To prepare for the NBA draft lottery, and to get through the dog days between now and then, Grizzly Bear Blues will be running a small mock draft series to show how the draft could shake out if the Memphis Grizzlies landed the first, second, third, fourth, or eighth pick this year. Let’s start with the fun one.
The first sim that resulted in the top pick for the Grizzlies went as following: Memphis, Cleveland, Washington, Phoenix, New York.
- Memphis Grizzlies — Zion Williamson, basketball anomaly, Duke University
- Cleveland Cavaliers — R.J. Barrett, ball-handler/wing, Duke University
- Washington Wizards — Ja Morant, ball-handler, Murray State University
- Phoenix Suns — Darius Garland, ball-handler, Vanderbilt University
- New York Knicks — DeAndre Hunter, wing, University of Virginia
For the Memphis Grizzlies, it’s a pretty easy choice here, and they shouldn't think twice about it. Take Zion.
Cleveland already has a promising point guard in Collin Sexton, who quietly had a superb rookie season and flashed the potential to be a consistent 20-point scorer here. With Barrett, they’ll have a lethal backcourt pairing for the future, as either player can play both on or off the ball.
Washington just needs to take the best player on the board, and Ja Morant will be a huge get here for the Wizards. He can play alongside Bradley Beal — who solidified himself as the best non-Harden 2-guard in the league — and he could be a long-term replacement for John Wall as well.
Phoenix could go with Jarrett Culver or DeAndre Hunter, but they need to delay the inevitable and give Devin Booker a good backcourt mate. Don’t be surprised to see Darius Garland rise in the pre-draft process, despite a knee injury that sidelined him most of the year.
Jarrett Culver could very well be the pick here for the New York Knicks, but I love Hunter’s fit as a defensive specialist and spot-up shooter next to the potential star-pairing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (or Kemba Walker). In the event they don’t land a star this summer, pairing him with Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, and Kevin Knox is still promising.
This pick is the easiest one to make. They shouldn’t be cute by picking Ja Morant or RJ Barrett, or by trading the pick either.
There’s really not much to say about the idea of picking Zion Williamson. He’s a generational talent at most, and his floor could still resembles a future All-Star. He’s absolutely powerful, and he’s a freight-train in transition. He has all the physical gifts to be a five-position defender and a perennial member of any All-NBA or All-Defensive team. If he develops his ball-handling even more, Point Zion could very well become a thing, creating a deadly Zion-Jaren pick-and-roll combination. Zion Williamson and Jaren Jackson Jr. will be a terrifying front court duo for years to come, as both players have terrorizing two-way potential and can score at all three levels.
Picking Zion will also lead to plenty of decisions on how they want to build this team going forward. Though people will argue that they should keep Mike Conley in this instance, they should still flip him for the best package — imagine landing Lonzo Ball and the Lakers’ pick, that’d be nuts. Doing so could help the Grizzlies round out a core around their two-headed monster of Williamson and Jackson. In addition, if Jonas Valanciunas does opt into his player deal, they could flip him for young assets and/or shooting, as this pick slots Zion at the 4 and moves Jaren to the 5.
If the Memphis Grizzlies are this lucky, they need to look into building a team similar to the Milwaukee Bucks with Zion as their Giannis and Jaren Jackson Jr. as a billionaire’s version of Brook Lopez. With the rest of their given resources, they must find solid two-way talent on the perimeter — ideally, a plethora of bigger wings that can shoot the 3 and defend multiple positions.
Honestly, the Grizzlies won’t get this lucky, as this franchise never gets things this nice. He’ll probably end up in New York, for better or for worse. However, if the Grizzlies do strike gold here, it’ll be the spark this team needs. After a few years of apathy, the general interest in this team throughout the city will boom. The Grizzlies will receive plenty of national buzz, if the most hyped prospect since LeBron comes to town. More importantly, it’s a chance to expedite this rebuild, and it gives the fan base a reason to believe.