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The NBA’s loss is the Memphis Grizzlies and Brandon Clarke’s gain

Some GM’s wish they had a redo on draft night

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Memphis Grizzlies v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

Narratives can be weird. It can lead to unhealthy group think and groupthink can put you into a box. Inside of that box you are taught to eliminate your critical thinking and creativity and buy into what the masses buy into. If the masses say this is bad, then you begin to believe that is bad etc.

The NBA Draft has one of the oddest, most inane narratives around. Two of them in fact. They are based around age and wingspan. Stop. Go back. Reread that. Age and wingspan. Not skillsets, not pedigree, not IQ (a crazy NFL Draft narrative), not character or winning resume as a player. Age. Wingspan.

A lot of general managers operate in a world, a reality that places such a heavy emphasis on the age of player coming into the league as well as the length of their arms. Look, I get it. You want the younger talent because you have more time to develop them and their ceiling is perceived to be higher/unknown. I also understand the obsession with wingspan in today’s position-less NBA. It allows for more switching on defense and creates havoc in passing lanes and blocking shots.

But give me a 5-year senior that has an elite basketball skill over an 18 year old kid with long arms and little skill. That’s just me.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-TexasTech Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Clarke is one of those players that slipped down the board on draft night due to his age and his wingspan. Now here at Grizzly Bear Blues, we have had a decent track record of identifying talent in the draft — Shawn Coleman nailing the 2020 draft, and Joe Mullinax amongst others had Clarke as a top-10 prospect in the 2019 NBA Draft.

We know the story, Clarke came in and was awesome, in fact historic. He struggled through injuries his sophomore season and is back to killing the game in his third season. In fact, the team’s offensive rating when he was on the floor is 134. Thats +23 overall, the next closest is Tyus Jones at a +15 overall.

Imagine being a GM that passed on him for weird reason unbeknownst to us, let alone the GM that TRADED him to Memphis. Looking back at the 2019 draft, being the 21st pick, there weren't 20 teams that passed on him — some teams had multiple picks before 21, and you weren’t taking him over guys like Zion or RJ — but there were about 8 teams that might want a mulligan for that draft night that picked a player in a similar position or just flat whiffed on the player they did take.

2019 NBA Draft Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, De’Andre Hunter, Darius Garland, Tyler Herro, Matisse Thybulle are all players that went ahead of BC that should have based on what we have seen out of their careers so far.

Guys like Coby White, Cam Reddish, Cameron Johnson, Rui Hachimura, P.J. Washington have all had moments and could be argued to still go ahead of BC, but if he is in this tier he’s near or at the top of it.

It’s this list of names that really gets you fired up:

  • Jarrett Culver - 6th overall PHX to MIN (to MEM)
  • Jaxson Hayes - 8th overall ATL to NO (though Zion plays BC’s position)
  • Romeo Langford - 14th overall BOS
  • Sekou Doumbouya - 15th overall DET (currently not rostered)
  • Chuma Okeke - 16th overall ORL (injuries)
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker 17th overall BKN to NO
  • Goga Bitadze 18th overall IND
  • Luka Samanic 19th overall SAS (2 way w/ NYK)
  • Grant Williams 22nd overall BOS
  • Darius Bazley 23rd overall UTA to MEM to OKC

You could possibly argue leaving New Orleans out of the conversation, because they were drafting pieces to go around a potential superstar who plays the same “position” as Clarke. But by my count, there are about eight GM’s who had a shot to snag him and didn't, plus the group of others that could have traded up to get him as he slipped but didn’t.

After years of misery in dealings between Chris Wallace and Danny Ainge, Memphis has come out on the other side of these drafts in much better shape than Boston. Clarke is certainly better than Langford and would be a valuable piece for them — let alone the fact they sold us Desmond Bane because they had Aaron Nesmith, lol.

A rebuilding Detroit team took the next Bruno Caboclo with Sekou Doumbouya is currently unemployed after being traded, cut and cut again. Imagine Cade Cunningham, Clarke PNRs.

San Antonio decided to stay on brand and draft an international player, again. Maybe they thought they could strike gold with the name Luka, but they struck out as he is now a 2-way player for the New York Knicks.

Goga Bitadze barely knows anything besides the feeling of splinters on his hind parts, as he gets paid to watch NBA games in style. Poor Chuma Okeke. The Magic took a swing on an injured player, and thus far it simply has not worked out. Another place Brandon could have gotten the minutes to be awesome.

At the time, Minnesota had a terrible roster and it only got worse with the bust known as Jarrett Culver. Not sure how anyone looked at those shot mechanics and believed it would translate to the NBA. His length and secondary playmaking to accompany his defense make him worth a shot for some teams, but Clarke with this current Wolves roster would be incredible.

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Jaxson Hayes has shown flashes, but he currently shares the same fate of Goga Bitadze. Stuck behind the guy the Raptors traded for a geriatric center from Spain and subsequently traded for a 7-foot Kiwi, Hayes is looking more the part of a project than an impactful role player.

Memphis Grizzlies v Boston Celtics Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Circling back to the Celtics. They really chose to take Romeo Langford in a spot they should have taken Clarke and could’ve gotten Langford with the pick they took Grant Williams. Essentially the Celtics chose Williams over Clarke, and that is just a tough pill for anyone to swallow. Not only is he night and day better than Grant, but he’s better than both of their picks combined.

Finally there is the man the Thunder preferred over Brandon Clarke. The Grizzlies took Darius Bazley at pick 23 and sent him to OKC in return for Clarke, pick two picks earlier.

Career Stats:

Clarke: 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 blocks on 61.7% shooting in 22 minutes per game and 20 starts.

Bazley (starting every game last two seasons): 9.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 0.7 blocks on 45.4% shooting in 25.1 minutes.

Darius Bazley has played 500 more minutes than Brandon thus far and only outperforms him in rebounding by 0.1. So it is not a shock when you look at the per 36 stats for both, Brandon blows Bazley out of the water. It’s not close in a single category.

Clarke is a +15 career in total rating while Darius is a -18. I could go on and on listing stat after stat about how Sam Presti flat made the wrong choice, on the premise that Bazley had more potential or higher ceiling because he did not spend 3-4 seasons in college. Instead he spent one season at New Balance and is underperforming on a bad team where shots area available.

All of this to say, it sure is nice to be a Memphis Grizzlies fan. Rooting for a team that does not succumb to groupthink and scouts players based on attributes to translate to the NBA game, not just on paper.

GMs are assessed by their ability to build a roster and the draft is a key component of that. Hopefully Zach Kleiman and company continue to ignore narratives and out-draft the rest of the league, taking advantage of their misguided draft philosophies.

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