Over the last couple of weeks - since the Memphis Grizzlies damn near won the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery and somewhat miraculously landed at #2 overall - we here at GBB have been breaking down a variety of prospects. From those at the top (likely future Grizzly Ja Morant, RJ Barrett) to the possible ricky free fallers (Bol Bol, Cam Reddish), the peaks and valleys of the games of 12 players have been reviewed and premature verdicts on their fits in Memphis and the NBA as a whole have been rendered.
And yet, there’s more.
There are multiple “dark horse” candidates for end of the lottery squads, and even the Grizzlies depending on possible returns on a Mike Conley trade, to consider as the draft grinds along. For all the talk of this year’s class being underwhelming beyond the top three, there is sneaky good value as the draft grinds along. While Cam Reddish at #7 may be a bad move, for example, Grant Williams (more on him in a moment) at #18 from Indiana would be almost assuredly brilliant.
Let’s dive in with the “it” prospect of blog boys everywhere.
Grant Williams, forward, University of Tennessee
There are some that have the Junior Volunteer as a top-five prospect in the draft. Those people are...overthinking it. But could Williams wind up being a very nice NBA player?
What shines through most for me is his ability to facilitate and defend in a variety of ways from the forward position. His vision and understanding of scheme and angles on both ends of the floor should translate nicely to the NBA, especially in an era where that level of cerebral play is celebrated. He protects the basketball when in that facilitator role (1.41 assist to turnover ratio) and understands the value of possession and efficient offense (64.6% true shooting percentage)
He is undersized as a big with a somewhat limited wing span (6’9”), and he isn’t as strong of a rebounder or perimeter threat as a team like Memphis probably needs him to be. But he definitely has a game that echoes that of Boris Diaw, and maybe even a splash of Draymond Green (Draymond is a vastly superior rebounder). If you really like Brandon Clarke, and he’s off the board? Grant Williams isn’t a bad consolation prize.
Some would say he’s better than Clarke. I wouldn’t. But Williams is getting a lot of attention for what he does well, and how that ability to create for others would boost just about any offense he’s a part of.
Romeo Langford, wing, Indiana University
I know, I know. Insert your “he can’t shoot, would fit right in with the Grizzlies” jokes here.
While that certainly is an area for massive concern (27.2% from beyond the arc...WOOF), there are things to be excited about regarding Langford. He has the prototypical look of an NBA wing (6’6” with a 6’11” wing span) and will only be 20 on opening night. He can defend multiple perimeter positions, leading to versatility within various defensive schemes. He also is effective at getting to the free throw line, meaning he has the capacity to get to the lane off the dribble and create for himself. That means he can evolve - in theory - as both a facilitator and shooter off the dribble. The first step is the ability to...you know...dribble. He’s sound at that, at worst, and quite good at best.
The bad news is that he struggled in most other areas. He simply wasn’t as good in college as he was supposed to be. Now reasons have cropped up for that - playing through injury, for example - and perhaps a private workout and interview session could squash some of the fears attached with drafting Langford.
That feels somewhat unlikely, though. If Reddish scares you, Langford should too.
Nassir Little, forward, University of North Carolina
Noticing a trend?
Little, like Langford, was expected to do more in college than he did. As a highly touted high school recruit, many felt he would be a key piece of a dominant UNC squad this season. While the Tar Heels did have some success, many would say their accomplishments fell short of the talent they had on the floor...and Little is exhibit A.
What does he have going for him? His size - in particular, his wing span. At 6’6” with a 7’1” wing span, the versatility that Langford has on the perimeter extends for Little to the stretch four position. He can theoretically do a lot for you on the defensive end of the floor, and he is young (turns 20 in February) and probably still has room to grow as a player. He’s already a solid defender and rebounder for a forward, and that shows effort and willingness to do the dirty work on the glass. That isn’t necessarily something that can be taught.
Hopefully the ability to pass without turning the ball over and shoot threes consistently can be. Here Little is...not so good. Little often times took away from opportunities for UNC to be successful, and because of that Little, like Langford, is a high-risk, high-reward play later in the draft.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, wing, Virginia Tech
Where Little and Langford underachieved, the Sophomore Hokie arguably overachieved - like much of the Virginia Tech basketball team did under Buzz Williams. At almost 6’6” with an almost 6’10” wing span, he possesses the defensive flexibility teams crave. His ability to switch between positions on defense doesn’t stop on that side of the floor - he actually is adept offensively at playing both on and off the ball. He’s Malcolm Brogdon-esque, a player that can quite literally do whatever you need for him to do as both a facilitator (4 assists per game) and shooter (37.4% from beyond the arc).
He projects to be a good shooter, and a good defender, at the next level. Add on that passing skill, and he’s a solid mid-draft selection...but where is his ceiling? Probably lower than that of Little or Langford. The Canadian wing will be 21 when the season begins, and like Brogdon his lack of athleticism and youth on draft night likely means he will not be as valued as perhaps he should be.
That’s just fine for teams like Brooklyn, San Antonio, and Boston, that are looking for players that can come in right away and contribute. Where Little or Langford may be better than Nickeil three or four years from now, Alexander-Walker will almost surely be better to start out their career. If you’re in win-now mode? That’s just fine with you.
In terms of fit for the Grizzlies, Langford and Little make more sense in terms of swings for the fences than Williams and Alexander-Walker. But considering the fact that Memphis needs help in just about every facet of the game, immediate contributions alongside JAren Jackson Jr. and (likely) Ja Morant would also be welcome.
What do you think? Who do you prefer? Vote in the poll and comment below.
Which prospect would you most like to see the Grizzlies select if they all were available in a post-lottery pick?
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