One of the more exciting days on the NBA Calendar has arrived as the 2022 NBA Draft is here. The present and future of many teams could drastically change after tonight. For the Memphis Grizzlies, while not much may change in terms of their current roster, tonight offers the ability to get even more deeper and talented for the future. And with multiple first round picks and Zach Kleiman’s tendency to move around the draft board, it could be another memorable night for Memphis.
Another factor that gives the last sentence a good chance of being a reality is that the Grizzlies arguably have drafted better than any NBA team during Kleiman’s time as GM. He formed one of the best young backcourts in the NBA by picking Ja Morant and Desmond Bane in back to back drafts and found good value in other young talents over the past three years. Besides Morant, the Grizzlies seemed focused on a certain “type” of talent during the 2019 and 2020 drafts. They added Brandon Clarke, John Konchar, Xavier Tillman, Killian Tillie, and Bane through those drafts, all older prospects that were highly productive in college and showed the ability to add positive value in many aspects of the game.
However, in 2021, Kleiman changed direction a bit as he went more of the high-risk, high-reward direction with his picks. In both Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama, Kleiman focused on talents that may take a bit longer to contribute than his previous selections, but whose ceilings could make them significant contributors in the future. Though neither Williams nor Aldama had extensive track records of production, the upside of both players seemed worth betting on due to the Grizzlies already having plenty of youth and talent on their roster.
So what direction will the Grizzlies go in 2022? With three overall picks, including two in the first round, a blend off both draft philosophies could be the answer. However, when applying the same criteria to this draft class that I did back before the 2020 NBA Draft, a few prospects start to emerge as potential Grizzlies picks.
EFFICIENT SHOT SELECTION
Obviously, the ability to make shots is a talent any team wants in a draft pick. The Grizzlies have shown an added preference of targeting talents who frequently take the right shots based on their strengths. This approach has led to Morant becoming one of the productive paint scoring guards in NBA history, Bane becoming one of the best three-point shooters in the league, and Clarke being one of the most efficient scorers in the league. This has allowed the Grizzlies to emerge as one of the best offenses in the league even with a bit of inconsistency shooting from three.
One of the need areas for the Grizzlies continues to be more shooting. This is a reason why draft prospects who have shown good shot selection, especially from distance, could be intriguing for Memphis. For instance, there were 30 NCAA players last season who attempted at least 100 two point shots and 100 three points shots while producing a true shooting percentage of 60% or better and a three point percentage of 40% or better. A few highly regarded 2022 draft prospects among that group are David Roddy, Wendell Moore Jr., and A.J. Griffin.
Meeting this criteria stands out, because it identifies players who have shown good shot selection at multiple levels and can be reliable from distance. With depth at the wing position still being a need for the Grizzlies, finding a player that can show good decision-making when it comes to shooting and scoring would be ideal. In Griffin, Moore, and Roddy, the Grizzlies have targets projected to go in different parts of the draft that they can make a move for if it makes sense.
Value Beyond Scoring
While smart shot selection and shooting from distance should be a few factors for the Grizzlies to consider, Memphis has also show a preference to add players who can add value beyond the normal scope of their position. Though he was not drafted by Memphis, consider the impact Steven Adams made with his passing this year. Another example would be the rebounding of John Konchar proving to be a huge boost for the Grizzlies multiple times this season.
Last season, among NCAA guards and forwards, only 12 players produced at least 150 rebounds and 150 assists. Among that group, Moore, Alondes Williams, and Jordan Hall emerge as potential draft picks for teams. Moore also averaged nearly 2.2 assists per turnover committed, showing he can move the ball effectively and consistently contribute to finding the best shot on as many possessions as possible.
Among frontcourt players in the NCAA last season, only 12 played 1000 or more minutes and produced assist and total rebounding percentages of 13% or higher. Among this group are Paolo Banchero (one can dream!), E.J. Liddell, and Jaylin Williams. With the Grizzlies current front court depth, it may be hard to see Memphis going for another front court player. But if future moves are too be made, there are a few options that can offer plenty ofvalue across the board that could entice Memphis.
One of the most consistent themes among the players Memphis has added via the draft, trades, or signings over the past few seasons are players who can make plays defensively. Memphis loves talents that can make a difference on both ends of the court, and especially those that can help turn defense into offense. De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Clarke, and Konchar all come to mind as players who can add value on defense.
Last season, 45 players produced both a steal and block percentage of 2.5% or better while playing at least 750 minutes. Two names that immediately jump off the page as popular Grizzlies targets are Jake Laravia and Tari Eason. If the Grizzlies potentially move on from Anderson and/or Melton this offseason, they will need to find some sort of replacement that can make a defensive impact off the bench. Both Laravia and Eason project to have that potential in the NBA.
Of course, the information above primarily focuses on players with a productive track record at the college level. Other players who played in other organized forms of basketball also offer intriguing skill sets and stats. And of course, just like they did with Williams last year, the Grizzlies could consider Patrick Baldwin Jr., Jaden Hardy, Caleb Houstan, Max Christie and others as options who have significant pedigrees but struggled to produce last season.
The Grizzlies have every reason to swing for the fences and go after an option based purely on upside. There is also logic of going with an option with a little more certainty. And of course, with three total picks, Memphis could decide to do both. If Memphis does trend toward options that meet criteria past Grizzlies draft picks have met, Wendell Moore Jr., Jake Laravia, and Tari Eason stand out as the prospects that seem to check the most preference boxes for the Grizzlies. Consider these stat lines from last year, along with popular mock draft Grizzlies target Dalen Terry, who missed several of the thresholds above by a small amount:
Moore Jr.: 60.5% TS% on 376 FGA, 41.3% from 3 on 126 3PA, 21.7% AST rate, 8.7% TRB rate, 2.4% STL rate, 0.6% BLK RATE
Eason: 61.5% TS% on 365 FGA, 35.9% from 3 on 76 3PA, 10.1% AST rate, 15.2% TRB rate, 4.5% STL rate, 6.2% BLK rate
Laravia: 64.9% TS% on 297 FGA, 38.4% from 3 on 78 3PA, 20% AST rate, 11.1% TRB rate, 2.7% STL rate, 3% BLK rate
Terry: 58.4% TS% on 229 FGA, 36.4% from 3 on 77 3PS, 22.1% AST rate, 9.3% TRB rate, 2.2% STL rate, 1.1% BLK rate
Also, just for fun, there is a certain second round prospect that the also fits the Grizzlies preferences but also is truly an upside swing. Josh Minott, in limited action last year, produced a 57.1% TS% along with 14.4% TRB rate, 12.8% AST rate, 3.1% STL rate, 5.4% BLK rate. Though the three point shooting is obviously a work in progress, Minott is a two talent that quickly showed he can make an impact on both ends of the court. Keeping him in Memphis could payoff in time in the Grizzlies development track.
As can be seen, the consistent theme among each of the aforementioned sensible targets for the Grizzlies are skill sets that offer good decision-making when shooting, value outside of scoring on offense and the ability to make an impact defensively. There is a reason why the Grizzlies are connected with these talents often as being “Grizzlies type” prospects. As a result, I would not be surprised if by the end of the night, one or more of these four players will be calling Memphis home for the foreseeable future.
And even though that may not occur, there is plenty of logic in seeing why the Grizzlies could focus on these talents later tonight.