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 carry on the second pick.
The first sim that resulted in the 2nd pick for the Grizzlies went as following: Phoenix, Memphis, New York, Dallas, Cleveland.
- Phoenix Suns — Zion Williamson, basketball anomaly, Duke University
- Memphis Grizzlies — Ja Morant, ball-handler, Murray State University
- New York Knicks — R.J. Barrett, ball-handler/wing, Duke University
- Dallas Mavericks — DeAndre Hunter, wing, University of Virginia
- Cleveland Cavaliers — Jarrett Culver, wing, Texas Tech University
Phoenix getting the number one pick again would be an absolute travesty; they simply don’t deserve a player like Zion. However, pairing him with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Josh Jackson, and Mikal Bridges should lead them to prominence. With the Suns though, they’re going to Suns it up and win under 25 games again next season.
New York will surely be glad to have Ja Morant or R.J. Barrett on the board at 3. Though Morant doesn’t make much sense with Dennis Smith Jr. already manning the 1 spot, it’d still give them an electrifying back court that should ignite Madison Square Garden. On the other hand, R.J. Barrett fits the Knicks’ plans a lot better. He’d fit alongside Smith, Mitchell Robinson, and Kevin Knox, if New York strikes out in free agency. He’d also be a good complementary player alongside whoever they land in free agency.
Dallas jumping into the top 4 would be a huge win for them, as the Kristaps Porzingis trade yielded too many 1st-round picks, and it’d help them round out a core around Luka Doncic and Porzingis. DeAndre Hunter would be a great 3-and-D player that won't take touches away from Luka, and he’d give the Mavericks a long-term Swiss-army knife defensive stopper.
Cleveland is in the spot to pick the best talent possible. They could swing for the fences with a Cam Reddish or Bol Bol pick, but Culver makes the most sense here. He’d be one of the only multi-positional players on the roster, as he can play in big lineups at the 2 and in smaller lineups as a small-ball 4. In addition, he should ease the playmaking burden for Collin Sexton.
RJ or Ja?
If the Memphis Grizzlies land the 2nd pick, this will be the million-dollar question leading up to the draft. It’ll be the primary Grizzlies debate on every radio show, podcast, and column.
With Ja Morant — who I have the Grizzlies selecting here — they’ll find their Mike Conley replacement, as it’ll make trading their longtime franchise point guard a lot easier. In addition, Morant would step in and immediately be the most electrifying backcourt player in franchise history. His style of play is Westbrook-esque. The way he plays in transition and attacks the lane reminds you of someone on a Slamball court. If you don’t watch out, you’ll find yourself on the end of a poster.
Aside from dunking, he’s also a great playmaker, leading the country in assists — 10 a game. That skill would bode well with the Memphis Grizzlies, as they don’t possess many players that can create their own shots, and it helps make Jaren Jackson Jr. more of a focal point within the offense. His shooting has improved since his freshman, upping his field goal percentage from 45.9 to 49.9 and his 3-point percentage from 30.7 to 36.3 — all with more volume. His shooting will determine the ceiling of both Morant and the team that drafts him.
R.J. Barrett is a polarizing prospect. With the Canadian U19 National Team, he looked like a young James Harden. After a year at Duke though, the Andrew Wiggins comparisons were raining down. I do think he’ll be better in the NBA than he was at Duke, as the spacing for the Blue Devils was atrocious — Tacko Fall just sat in the paint and “guarded” Tre Jones, their point guard, because he wouldn’t shoot. A big complaint was his tunnel vision and inefficiency, but I’d have tunnel vision too if the best shooter I’m kicking out to is a 33-percent 3-point shooter.
With his raw stats (22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists), it looks like he can be a big guard that can create his own shot and immediately start the transition offense off the rebounds. His 3-point shooting (30.6%) is scary, but guys like Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic have shown that pre-NBA shooting percentages could be misleading. If he improves on his shooting, he’d be a downright scary multi-dimensional scoring threat.
Personally, R.J. Barrett would be my pick. Big guards/wings that can serve as both a shot creator and a playmaker are a premium in today’s league. However, Ja Morant would probably be the pick with the inevitable Conley trade on the way.
Either way, though it’s not Zion, getting the 2nd pick would be huge for the Grizzlies, as it gives them a surefire core player that fits perfectly next to Jaren Jackson Jr.
If the Memphis Grizzlies get the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, who should they select?
This poll is closed
Ja Morant, Murray State University
R.J. Barrett, Duke University