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What Might Have Been: 2011 NBA Draft

First one in the series on a traded pick!

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls

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 2011 draft — the first one with a traded pick.

Check out the 2009 Draft “What Might Have Been” here.

Check out the 2010 Draft “What Might Have Been” here.

In the 2009-10 season, the Memphis Grizzlies were the closest they’ve been to the playoffs in 4 years. At the trade deadline, they decided to trade for defensive ace Ronnie Brewer for a 2011 first-round pick. The move was intended to give Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo a backup that could defend both wing positions at a high level and to make a playoff push. Unfortunately, a Marc Gasol injury derailed their chances.

In addition, Brewer never made much of an impact in Memphis. In 5 games with the Grizzlies, he never scored more than 5 points, averaging 2 a game. He also tore his hamstring and missed the rest of the season.

The Grizzlies ultimately let him walk that summer, so they gave up a future first-round pick for a player that only played in 5 games. Typical Grizz fashion, am I right?

Looking at this list, they missed out on some pretty solid players in the process.


The “What Might’ve Been”

(Note: the original pick was Donatas Motiejunas... they didn’t miss out on much there).

  • Kenneth Faried

What Happened:

Kenneth Faried started out his career as one of the best young energy bigs in basketball. The “Manimal” was a beast on the glass and played important roles for both the Denver Nuggets and the USA team. However, once the league became smaller, and spacing became more of a priority, Faried’s value diminished. He offers no spacing, and though he’s an explosive rebounder and athlete for his size, his defense isn’t up to par to be a small-ball 5.

What Would’ve Happened if he Became a Grizzly:

Faried would’ve been a fun backup for Zach Randolph until the Grizzlies traded him for the wrong trade package.

  • Nikola Mirotic

What Happened:

It took Mirotic 3 years to make his NBA debut, but he’s made his presence felt as one of the better stretch bigs in this league.

What Would’ve Happened if he Became a Grizzly:

The Grizzlies probably would’ve traded his draft rights in a deal before he came to the NBA.

  • Jimmy Butler

What Happened:

After being a relative unknown prospect in college, Butler has emerged as one of the best two-way players in basketball. He became a full-time starter in the 2013-14 season, and he made significant strides in every facet of his game, except for his efficiency from the field. He managed to raise his percentages, which led to him becoming an All-Star and a dynamic scorer.

What Would’ve Happened if he Became a Grizzly:

He would’ve either been the most popular Grizzly ever — behind Zach Randolph and Tony Allen — or they would’ve given up on him too quickly. No in-between.


At the time, it was a right move to trade for someone like Ronnie Brewer. They needed a defensive wing that didn’t take touches away from its primary scorers. In addition, if healthy, the Grizzlies probably would’ve made the playoffs.

A lesson to be learned here though — and it’ll be a repeated lesson throughout this series — is to never trade a first-round pick more than a year out unless you’re getting an All-Star in return. Luckily, the Grizzlies made the playoffs the next year and only gave up the 20th pick. However, it yielded players that could’ve helped them in the GNG era.

The cool what-if out of this is Jimmy Butler. I doubt he would’ve been the guy at the 20th pick, but the implications behind it would’ve been interesting. For one, he probably would’ve been the eventual Rudy Gay replacement, which has been what they’ve been looking for these past 6 years. A player like Butler could’ve been that missing piece in Memphis for the GNG days, as he’s a wing that can create his own shot off the dribble and defend at a high level.

It’s the price you pay for trading a first-round pick that far out, but with a core in tact already, conveying a pick one year out for a player that would’ve helped in a playoff run isn’t necessarily a bad move.

Stats found on basketball-reference.

Follow @sbngrizzlies.