A season of “tanking” seemed worthless, with the hopes of Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley III in a Grizzlies jersey diminishing. Although recent reports have given a glimmer of hope that either Doncic or Bagley slips to the Grizz, they are merely rumors. The Grizzlies do have history on their side, however, as the #4 pick in the draft has continuously produced solid NBA talent. Similar to earlier GBB articles featuring the 10 best and 10 worst draft picks in Memphis Grizzlies history, I’ll be examining all the #4 overall picks in the NBA Draft ever since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001. Of these 16 players, some will go on to be future Hall of Famers, while others will always be remembered as draft busts.
Historically, just how well has the #4 played in the NBA? Let’s find out:
2002 Drew Gooden - Memphis Grizzlies
The first ever draft pick for the Memphis Grizzlies, Drew Gooden had a solid 14 year career in the NBA averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds a game while playing for an insane 11 different teams. Gooden was never an All-Star caliber player, but was able to prove himself a legitimate and solid NBA player throughout his long career.
2003 Chris Bosh - Toronto Raptors
Chris Bosh is the first future Hall of Famer on this list, having a great 13 year career before a heart condition ended his career short (despite comeback attempt rumors). Over his 13 years, Bosh averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds en route to 11 All Star appearances and 2 NBA championships.
2004 Shaun Livingston - Los Angeles Clippers
Shaun Livingston was poised for superstardom when he was drafted in 2004. A horrific knee injury in his 3rd season could have ended his career, but he has fought back and made himself a quality role player his 12 seasons in the league, currently with the Warriors. Livingston never had the chance to live up to his hype after his knee injury, but he’s been able to still carve out a solid NBA career, as he’s searching for his 3rd NBA championship with the Warriors this postseason.
2005 Chris Paul - New Orleans Hornets
Chris Paul typically draws the ire of Grizzlies fans for his antics on the court, but the Grizzlies would be pleased to get a player of CP3’s caliber in the 2018 NBA Draft. Paul has averaged 18.7 points, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals throughout his 12 year career that has resulted in 9 All-Star appearances and a Rookie of the Year Award in 2006. CP3 has also racked up a ton of defensive awards throughout his career.
2006 Tyrus Thomas - Portland Trail Blazers
Tyrus Thomas is the first draft bust on this list, with disappointing averages of 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Technically, Thomas lasted 8 years in the league, but played 225 of his 402 career games in his first 3 seasons. Thomas flamed out in Chicago and lasted a few seasons with Charlotte (and 2 games with the Grizzlies) before his career came to an end.
2007 Mike Conley Jr. - Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley, Mr. Underrated himself, struggled early in his ten year career but has since become one of the best players in Memphis Grizzlies history. Conley’s career averages of 14.3 points, 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals won’t jump out on a page at you, but Memphis knows how crucial Conley has been, and will be, to the Grizzlies success. One of these days, Conley will get his well deserved All-Star nod.
2008 Russell Westbrook - Seattle Supersonics
Another future Hall of Famer was selected in 2008 when the then Supersonics drafted Russell Westbrook 4th overall. Westbrook has averaged triple-doubles the past two seasons, to go along with his career averages of 23 points, 6.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists. Westbrook is also a 7x All-Star, 2x scoring champ and a MVP winner.
2009 Tyreke Evans - Sacramento Kings
Injuries have kept Tyreke Evans from having the career most expected when the Kings drafted him in 2009. Evans’ great rookie season earned him Rookie of the Year honors but injuries have limited him to 525 games over his eight year career. Evans has averaged 16.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists so he’s a quality player when healthy.
2010 Wesley Johnson - Minnesota Timberwolves
Our second true draft bust of the list, Wesley Johnson has been a major disappointment in the NBA. Johnson flamed out early in Minnesota and has spent the past few seasons underwhelming in LA for both teams. Johnson has averaged a measly 7.2 points and not much else over his career. He’s a solid defender, but not the superstar the Wolves were hoping to draft.
2011 Tristan Thompson - Cleveland Cavaliers
Tristan Thompson has anchored the Cavaliers defense over the past six seasons. Thompson was a quality pickup in the 2011 draft after the Cavs selected Kyrie Irving first overall. Thompson has averaged 9 points and 8.4 rebounds over his career, despite catching some blame when the Cavs have returned during Lebron’s second tenure. Cleveland got it’s superstar with the first pick, so Thompson becoming a role player wasn’t disastrous for the Cavs.
2012 Dion Waiters - Cleveland Cavaliers
Waiters’ career was heading on a downward spiral when Lebron returned to Cleveland. After a productive first two-seasons, Waiters numbers dipped when he had less shot attempts and eventually wound up in Miami where he has turned into a solid role player for the Heat. Waiters has averaged 13.3 points over his 5 year career.
2013 Cody Zeller - Charlotte Bobcats
The youngest Zeller brother was considered a reach in the weak 2013 NBA Draft and although he hasn’t turned into a superstar, he’s become a quality big off the bench for the Charlotte Hornets. Zeller’s 7.1 points and 5.6 rebounds aren’t great, but it’s quality production in only 22.5 minutes per game.
2014 Aaron Gordon - Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon struggled his first three seasons in the league, as the Magic tried to figure out what position fit him best. Gordon had a breakout season this past season, averaging 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds a game. Known more for his dunking ability, Gordon has also expanded his game to the perimeter making him a potential All-Star if he reaches his potential.
2015 Kristaps Porzingis - New York Knicks
Remember when Knicks fans booed the selection of Porzingis? The Latvian forward has been the lone bright spot on the Knicks the past three seasons, earning his first All-Star nod the past season before tearing his ACL. Porzingis has averaged 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds over his career and will be one of the best players of his generation in the NBA.
2016 Dragan Bender - Phoenix Suns
It may be too early to call Bender a bust after only two seasons in the NBA, but he’s done little to prove he belongs. The 20 year old has averaged only 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds after being a highly touted prospect going into the 2016 draft. Bender is young enough to save his career, but the first two years haven’t been pretty.
2017 Josh Jackson - Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson had a solid rookie season this past season, earning him 2nd team All-Rookie honors. Averaging 13.1 points and 4.6 rebounds for the tanking Suns, Jackson showed enough to warrant his selection in the 2017 draft. Pairing Jackson with the #1 Overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft gives the Suns a bright future (pun intended).
So the Grizzlies may not be so screwed after all. Of the 16 mentioned players, a max of 3 can be considered full busts. While some have only become role players in the NBA, it’s at least not a total waste of a pick, especially considering the future Hall of Famers that have been selected 4th overall. In total, the 4th overall pick the past 16 seasons have 28 All-Star Appearances, a Rookie of the Year award and a MVP.
The Grizzlies and their fans are understandably frustrated with the way the lottery went (unless you’re Chris Wallace) but if history replays itself, the Grizzlies should be just fine.