Every year the wonderful Seth Pollack (also known as my SB Nation boss) organizes a 1st round mock draft involving all the teams with selections in that year’s NBA Draft festivities. After a brief one-year hiatus (thanks a LOT, Boston Celtics and Jeff Green) I had the opportunity to rejoin the fun. No trades, no gimmicks, just straight up mock drafting.
I knew entering the fray that I had two needs in mind for the Memphis Grizzlies - a creator on the perimeter off the dribble, and a longer/bigger combo wing that had a game malleable enough that he could mix and match within rotations on such a deep (as it currently stands) Memphis roster.
Names like Jaden Springer, Ziaire Williams, and Josh Christopher, Jared Butler, and Cameron Thomas were still on the board as I went on the clock. But I decided in all my Blogger GM wisdom to try to marry both needs as best I could in one prospect.
With the 17th pick in the 2021 SB Nation NBA Mock NBA Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Trey Murphy III, wing, University of Virginia
Here is what I wrote on the interestingly-talented Murphy for the mothership’s article at the time of the pick last week -
The Memphis Grizzlies as currently constructed do not need a player that needs to help them right now. They’re one of the deepest rosters in the NBA - they can afford to, for the first time in the Zach Kleiman Era, take a swing at a player who perhaps is not ready made for the rotation of a playoff contender. Enter Trey Murphy III, who despite playing three years of college basketball is still an uncertainty due to his transfer from Rice to UVA. His numbers for the Cavaliers are not other worldly. But he projects to be a very good NBA three point shooter who can create for himself and others off the dribble with 6’9” height. His game has room to grow in several spots. But at #17 overall? You can do a lot worse...especially considering the Grizzlies do not need him to be a contributor immediately.
His elite free throw shooting (92.7%!) backs up the idea of his elite three point conversion rate (43.3%) being a solid predictor of his NBA prowess from beyond the arc. He certainly needs to be more willing to come down hill and attack the basket to get to the free throw line (only a .215 free throw rate according to Tankathon) but that connects to the line of thinking that Murphy can afford to be an unfinished product. The same can be said of any defensive weakness coming out of a specifically strong (but highly unorthodox by NBA standards) UVA defensive scheme, the “Pack Line”. What matters is his frame (6’9” with a 7’ wingspan) and his ability to move laterally, which he has displayed consistently. He can put on good weight over the next year or so and become more of a physical threat to match his skills that are already in place.
He has a high-level basketball IQ (common among Virginia players - he impressed several scouts throughout the process with his knowledge of how to attack opposing teams via scheme and slashing at the rim according to ESPN). He has physical tools that make him versatile within the rotations of the Grizzlies (imagine a Ja Morant/Trey Murphy III/Dillon Brooks/Kyle Anderson/Jaren Jackson Jr. lineup! It’s possible!) and a shooting stroke that do not make it outside the realm of possibility that Murphy could unseat a current end of the rotation player for minutes. And if the Grizzlies are high enough on Murphy’s abilities perhaps the coming roster consolidation occurs sooner than we may currently expect.
He fits the Grizzlies like a glove. He’s limited as a dribble penetrator and creator right now but has shown enough that he can grow there - he was a stronger dribble penetrator and shot creator at Rice than at Virginia, where he fit a more specific role (and did so quite well). The potential for him to be a solid to very good “3 and D” player is already there, with room to grow as a rebounder, passing lane disruptor, and facilitator. Few players in this draft combine size with shooting and positional versatility the way Murphy III does, and due to the team he’s coming from asking him to fill an important void for them rather than be a focal point of creation he didn’t showcase his full tool kit either was not fully displayed or hasn’t been fully developed. Regardless, that’s why his draft projection varies from around #17 to the end of the first round. I decided to bet on growth within his game that flashes had already been shown - much like Desmond Bane the season before.
So he’s now a Mock Grizzly. Will fiction become a reality a week from now? Perhaps - the likelihood of Memphis moving up in this draft is still high given their roster crunch and current assets (some combination of Grayson Allen or Kyle Anderson/17 and/or 51 in this draft/the Jazz 2022 1st round pick gets you closer, or perhaps in, to the Lottery). But in this exercise, the Grizzlies had to stand pat. And they added arguably the most intriguing combo forward outside of Lottery projections.
A solid mock day at the office.