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2016 NBA Draft: Memphis Grizzlies Draft Grades

In case you missed it- the Memphis Grizzlies had a very, very good draft night.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It's a weird feeling, isn't it?

There is no one (at least as of this writing) that has openly trashed the draft of the Memphis Grizzlies. No reaches, or silly promises. There was clear reasoning and logic for every pick for Memphis in the 2016 NBA Draft. The team's front office addressed needs via this draft, they drafted best player available via this draft, and they selected future assets via two draft and stash picks that may (#35 overall) or may not (#57 overall) ever come to full fruition.

For a team that more than likely will not have a 2017 first round pick, they did a great job stocking their cupboard in 2016. Here are some grades for the four selections of the Grizzlies in the 2016 NBA Draft.

#17 Overall- Wade Baldwin, Guard, Vanderbilt University

The first round played out almost perfectly for Memphis. I say almost somewhat selfishly, as my guy (Denzel Valentine) was gone at this point to the Chicago Bulls, but other than him the Grizzlies essentially had their pick of the litter with regard to possible selections. Timothe Luwawu was available. Henry Ellenson was there. Unfortunately, Malachi Richardson (because of the promise) and Malik Beasley (because I am over undersized shooting guards) were there. The Grizzlies could hit a home run at #17 overall, or swing and miss violently (I acknowledge lots of smart people like Beasley).

They went with the best possible combination of need and best player available they could have gotten at this point with Wade Baldwin. He has been broken down here and elsewhere  at length, but the key things to know are he can shoot the rock and has the defensive upside due to his size and length (6'4" with a 6'11" wingspan!) to create mismatches on the perimeter. He can relieve Mike Conley from ball handling duties, he can relieve Mike Conley from defending the opposing team's better guard all of the time, and he can play alongside most any Grizzlies wing player moving forward.

Promises be damned. Wade Baldwin was an excellent use of the Grizzlies' first round pick.


#31 Overall- Deyonta Davis, Forward, Michigan State

A trade with the Boston Celtics got Memphis their next two selections. The Grizzlies sent the 2019 first round pick they got in the Jeff Green deal (that is heavily protected and will likely become two second rounders eventually) to Boston for #31 and #35 overall in this year's draft.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace said that they would have done the deal whether or not Davis was there at #31 overall because of their selection at #35, but there he was, a Lottery level talent sitting at the start of the second round.

Neither did anyone else, Chris, and even with the log jam in the front court this pick was a huge success. Need should not override best player available, especially in situations like this one where the value is so great. Davis is a good rebounder with the potential to be great and has natural touch at, around, and even a bit removed from the rim. He has a tremendous frame (6'11", 237 pounds, 7'2" wing span) and could develop in to quite the rim protector...

And there is the key word. DEVELOP. Davis may have fallen so far because his game and frame are both still quite raw. He has the talent of a lottery pick, but his strength and understanding of scheme perhaps could be better. Head Coach David Fizdale should be excited to have such a gifted piece of clay to mold as he puts his player development skills to good use with Davis. Memphis doesn't need him right away, and he will be given time to grow in to an NBA starter-level player.

Davis can be that, and at #31 overall that is fantastic value.


#35 Overall- Rade Zagorac, International

The reason that Memphis made the trade with Boston, Rade is almost certainly the first of two draft and stash options for Memphis coming out of this draft. This may frustrate some- players like Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia, Patrick McCaw of UNLV, and Diamond Stone of Maryland were still available for the Grizzlies as players with value at this point in the draft. But Zagorac's game is worthy of consideration here- he can score the basketball and has a great frame that he can potentially grow in to (6'8", 205 pounds). He, again, is Memphis potentially looking ahead a bit to the future- the Grizzlies, assuming they have a plan to acquire a couple of wings in Free Agency, do not need Zagorac this season. He could come in handy as the "Grit and Grind" era comes to a close in the next year or so, though.

International potential is a worthwhile endeavor at #35, as long as there is a plan to address a pressing need when Free Agency starts in the next week or so.


#57 Overall- Wang Zhelin, International

This pick Memphis had acquired from the Toronto Raptors some time ago, and again it is a draft and stash. However, unlike Zagorac, it is unlikely Zhelin ever plays a meaningful minute as a Memphis Grizzly. I am nowhere near an expert of Zhelin, so I got some help from Jill Kong, a GBBer whose basketball opinion I trust and value, with regards to his game. Here is what she said-

Grizzlies last selection Wang Zhelin, 7'0" center with a 6'9" wingspan, is currently playing for Fujian Basketball of China. Being the national team backup for Zhou Qi, another Chinese prospect drafted this year, Wang gained a bit of oversea fame by getting 19 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in 2012 Nike Hoop Summit. However, poor player development in the Chinese league and a knee injury this season derailed his career path. Although he showed impressive low-post scoring ability at the junior international level, he's had issues with poor conditioning and lack of further skill development over the years. He lacks the speed and athleticism needed to compete at the NBA level.

While having no problem getting points on the low block at Fujian and having decent rebounding ability, his poor defense has long been a concern. In the best case scenario, he can possibly become a solid international big with low post skills.

As stated last night, Wang may as well be Janis Timma. While he may be a better player than initially thought, he still is more than likely a draft and stash to be used in a trade later on. There is value in that, especially at #57 overall.



The Memphis Grizzlies had a fantastic draft. They got two players that should be direct contributors now (Baldwin) and down the road (Davis), they took two draft and stash projects who can eventually come over and impact the Grizzlies (Zagorac) or be used in a future trade (Zhelin), and they did not go overboard in any of the dealings that they did. If you can leave draft night improving your team both in the short and long term, you had a successful draft. The Memphis Grizzlies did just that on Thursday night.

Technically this grade should be a B+, but I am grading on a curve. Memphis' first two selections were just tremendous, and extremely good value considering how the draft fell.

Part one of the offseason? A great success. Now on to Free Agency, which will be headlined by Mike Conley's decision and the pursuit of spacing/creating on the perimeter, likely from wing players. The fun is just getting started.

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