Tis’ the season!
With the NBA Draft Lottery (and the almost certain but slightly illogical heartbreak of Memphis picking lower than third in the 2018 NBA Draft) less than a week away, I decided to jump in to Memphis Grizzlies history, or Grizztory, and rank the top-10 draft picks in Grizzlies history. Now, before we begin, some notes -
- Note that these are draft picks, not players. Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol...none of these guys will appear on this list because they were not DRAFTED by the Grizzlies.
- I am starting with 2001, also known as the first year of the MEMPHIS Grizzlies. Sorry Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antonio Daniels, Steve Francis...you’re not on this list either.
- Notice that this isn’t top-10 1st round picks. 2nd round picks are eligible for consideration.
- Hasheem Thabeet is not allowed anywhere near this grouping of players.
- Criteria considered while making these picks - games played overall, win shares per 48 minutes and Value Over Replacement Player according to basketball-reference.com, as well as other statistical categories and overall roles on their respective teams.
Let’s get this show on the road. In Part I, we will break down #’s 10-6.
10. Greivis Vasquez
I have to be honest, when I first started following the Memphis Grizzlies in the spring of 2011 I was hesitant at first because...well...I hated Greivis Vasquez. The 28th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft for the Grizzlies, Vasquez ruined Maryland basketball for me because...well...he was the worst. Yet ask most Memphians and they will swear up and down that Vasquez was one of the very best backup point guards in Grizzlies history. Vasquez has played in over 400 games in his NBA career, and only spent 83 of them in Memphis (including the playoffs), but he made his presence known during that magical playoff run of 2011.
Even for a strong Vasquez hater like me, that’s a memory I will never forget. Here’s to hoping that after stints with four other NBA teams and a year out of the Association this past season he gets another chance to make a team.
9. Kendrick Perkins
Please, feel free to make your favorite Kendrick Perkins joke now.
OK, now that you’re back, it’s time to put a little respect on Perk’s name. Despite not really possessing much of an offensive game, the 27th pick of Memphis in the 2003 NBA Draft has logged 17,162 NBA minutes. That is more than Jamaal Tinsley (an honorable mention on this list), Bryant Reeves, and a guy who will not pop up on this list later, Stromile Swift. His value as a defender and enforcer on the floor is clearly valued, even in 2018 when his name comes up for possible open roster spots alongside LeBron James and others.
He never logged a single minute as a Grizzly, but Perkins is the type of player that Memphis probably would have grown to love...maybe.
8. Hakim Warrick
The number 19 pick of the Grizzlies in the 2005 NBA Draft came out of Syracuse with a lot of hype. An elite athlete, it was hoped that his long, athletic frame would develop in to a complete two-way big in the NBA. This never fully materialized, of course - his best season in Memphis, and coincidentally his last full one, had him average 11.6 points and 5 rebounds a night without much impact beyond the occasion highlight dunk, block, or steal. There is value, though, in a league where the average player only plays for five seasons selecting a guy who played for eight. Warrick wasn’t great as a role player, he wasn’t bad...he was meh.
At #19 overall? There have been worse selections. Besides...have you seen the guy dunk?
We will always have the dunks.
7. Drew Gooden
Gooden was expected to be much more than he was.
Drew was the #4 overall pick of the Grizzlies in the 2002 NBA Draft, but never really caught fire in Memphis. In 51 games played, he scored 12.8 points and grabbed 5.8 rebounds per game, but he started in over half those games and only played about 26 minutes per contest. When the opportunity to trade Gooden to Orlando (along with Gordan Giriček for Mike Miller, Ryan Humphrey, and some picks, one of which eventually became Perkins) they were not too taken aback by the idea of moving Gooden on instead of, say, Stromile Swift.
Gooden played 14 seasons with 10, count em’, 10 NBA teams. While that may be a decent career for most, when you are taken #4 overall? More is to be expected, especially considering that you can argue his best NBA season came 11 years after he was first drafted, as a 32 year-old in Washington with the Wizards.
6. Matt Barnes
There is a good chance you have actively tried to forget that Matt Barnes was ever a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s a fun answer to a trivia question, though -
“This player, drafted in the 2nd round in the 2002 NBA Draft, did not play a minute for the Memphis Grizzlies, the team that drafted him, until 13 years later.”
Who is Matt Barnes?
Traded almost immediately after being selected #46 overall by Memphis, Barnes built a pretty solid 14 season career for himself. A versatile wing who could play both the 3 and 4 as he got older, Barnes made himself a decent three point marksman through the latter stages of his career. More than that though, much like Perkins he had a reputation as an enforcer on a team. He defended his teammates...most of the time, and there was/is something to be said for that.
Barnes isn’t the best guy in the world, most would argue. Surely many are hoping that Dillon Brooks can one day take the mantle of “best 2nd round player selected by the Grizzlies in their history”.
For now? Basketball wise, that distinction goes to Barnes and his 929 regular season, plus 95 playoff, games.
Check back tomorrow for Part II!