Over the next week and a half, I’m going to look back at each draft for the Memphis Grizzlies since the infamous 2009 proceedings. I’ll discuss what their pick would’ve been — in a semi-satirical way — if he was selected by another team. In addition, I’ll do the same about players they passed on if they were picked by the Memphis Grizzlies instead. Then, I’ll wrap it up by making sense on the pick and if it was the right call at the time. With that, let’s continue this “What Might Have Been” series with the 2010 draft.
Check out Part One of the “What Might Have Been” series — the 2009 Draft — here.
After three straight years of sub-25 wins, the Memphis Grizzlies started showing signs of putting it all together, as they finished with 1 win below .500 (40-42). A major key for this leap was Zach Randolph, who became the team’s second All-Star in franchise history that season. When a team is rebuilding, it’s important to get a grown-up in the locker room to show the young guys what it takes to win, and Randolph mastered that role.
Coming into this draft, they had a core in tact with Randolph, Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, and Marc Gasol. With the 12th pick, it was important to find a complementary piece next to these guys. In addition, if this player panned out, they could fill in as a starter once that core became too expensive — and it did.
Shooting was obviously a need, as it has been all decade, so it was easy to see why Xavier Henry was the choice. He has great size and proved himself as a lethal outside shooter at his lone season at Kansas — 41.8% from deep. However, it only lasted one season, as the Grizzlies flipped him to New Orleans in a 3-team trade.
Was Henry the right pick here? Or should they have looked at perimeter players elsewhere?
The Pick: Xavier Henry
Xavier Henry came into the league as a raw prospect with upside as a 3-point marksman, and to start his career in Memphis, he looked the part of a potential role player. However, his numbers and play didn’t really stand out, and other players jumped him in the depth chart. Once Rudy Gay went down with a shoulder injury, Tony Allen and Sam Young emerged as clear starters for this team, and Henry was out of the rotation.
Because of the logjam at the wing spot, the Grizzlies thought it’d make more sense to move Henry for Mo Speights, who was a fill-in for an injured Zach Randolph.
What Would’ve Happened if He Went to Another Team:
Anywhere else, Henry probably would’ve emerged as one of the best role-playing wings in the NBA. At 6’6” and 220 pounds, he had the size to guard either wing position. In addition, he came into the league with the reputation of a knockdown shooter. So anywhere else, he’d probably become another Danny Green.
The “What Would’ve Been”
- Eric Bledose
Bledsoe came into the league as Chris Paul’s apprentice, and the painful memories of him hounding Memphis’ backup point guard in the 2012 playoffs are still vivid. After it was clear that there wasn’t a spot for him in Los Angeles, he was dealt to Phoenix, but he didn’t want to be there anymore after 4 seasons. In Milwaukee, he’s been a nice complementary player next to Giannis and has evolved into a First-Team All-Defensive player.
What Would’ve Happened if he Became a Grizzly:
If Eric Bledsoe became a Grizzly, he’d be a great backup point guard for Mike Conley for about 3 years before they traded him for bad assets.
- Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley had a pitiful rookie season for the Boston Celtics, but he bounced back and improved consistently each passing year. For a moment, he was one of the most underrated players in the league, serving as a brilliant two-way, All-Defensive player in Brad Stevens’ system. He didn’t perform to that same level with Detroit or the Los Angeles Clippers, but he rekindled his groove in the last half of the season with the Memphis Grizzlies this year.
What Would’ve Happened if he Became a Grizzly:
The Grizzlies would’ve given up on him after his rookie season.
If you just looked at their careers to this point, Henry definitely seems like the wrong pick, while Bledsoe and Bradley were superior choices. However, it wasn’t the wrong pick at the time. The Grizzlies wanted Paul George, but after he went 10th to Indiana, they had to settle for Henry — who, in theory, filled a need. They already had its starting wing core in tact, and they were ready to push for the playoffs. Any booming draft pick would’ve surely helped, but if it failed, no big deal.
Who knows? Maybe, if Tony Allen didn’t evolve into the Grindfather, the Grizzlies would’ve had more patience with him. It’s hard to gauge, because he moved to 3 teams in his first 4 years and was out of the league at 23 years old. In a different situation, on a team that could afford to give him more leeway, Henry could’ve blossomed into a productive role player.
This draft wasn’t a complete wash for the Grizzlies though, as they came away with Greivis Vasquez in the later part of the first round. He was a brilliant pickup at the time, as he was a solid backup point guard for Conley and made some huge plays in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies’ front office thought it was a good idea to trade a solid backup point guard — who could also play next to Conley — for a mediocre wing.
All in all, this draft goes to show that a team’s direction could affect a player’s development and his career. Henry wasn’t in a position to help a playoff team win games, so they used him to get someone that could. Nothing wrong with that.
Stats found on sports-reference.