Re-drafting has been a fun exercise over this quarantine. Whether it’s GBB’s “Revisionist Grizztory,” or The Ringer’s Re-draftables, or the return of draft guru Chad Ford on the Locked On podcast network, re-drafting has been a popular content generator throughout this weird, unprecedented time. Upon reading, or listening, you find out a number of things. Damn, he went that low? What was this team thinking? Or from listening to experts like Ford, Bill Simmons, Zach Lowe, or former Grizzlies executive John Hollinger, you find out the juicy details about the logic at the time.
A few weeks ago, friend of the pod Connor Dunning and I did our Revisionist Grizztory on the 2018 draft, Jaren Jackson Jr., and the prospects of drafting Trae Young or Luka Doncic — if you haven’t checked it out. However, we never really did this whole re-drafting exercise. For this draft in particular, it’s a fascinating one to re-draft.
Even two years in, it’s looking historically good. Luka Doncic and Trae Young quickly rose up as All-Star starters, while the former is probably a top-5 MVP candidate for this season. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander hasn’t missed a beat since the Paul George trade this summer, finding a fit next to Chris Paul and looking like the centerpiece for OKC’s future. Deandre Ayton has also made incremental improvements on the defensive end, and he could be the guy that keeps old-school centers in style. And, we all know about Jaren Jackson Jr. - he’s a 20-year-old, 6’11” Klay Thompson.
It’s even more fascinating from a Grizzlies perspective as well. Jaren Jackson Jr., based on the criteria, has probably met or exceeded his draft position. Though his raw averages don’t necessarily pop like his classmates, his skillset, percentages, and historical precedent are tantalizing. He rips 3’s at a high volume and a near 40-percent clip, while wrecking havoc on the defensive end as a 5-position, switch-heavy rim protector.
He’s a guy whose re-draft position could change in the long-term. Compared to the other guys around the top — Doncic, Young, Gilgeous-Alexander, Ayton, or Bagley — he has the most room for growth, which makes his upside mesmerizing. What happens when his rebound numbers inch closer to 7-9, instead of 4-6? Or when he cuts his fouls down in half? Or when he finds that in-between game? He’s going to be a monster!
In this re-draft, where does he fall? If it’s not the same pick for the Grizzlies, who would probably be the spot here?
What It Should’ve Been
Even without hindsight, the draft should’ve gone differently. There’s no way the Kings should’ve passed on Luka Doncic. No matter how good Bagley was in college, Doncic was the can’t-miss guy here for them, and in general. He was the player that’d bring back the glory days in Sacramento.
It should’ve gone Ayton and Doncic in the top 2, which makes the next pick interesting. The Luka-Trae trade wouldn’t have happened. So, would the Hawks keep their pick at 3? Or would a team try to trade up for Jackson or Bamba?
Jackson probably would’ve been the pick, if the Hawks has stayed put. He was attached to them for a minute over the pre-draft process, until there was a rumored push from ownership for Young. If Jackson was off the board here, Marvin Bagley would’ve likely been the pick for the Grizzlies.
People now forget about how much hype Bagley got around the time in Memphis. Local media members, especially Chris Vernon, loved Bagley. In our GBB 2018 big board, half the staff had Bagley in their top 3; I even had him at 1. GBB Senior Staff Writer Brandon Abraham wrote a freaking ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas remix on him.
Yes, it would’ve meant passing on Trae Young, but it looked like the Grizzlies were going to prioritize fit next to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Bagley fit next to them as a hyper-athletic 4 that can run small-ball 5 and can play high-low ball with Gasol.
It would’ve been glorious at the time, and there would still be that booming optimism in Memphis now. Would Bagley be, or become, a Jaren Jackson Jr.? I’m not sure. Think a starter’s version of Brandon Clarke, with potential to become Amare Stoudemire down the road.
Knowing What We Know Now:
The draft, with hindsight, is simple, yet complicated.
Doncic is one, easy. I shouldn’t have to elaborate.
At 2, Trae Young sounds like the answer, but with Sacramento at this spot with De’Aaron Fox, I’m going to say Jaren Jackson Jr. He’s displayed the most upside of any big man, and he’s already a major player into winning basketball. You could go with Ayton, but give me the unicorn big man with an evolving skillset instead.
Trae Young would be 3. Again, easy.
Now at the Grizzlies’ spot, this is where it gets a tad complicated. Even with knowing what we know now, Ayton falling at 4 would be a godsend. His physique was created in a lab by the basketball gods, and he’s a double-double machine. If he could continue his defensive improvements, he’s going to be an elite big man. His absence of an outside jumper though may separate him from Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and even Jaren Jackson Jr.
For some it sounds like a hot take, and others see it, but I would’ve loved Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the most underrated young player in basketball, at this pick. Pegged as a point guard, Gilgeous-Alexander is in this unique archetype that’s a bit uncommon in today’s game: a position-less guard. He’s a huge guard — 6’5”, 6’11” wingspan. — that can facilitate the offense and create his own shot. He’s also a proven winner thus far, and he can play next to other lead guards — Chris Paul, Lou Williams, to name a few. His unique build and frame have allowed the Clippers and Thunder to deploy 3-guard lineups and wreck people with it. Imagine these similar scenarios with Mike Conley his rookie season, then Ja Morant this season? Holy smokes.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was the right pick, and he could be one of those rare top-5 picks that actually exceeds their draft slot.
By Talent — The Big Board
Building a big board, or a re-draft, of the 2018 draft class is a fun exercise. There are so many different angles you could hit.
Chad Ford and John Hollinger on Ford’s Big Board podcast had Luka, Jackson, Michael Porter Jr., Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Deandre Ayton, THEN Trae Young. Seriously, listen to this podcast.
A lot of basketball minds would have Luka Doncic then Trae Young at 1 and 2 in this draft class, and understandably so. They are both All-Stars right now, and they look the part of generational players.
After that, it depends on how you view basketball. Most analytical minds and basketball purists would like Jackson or Gilgeous-Alexander at 3 and 4, orders varying. The old basketball fan who trends towards the classical definition of “big man” may be drawn to Deandre Ayton’s rebounding abilities.
Or, you could rank them similar to Hollinger and Ford on projected outcomes for their careers. There aren’t too many wrong answers — Luka below 1, and Trae outside the top 5 may be the only ones.
Jaren Jackson Jr. could be seen as high as 2, or as low as 5, and it wouldn’t be ludicrous. The fact that he has such a high standing in a historical class is a huge win for the Grizzlies.
The 2018 draft class is going to be historic, maybe in the same light as 1984 and 2003.
We’re already seeing the greatness of Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jaren Jackson Jr. are stretching the boundaries of their respective definitions. Ayton and Mitchell Robinson are proving their worth as old school centers. Michael Porter Jr. is advancing past his injury history, providing a glimpse of the tantalizing potential we saw in high school. It’s also so early that there are still players that could break out to become good NBA players — Marvin Bagley Jr., Colin Sexton, Miles Bridges, and Mo Bamba, to name a few.
The fact that the Memphis Grizzlies found a probable top-3 player in this loaded draft class is a massive win. If you told me that on the night they got the 4th pick, I would be asking who the hell passed on Bagley or Doncic. And it wasn’t one of them.
Jaren Jackson Jr. could revolutionize the big man position. He fires 3’s at a high volume, handles the ball like a guard, posts up like an old-school big, and protects the rim at an elite level. Yes, he has areas of his game to work on, more prominently his fouling and rebounding. Once he does that, the sky is the limit. He’s the perfect 1B to Ja Morant’s 1A to usher the Grizzlies into this new era, one that could lead to championship aspirations.
On draft night, the Grizzlies fanbase was uncertain about this pick. If everyone knew what we knew now, they would be way more ecstatic. And as for the front office, they wouldn’t change a thing.