We have arrived at draft week, and not a moment too soon, as Memphis Grizzlies fans are nearing a fever pitch with excitement, nervousness, and in some cases downright fear.
There are so many rumors coming from all sorts of “sources”, all of whom with some sort of agenda or angle to keep in mind as we go through the end of this process. Agents will try to get their client drafted as high as possible, for that is their job. Teams will purposely travel to workouts or bring in players for closer looks just to throw opposing organizations off the scent of what the hell they’re going to do this Thursday night.
Then, there’s the social media. Too much social media.
Now, with the draft coming later this week, there are a few names firmly on the radar of most mock drafts for the Grizzlies. Who will actually be there remains to be seen, but it will most likely be one of these three players.
The Ringer, Sporting News, CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish - Michael Porter Jr. forward, University Missouri.
Porter Jr. remains an enigma. He was not able to participate in an actual workout this past Friday, but lottery teams (including the Grizzlies) were granted the opportunity to bring their medical teams to evaluate his medical records and get a better feel for where he is physically after hip tightness/pain crept up on him after ramping up his pre-draft physical activity.
You should all be horrified.
Yes, Porter would check so many boxes for Memphis as a scorer and a versatile perimeter player. Yet with the questions that have still not been answered, and the fact that all we have to go off of is reports from agent and handler-led workouts, not actual competitive basketball? This would be a massively risky selection at #4 overall.
Porter may be a trade back target for the Grizzlies, if they choose to go that route. But even though all these sites and writers are terrific and well-sourced, I have to think given recent history the red flags regarding Porter’s back will scare Memphis off.
ESPN/DraftExpress, Bleacher Report, USA Today - Luka Doncic, guard, Real Madrid
Much like the smoke signals clearly being thrown around by Michael Porter Jr. and his camp regarding his health, clearly there are both media and internal mind games being played regarding Doncic. Arguably the most accomplished prospect in NBA Draft history, Doncic comes to the NBA as also arguably the most polarizing prospect in NBA Draft history. Many fans and pundits have Doncic as either an unbelievable bust or a future hall of famer, as too slow to acheive in the NBA or so offensively skilled he can’t possibly fail.
None of these takes are probably true.
One of the few truly certain things about Doncic’s future exploits in the Association is he’d fit very, very well with the Grizzlies. He could be a secondary ball handler next to Mike Conley. He could defend lesser offesnively/athletically gifted wings while Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden Jr. take on the tougher assignments. He would have a built-in support system of players and front office personnel with European basketball experience, as well as multiple former players who could mentor him with regard to what it means to be an NBA player.
Savior? Probably not. Bust? Unlikely. Very good player who makes Memphis better immediately due to his skill set and experience? Almost certainly. He would be a great pick at #4.
The future of “bigs” in Memphis
The reality of the situation for the Grizzlies, of course, is that they are at the mercy of the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks. Assuming DeAndre Ayton goes to Phoenix, as most do, beyond that you’re waiting on two other franchises with varying level of historical dysfunction. Wherever they go, you will eventually be on the clock with a difficult decision to make.
If Doncic goes to Sacramento, and Jaren Jackson Jr. goes to Atlanta, Marvin Bagley makes a lot of sense for Memphis and he is taken by the Grizzlies in other mock drafts. Great talent, good offensive player and rebounder from day one...he too would make the Grizzlies better. Plus, you’ve seen him actually dominate a level of basketball most fans are familiar with in the ACC. He fits, and while he is not a perfect power forward or center he has the tools to be an excellent modern NBA “big”.
Watch that modern NBA, though. Look at who dominated, or even performed at a high level, in the NBA Playoffs. Joel Embiid. Al Horford. Draymond Green. All those “bigs” could defend, create for others in a variety of ways, all those front court players had multiple levels of their game beyond the stereotypical “20 and 10” that was once valued so mightily, especially in Memphis with Zach Randolph.
Bagley’s defense is a legitimate concern. The ACC that he dominated offensively also was able to take advantage of him on that end of the floor. Bagley hasn’t yet shown the ability to facilitate for others, or consistently shift his feet and rotate defensively. The understanding of those levels within the game isn’t quite there yet...and those types of players don’t thrive in the modern NBA. If you’re a big, you need to defend. You need to pass, and rotate, and hedge, and switch.
In some ways, Bagley will thrive in Memphis if he is the pick. In others? Much work will have to be done if he is going to be “the man” in Memphis beyond Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. These concerns could well lead to Memphis leaning toward Porter, or considering trading back to get more picks/assets down the road.