James Harden was selected #3 and Stephen Curry was selected at #7.
The year before, the Memphis Grizzlies actually honest to goodness drafted Kevin Love with the 5th overall selection. He was then included in a package on draft night for Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric, Antoine Walker, and of course O.J. Mayo.
In 2003, the Memphis Grizzlies had only a top-1 protected 1st round selection because of a 1997 trade for Otis Thorpe. If the 2003 NBA Draft sounds familiar, it’s because it is the best draft of a generation that included the best player of his generation-- LeBron James.
As much of a glutton for punishment I am concerning the misery of my sports teams, I’m not here to drudge up bad memories for the hell of it. The off-season is long, but it isn’t THAT long.
The Memphis Grizzlies do not have a draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Not in the 1st round and not in the 2nd round either. You can look at that in one of two ways:
1. How do we not have a SINGLE draft pick? There’s 60 selections to spread among 30 teams and we couldn’t find one extra laying around? Or, you know, actually keep one of our picks instead of using it on salary dumps?
2. There’s no way we can ruin this! Technically, you can’t pick a bust if you can’t pick at all. We can’t reach on a player or get another non-shooting wing. We as fans can enjoy the draft without the feeling that our cards where we write the selections aren’t better off being directly thrown into a fireplace rather than handed to Adam Silver.
The second option is a lot more fun.
In the first, self-righteous option, we wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to complain. This is one of the better drafts of the last few years and the Grizzlies would have had the #20 pick. According to DraftExpress’ latest mock draft, players such as Terrance Ferguson, Bam Adebayo, and Harry Giles would all be available at that slot-- all players that could help fill a role on the Grizzlies roster.
“Could” is the operative word there. Just like last year when the Grizzlies “could” have selected Tyler Ulis, Patrick McCaw, or Rookie of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon with their 17th or 31st selection. It’s been just a season, but those three have thus far shown a lot more capable of playing in the NBA than Wade Baldwin or Deyonta Davis in their current states.
It hasn’t even been a full year since the 2016 draft and I’m already concerned about what we missed out on. The Grizzlies’ selections on draft nights through the years sent a clear message to any raw prospects in the draft: you will rarely be good in the NBA, and if you are, it sure as hell isn’t going to be as a Memphis Grizzly. Ask Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll, and Mike Bibby how they fared once they left Memphis/Vancouver.
So instead of punishing this team with the past, let’s understand how a pick-less draft can actually help this team.
I said before that Wade Baldwin IV and Deyonta Davis aren’t as NBA-polished as the rookies mentioned earlier, but it is no indictment on them-- different players have different learning curves. But 2017-2018 is a brand new year. Another off-season with NBA coaches, another Summer League cycle, and another NBA training camp to grow. Optimistically thinking, if they develop into some sort of role next year where they crack the consistent rotation, it’ll be like adding two brand new players. They both combined for less than 700 minutes of floor time, all mostly inconsequential. If they can gain the trust of the coaching staff and with that playing time, it should be considered fresh new additions.
This was the case with Andrew Harrison a year ago. This was his rookie season despite being in the 2015 draft because he spent his first professional year in the former D-League. He was the backup point guard for a Grizzlies team was desperately looking for a better backup point guard at the trade deadline. Memphis rolled the dice with Toney Douglas and it failed. Therefore, the backup role was firmly in Harrison’s young hands.
As much as Grizzlies fans, including yours truly, pined for ANYBODY else to take that role, Harrison held his own in the playoffs against San Antonio. He played hard, played solid defense, and shot a lot better compared to his regular season self-- 45% vs 33%. He earned his playing time over Wade Baldwin because Baldwin wasn’t ready yet. But Harrison wasn’t ready a year ago. Patience will go a long way towards Baldwin’s development, especially since he wasn’t thrown to the wolves when he wasn't ready.
Even after we get a hopefully retooled Wade Baldwin and Deyonta Davis, the Grizzlies will still welcome a rookie. Rade Zagorac is expected to come play for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2017-18 after staying another year in Serbia after being selected with the 35th selection in 2016.
This will be some fresh blood in the Grizzlies organization. A player that fits the physical mold of Chandler Parsons, albeit less talented, without the debilitating injury history. Memphis will add a 22-year old player that can genuinely help in 2017-18. Other than backup point guard, the most important need for this team is another wing that could contribute. Zagorac has shown he has skill and gives effort, but being able to exert that against NBA competition for 82 games is a completely different story.
Zagorac isn’t a sure thing-- he’s a 2nd round pick, he isn’t expected to be one. But there's at least some reason to be optimistic about his prospects. He will be a rookie and a mostly unknown commodity. That should be enough to pique our interests as Grizzlies fans even though we missed out on a selection in the upcoming draft.
Barring a trade or financial move to acquire a 2nd round pick, Rade Zagorac will be the only rookie on this roster next season. That’ll probably end up being a good thing. The Grizzlies are like every team in the league in that they are looking for good, young talent. This talent isn’t supposed to change this franchise’s direction, but complement the team’s already in place core. Zagorac, Davis, and Baldwin’s arrival and progressions may be enough to do that. Depending on how many of its free agents they re-sign, Memphis might not be able to even play the three young guns.
Adding another rookie would be beneficial and ideal. But when has this team made ideal front office decisions? The Grizzlies could select former #1 recruit Harry Giles with their #20 pick if they had it, or they could use it to draft the next Xavier Henry or Jordan Adams.
With the Grizzlies draft history and stash of young players waiting on the end of the bench, it might be best to stay out of the draft. Memphis could avoid a logjam of young players and keep them on the NBA active roster instead of placing them on Memphis’ new G-League team, Memphis Hustle. It would avoid a logjam, and also avoid the stress of watching draft night.
Now, you the fan can watch the NBA Draft this June without assuming the worst. The Grizzlies won’t pick a bust in the late first round to see 2nd round gems flourish months later. I do not trust this team to make a not-bad draft pick until proven otherwise. Thankfully, logistically and emotionally, the Grizzlies don’t have a pick to waste in 2017. Having 0 draft picks might be more productive than having 3 1st-round selections in 2010.
Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez only played one season with Memphis.
The other pick, Dominique Jones, was traded on draft night.
Not for another 1st-rounder, or an actual NBA player or prospect, but for cash.
Yeah...having no picks might turn out alright.