue that both guys were asked to do more than they will on the NBA level. There are legit questions about Valentine being able to finish at the rim, or becoming even an average defender, but passing, ball handling, and shooting are all very expensive to find in free agency, and Valentine can do all of those things.
Because these skills are rare, particularly in the same player, I'd put Valentine in tier 1, but because you hate Valentine (that is how this works), I guess I'll have to settle for him being at the top of tier 2, with Hernangomez right behind. I love both Hernangomez and Sabonis. I have Hernangomez rated higher because of his production and size relative to competition. I think Sabonis has the potential to guard in space and shoot down the road, but I don't know if he will ever be able to protect the rim. That is a problem for me considering the only box the Grizz bigs don't check is rim protection.
Compare that to another player the Grizzlies have been rumored to "promise": Malachi Richardson. What do you think of him?
Andrew: Malachi Richardson is a guy the Grizzlies seem to love...
Matt: Hold on. I want to talk about promises for a second. What does it mean to promise a prospect? If we were to tell Malachi Richardson's agent that we really like him, and we could definitely see drafting him at 17, is that a promise? What about: "We love Malachi, and we'd be thrilled to get him at 17." What about: "Malachi is on our radar at 17, and I don't think he will make it past us."
All of these statements convey interest; none of them are an explicit promise to draft Richardson. And what the hell is a "soft promise?" Is that like an "open marriage," or more like "friends with benefits?" Do you have to say the words "soft promise" as part of the promise, or do you just have promise softly?
The point is that the Grizzlies seem to have real interest in Richardson, but I think there is a degree of nuance here that is missing from the discussion. I'll stop now. What were you saying?
Andrew: Anyway... Malachi Richardson is a guy the Grizzlies seem to love but I don't get the hype. The one thing I really like about him is that he has the ability to create his own shot on the perimeter as well as by driving to the hole. His long strides enable him to create space that a lot of guys can't on stepback jumpers, but those same strides leave him prone to off-balance shots. His ability to create something from nothing enables him to have the ball in his hands at crucial junctures and hit what I call "gotta have it" shots when the offense turns stagnant. He's a guy that you can mix in with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on paper just fine, because he can spot up or take some of the load off of those two in terms of creating offense.
However, he's not a good passer. He doesn't see the floor well, and he doesn't look to pass when he often should. This limits his playmaking ability, and his brand of one-dimensional offensive creativity isn't highly regarded in the modern game. He can knock down threes as a spot-up shooter as well as off the bounce. That's a skill the Grizzlies desperately need, and I'm sure that ability has elevated him on the draft board. Defensively, he's just okay when locked in. He's not athletic enough to be great on that end, and entering a league where he will be forced to defend a man after leaning on the crutch that is the Syracuse 2-3 zone makes me less than enthusiastic about his defense. To stick in the league, he will have to develop better situational awareness on both ends of the floor. That's not a bet I'd be willing to make with more proven players sure to be on the board at 17.
Matt: One of the few college games I watched was the Elite 8 game where he went crazy in the 2nd half against Virginia. I remember thinking that Richardson looked like a scout from fifteen years ago's wet dream. He never passed, was off balance on jump shots as often as not (and his shooting numbers show he has to make drastic improvements there). In fairness to him, Jim Boeheim basically stopped running an offense and just ISO'ed him.
The NBA is just a different animal. It's not that I think Richardson cannot adapt. It's just that I have far more skepticism that he will adapt. He has more hurdles to clear over than the wings at the top of this tier.
Speaking of hurdles to clear, I basically think Tyler Ulis and Brice Johnson are undraftable at 17. Johnson was super-productive, and stats love him, but I just don't see the upside given all the other options the Grizzlies have. Ulis is just too short. He can't play with Conley and beyond that, he just might not be able to play.
On his show, Chris Vernon said that Ulis killed in his Grizzlies workout, but that workout had no bigs in it. Not only are you betting that a 5'9" guy can make it in the league, he is unplayable with the 2nd best player on your team who you're hoping to lock up for the next 5 years.
That's a nice segue to the point guards. This team basically needs a player at point guard, shooting guard, and small forward to pair with their players under contract, and a big who can defend the rim would be under the nice-to-have list.
Ulis is so far behind the other point guards for me based on fit and skepticism of his height that he is basically not under consideration for me at 17.
Although - and I cannot stress this enough - you do maintain the ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE trump card if you want to use it on Ulis. How do you see all the PGs stacking up? You have Wade Baldwin in tier 1. What puts him over the other guys?
Andrew: I am with you on Ulis. Even if he turns out to be good — which I don't have faith in — he's not who the Grizzlies need to pair with Conley and he certainly won't be Conley's replacement if Conley were to leave for some reason. Ulis was a workhorse for Kentucky, but his height is a massive obstacle that he has to overcome.
I'm worried that he'll be turnover prone in areas he wasn't in college. For instance, I think he will get heavily blitzed on pick-and-rolls, because defenses will gamble that he won't be able to pass over the outstretched arms of two defenders. I've seen people say that height won't be the reason he won't succeed at the next level, and I think that's naive considering that only a handful of players that size have ever succeeded in the NBA.
The only other two point guards who are draftable at 17 are Wade Baldwin and Demetrius Jackson. The reason Baldwin is in tier 1 and Jackson is in tier 2 for me is a combination of upside and fit. Baldwin clearly has more versatility to me, as he would be able to backup Conley or play alongside him in a secondary ball-handler capacity while handling the tougher backcourt defensive matchup because of his combination of quickness, size and physicality. Jackson absolutely cannot play alongside Conley, because that would present the Grizzlies with a huge size problem at the guard positions.
Baldwin's dribbling ability is not as developed as I would like it to be, but it's certainly good enough to play off the ball while still taking some of the pressure from Conley by handling the ball in spurts. He can get to the rim if he has a straight shot, but he hasn't flashed many counter moves when his physicality has been matched. But Jackson has his own problems running the point. He pounds the ball into the ground too often, and an argument could be made that he has more utility playing off the ball. His three-point percentage drastically decreased last season at Notre Dame when he was asked to carry more of the playmaking load. Composure is another aspect of Baldwin's game that I love. He's truly a coach on the floor on both ends, and that's useful in a league where thinking quick is paramount to nailing schemes.
Back to Valentine for a minute. I don't hate him, but I do think we could get more upside at pick 17 which I'm prioritizing a great deal. With that said, Valentine's polish is impressive. He does do a lot well offensively as you pointed out, and that makes him draftable at 17 if everyone from my first tier is gone. Is he number one on your list, or is there a player you covet more?
Matt: You're the scout! This is what we pay you the big (hypothetical) bucks for! I think a lot of these guys are going to have careers in the NBA, so my love for Valentine is not a slight to these other guys. The key for me is this: this is a player you will have next to Conley and Gasol for the next 4 years, and probably beyond. In a perfect world in years 3 & 4, they should start to be able to take some of the load off of our stars from a skill set perspective.
Taurean Prince can't do that. Sabonis might, but we have other guys on the roster that do a lot of what he already does, and drafting him necessitates moving Wright, JaM or Jarell simply to fill in minutes somewhere else (I'm not averse to this scenario, but it adds a level of complication).
Assuming that there are no red flags medically or attitude-wise, I would consider taking Hernangomez over Valentine. He's probably the only one. Valentine and Hernangomez's shooting and ball handling are valuable and hard to find.
In another year, I would be happy with taking a guy like Deandre Bembry at 17, but he feels like a consolation prize for the following list of guys....
Stay tuned to Part 3 when both Andrew and I reveal the players we like the most and we wrap up our pre-draft conversation.