10 Thoughts On The Grizzlies 4th and 32nd Picks | Plus Dissecting The Deandre Ayton Dilemma

 

I haven’t spent much, or really any, time writing about the 2018 NBA Draft, but that doesn’t mean I’ve done any less scouting prospects prospects than I’ve done in previous drafts.

This draft is unique in the sense that there is a relatively large group of what are perceived to be good-to-great prospects as opposed to other years when there is a guy or two who separate themselves above others. Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton will, barring a last-minute change, will go No. 1 overall to the Phoenix Suns, and beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

While Ayton appears to be a lock to go No. 1, he is far from a consensus No. 1 overall prospect. Luka Donicic, Jaren Jackson Jr. and even Marvin Bagley are atop various boards throughout the NBA Draft community. Turn on the tape, or even just check the stats, and it’s easy to see why the Suns love Ayton—he’s got elite size, mobility and production and has dominated every level of basketball he’s played up to this point.

But Ayton isn’t flawless.

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If there’s one thing this reign of terror the Golden State Warriors have been on the last four years has taught us, it’s this—we have to reevaluate the way we perceive and project traditional bigs in the pre-draft process. 

When Joel Embiid was coming out in the 2014 draft, I gave him the second highest grade I’ve ever given a prospect, only behind Anthony Davis . (Note: I began grading prospects in the 2009 draft.) Embiid flashed the ability to do everything you’d want a modern big to do, but even as he continues his meteoric rise up the list of everyone’s “who are the 10 best players currently in the NBA” list, even he was taken advantage of at times during the playoffs.

Embiid will be fine. He’s 23 and is coming off his first All-Star Game appearance. This was the first year Embiid was able to get a taste of playoff action, and he was far from bad. But Celtics coach Brad Stevens was able to find ways to put Embiid in uncomfortable situations defensively and take advantage switches. 

Which brings this back to Ayton, who’s most notable weakness is on defense. Will Ayton’s offensive production be able to offset his projected shortcomings on defense? It’s possible, but I can’t help but think back to who the 76ers picked just one year after they took Embiid—Jahlil Okafor.

I was high on Okafor throughout the pre-draft process. I even went as high to have him No. 1 on my board up until about two weeks before the draft. I went back and looked at some of my Okafor scouting notes, and I had essentially come to the conclusion that the worst case scenario for him was a Brook Lopez type player, which isn’t great but is far from disastrous.

I was wrong.

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Okafor has had hard time simply just finding minutes and when the minutes have come, he’s been mostly bad. He was dumped along with Sauce Castillo (aka Nik Stauskas) and a pick for Trevor Booker this past season. Jahlil Okafor’s NBA future is very much in doubt, just three years removed from being the third pick in the draft.

Am I comparing Ayton to Okafor? No. That would lazy and extreme. But a comparison I continually hear for Ayton is David Robinson, and if you want to say that on the high end, then you need to be realistic about the low end and realize the role of big men in the NBA has drastically changed.

Is Ayton the best prospect in this draft? Yes. But is there a considerable amount of risk associated with taking a 7-footer who does not project as a good shooter or defender? Absolutely.

Now, my 10 thoughts about the Memphis Grizzlies and the No. 4 pick.

 

  1. It could change, but as of 24 hours from draft time, I believe that there are only two prospects I feel confident will not be available at four for the Grizzlies: DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley. Ayton will go No. 1 to the Suns, and there’s plenty of smoke around Bagley to the Sacramento Kings at No. 2. 
  2. If Luka Doncic is on the board at four, it would be a mistake not to take him. And that’s simply because there are not four prospects who are better than Doncic in this draft. He’s the most polarizing prospect in this draft. If Doncic hasn’t convinced you by now that he’s worthy of a top-four selection then my suspicion is nothing will change your mind. He’s been a pro for years and has been picked apart and dissected by some of the best basketball minds in the game. He plays the most desired position in the modern NBA and has done it at a high level against other professionals. Is he guaranteed not to bust? Of course not. I see the flaws that his critics see, and they concern me too, which is why I think Ayton is the best pure prospect in this draft. But the best pure prospect does not always turn out to the best player from that draft. 
  3. I believe that if the Grizzlies want to draft Doncic, they will have to trade with either the Kings or Hawks to make that happen. Woj reported that Doncic has moved to the top of the Hawks’ draft board, and while I’m sure that’s what he was told, that seems a bit ridiculous. I’m confident that the Hawks did not have an epiphany recently and decide that Doncic was worthy of going No. 3. There’s been a lot of smoke around Jaren Jackson Jr. to that Hawks, and my suspicion is that they’re posturing. They know many teams, including the Grizzlies, have Doncic high on their board, so the Hawks appear to be doing what any smart front office would do—they’re trying to acquire more assets while also getting the player they would take at three.
  4. The Grizzlies should not draft Michael Porter Jr. at No. 4. He’s an interesting trade-back candidate, but there are too any good prospects who are not battling very real injury concerns that will be available at four.
  5. Speaking of trading back, that’s something that could be a good option for the Grizz, especially if the draft goes Ayton at one, Bagley at two and either the Hawks draft Doncic at three to trade him or keep him. The next guy who would likely come off the board is Jaren Jackson Jr. There are teams who would likely want to move up for him or get ahead of Dallas for Mo Bamba or even Trey Young. The Grizzlies brought Wendell Carter Jr. in for a workout. Would they be comfortable enough drafting him at four? At that point, if Ayton, Bagley and Doncic are all unavailable, trading back looks like the best option. However…
  6. The Grizzlies should not use the No. 4 pick to get off of Chandler Parsons’ contract. If you make a trade where Parsons is used to match a salary, great, but if you’re using the No. 4 pick to dump his contract for a negative return, I’m against that. You have to ask yourself this: Is getting off the final two years of Parsons’ contract worth getting rid of a top-five pick in what considered by most a good draft, and not to mention your best asset? My answer is no. I’m not sure how seriously the Grizzlies have taken some of these offers, but they should (and I assume they would) play hardball with teams to make sure they get a fair return in a trading back.
  7. There was a report that Mo Bamba did not work out for or release medicals to the Grizzlies. He’s said to have told people he doesn’t want to play for them. The feelings are mutual, bro. (Though I’m not opposed to trading back and drafting him later, just not at four.)
  8. What about Kevin Knox? We’ve heard his name come up with the Grizzlies. Would they really draft him at four? I’m glad you asked, and the way I would answer it is: they might. And that’s not as crazy as it would have sounded a month ago. I feel very confident that Knox will go in the top 10, likely somewhere around eight to Cleveland, but it could be as late as 12 or 13 to the Clippers. Knox has been a fairly quiet but steady riser on mocks draft, starting around late-lottery or even as low as 15 or 16 and now he’s being fairly consistently slotted in the top 10. I was told by someone that, like many of you have heard, the Grizzlies do in fact like Knox, and they may even have him higher on their board that Michael Porter Jr. I would be a little surprised if they called his name at four on Thursday, but I wouldn’t be shocked.
  9. I’m high on both Miles Bridges and Mikal Bridges. Despite sharing a last name, their games are very different. You watch Mikal play, and can’t help but think you’re getting 10- to 12-year year 3-and-D wing who’s every coaches dream. Miles is another guy who will likely have along career, and was built to play in then modern NBA. He shoots threes, can create for himself and others and rebounds well for his size. If the Grizzlies end up trading with the Clippers at 12 and 13 or even the Nuggets at 14, those are two guys they could potentially target.
  10. My official endorsement for the No 4 pick: if Doncic is there, pick him. If he’s not, assuming Bagley and Ayton are also gone, I’m team trade back. If you can’t find a suitable trade partner, then take either Trae Young or Jaren Jackson Jr. 
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To wrap this up, here are 10 guys who intrigue me at 32 or acquiring a pick later in the second round:

  1. Jacob Evans. If he’s there, almost regardless of whoever else is on the board, he’s my pick. He’s a prototypical 3-and-D wing who I foresee having a long career.
  2. Mitchell Robinson. He’s probably a first round guy if he doesn’t try to go to Western Kentucky (if you haven’t read up on his college situation, you should), and he may be a first rounder regardless. Could end up being a poor man’s Clint Capela.
  3. Shake Milton. Huge for his position (listed at 6-7 and played point guard in college). Could end up being a 3-and-D combo guard.
  4. Jalen Brunson. He’s going to be a very good backup point guard for a long time in the NBA. He’s the type of guy you want on your side.
  5. Landry Shamet. His shot making and basketball IQ alone make hime worthy of a late first round pick, but he could be available of the Grizz at 32. He likely won’t ever provide much on defense, but the shooting and potential to be a secondary ball handler make him an intriguing prospect.
  6. Melvin Frazer. Another possible 3-and-D wing. He’s a good athlete who’s defense should translate seamlessly and the has foundation to develop a good jumper.
  7. Bruce Brown. Brown is currently projected to go to the Grizzlies in ESPN’s latest mock draft, and I’m not opposed to it. He projects to be a wing creator and good defender. If he can shoot a respectable percentage from three, he will be a very useful NBA player.
  8. Jevon Carter. He’d become a GNG cult hero.
  9. Gary Clark. Could end up being a stretch four who defends. Likely available late in the draft.
  10. Rawle Alkins. Another guy who could be a GNG cult hero and be a floor spacer. Grizz fans would love him.
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