So my Mock Memphis Grizzlies look a little different than they did before the NBA Twitter Mock Draft began. A refresher on the depth chart heading in to making selections #28, 40, and 42-
GUARDS: Ja Morant, Tyus Jones
WINGS: Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton (restricted free agent), JJ Redick, Troy Brown Jr.
BIGS: Jaren Jackson Jr., Tobias Harris, Brandon Clarke, Thomas Bryant, Jontay Porter
As was stated at the end of Part I, the needs seem pretty clear. The team needs wing depth/rebounding help and a third ball handler.
I believe I accomplished that with my selections. Here they are.
#28 overall: Robert Woodard II, wing, Mississippi State
There were players on the board like Isaiah Joe, Tyler Bey, and Nico Mannion that were considered in this spot. But when it comes to a bigger wing that can clean the glass, defend multiple front court positions, and has shown an ability to convert the three point shot at a steady clip? That was attractive to this ArmChair GM. In Part I I included Kyle Anderson in the trade for Tobias Harris, and I still value that type of player - a facilitator offensively, and a versatile team defender. Woodard doesn’t possess the dribbling ability that Anderson does, but his ability to space the floor (43% from range in his sophomore season at Mississippi State) negates that issue to an extent.
He can’t defend guards consistently given his lack of foot speed, and he is probably not going to be a player with an extremely high ceiling. But he has grown as a player through hard work at a non-power college basketball school and can help fill the void as a rebounder and wing defender left behind from the trading away of Jonas Valanciunas and Anderson.
A solid role player capable of eating 10-12 minutes would be a win at 28 overall. That’s likely what Woodard can be from day one for Mock Memphis.
#40 overall: Mason Jones, guard, Arkansas
The 2019-2020 SEC Player of the Year can get buckets. And man, could the Memphis Grizzlies always use guys that can get buckets.
Defensively? He is possibly worse than Trae Young. Which...means he is atrocious. There is really not a kind way to put it on that end - he struggles with keeping perimeter players in front of him. Perhaps worse than the lack of lateral quickness is the fact that when you watch him play he doesn’t seem particularly concerned that he gets roasted defensively on a consistent basis. He simply lacks the discipline it takes to compensate for his limitations agility wise on the defensive end.
Offensively? He is capable of extremely efficient scoring, including a James Harden-esque ability at the college level to get to the free throw line. Averaging nine free throw attempts per game, Jones has the capacity to use his handle and body positioning to score in almost every way possible. But he also can have stinkers offensively, and had streaks of poor shooting in addition to red-hot offensive showings.
His defensive deficiencies, and his age (22), likely will have him in the second round (or perhaps even undrafted). He’d be worth a swing for my mock Grizzlies because of his offensive abilities and growth he showed in his game while at Arkansas. Memphis wouldn’t need him to be a “dude” this season - the Memphis Hustle could be the place Jones finds himself defensively while adding tools to his offensive toolbelt to make him a larger threat on the next level.
His efficiency/advanced statistics are through the roof. Don’t be surprised if Jones is on not just the Mock Grizzlies radar, but the real Grizzlies as well - drafted or undrafted.
#42 overall: Nico Mannion, guard, Arizona
How in the hell did this guy fall to #42?
Memphis should take Mannion at #40 if he is there.
According to both The Ringer and Tankathon Mannion has a 1st round grade. The Ringer says Mannion has flashes of Seth Curry and T.J. McConnell (with a jumper!), while Tankathon lauds the fact he is only 19 years old and has an excellent ability to get others involved offensively. So why the tumble?
In a positionless NBA, Mannion is very much a point guard. There really isn’t room for him to play other positions - if he were to play alongside Tyus Jones or Ja Morant, it would be a two-point guard lineup, not a combo guard situation. He also was not as dominant at Arizona as he was supposed to be. He shot poorly, rebounded poorly (even by 6’3” guard standards), and did not contribute to winning as much as he was supposed to for the Wildcats.
His underachieving hurt him in this draft. But at #42 he is a tremendous value because he fits the Morant and Jones mold and is a bit of a meshing of the two. No, he isn’t the athlete that Ja is...but he may be in the same ballpark as an instinctual passer and player in the pick and roll. He thrives in transition opportunities, and also can attack the rim and launch floaters like both lead guards already on the Grizzlies can. While he can’t defend multiple perimeter positions he still has the capacity to defend at a solid level, meaning that as a plus offensive player, the likelihood of him being a net neutral defender being so high should only add to his possible value.
He can also spend some time in Southaven with the Hustle, working on the areas of his game that led to him falling so far from the first round. If an injury to Morant or Jones occurs, call him up and have him be the backup point. If he thrives and matches what his potential suggests he can be? It makes Tyus Jones more expendable via trade as the Grizzlies look to finalize their roster over the next few years for when Memphis is (hopefully) a title contender.
Of course there should be no rush to deal Tyus. We all saw just how important he is in the Bubble to this team with his absence due to injury. But that experience confirmed having another guard capable of fitting nicely in to the schemes of Taylor Jenkins would be nice to have. Mannion fits that bill.
I like to complete mock drafts as thought exercises. Do I believe Memphis will trade for Tobias Harris? No. Are Troy Brown and Thomas Bryant coming to the Grizzlies? Probably not. Zach Kleiman and company will likely have a quiet offseason, waiting to see what the team looks like with Justise Winslow in the fold before making any more substantial moves.
That’s very likely the right thing to do.
But with the success of the Grizzlies this past year, I wanted to see if I could maintain draft capital that had been acquired (or even gain some) while making Memphis more competitive in the loaded Western Conference. I did that, and then some. A Morant/Jones/Melton/Brooks/Brown Jr./Redick/Harris/Clarke/Jackson Jr./Bryant rotation (with Woodard or a free agent signed with the Mid-Level Exception as the 11th man) is a playoff contender the next two to three years, and should only improve as the young core of the team develops.
To me, that’s the best part of how this was all done. Losing Winslow was the biggest subtraction from the future of the franchise. In his place? Brown is several years younger and has shown similar potential to be a two-way wing that fits nicely alongside Ja, Jaren, and Brandon. No first round picks were given up - in fact, I gained one from Washington - and the worst part of this whole endeavor was losing cap space in the massive Tobias Harris contract and the 2021 free agency flexibility that came with it (although Redick expires in 2021).
But the Grizzlies have never been a free agency destination. And the cap space that could be used to absorb bad deals and gain more picks could, in theory, be better used making Memphis as competitive as possible as soon as possible if you believe the Grizzlies are truly ahead of schedule in their rebuild.
Again, the smart play is to see what the team is like with Winslow in the fold and healthy on the floor. But this is the offseason - why not have some fun and explore what can be done when the GM decisions are in your hands?