Successful Grizzlies to have ‘late’ night instead of lottery ticket
Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2011 5:02 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies are about to find out one cost of playoff success.
A team that usually has taken a seat at the NBA draft lottery show won’t be picking early. After trading this year’s first-round pick to the Utah Jazz in 2010 for Ronnie Brewer, the Grizzlies hold only one pick in tonight’s NBA draft. They will wait quite a while until picking at No. 49 overall.
Not that anyone in Memphis is missing the drama and analysis that goes with holding a first-round pick. The town still is buzzing after the Grizzlies’ stirring playoff run into the Western Conference semifinals.
“You’ve got to get lucky,” said Tony Barone Sr., the Grizzlies’ director of player personnel. “I’d like to say we’re brilliant, and we found a diamond in the rough.”
Memphis is coming off its most successful season in franchise history, never having won a playoff game before this year.
Seeded eighth in the Western Conference, Memphis won the opening game of the first-round series before dispatching the conference’s top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. In a second round featuring two of the youngest teams in the West, Memphis went to a deciding seventh game before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The playoff run came at a time when Grizzlies’ fans normally studied mock drafts and scouting tips wondering which new player might be drafted to improve the team.
Barone said he doesn’t approach predraft workouts any differently than in previous years when Memphis was selecting early in the first round. The players are different.
“Obviously, the level of the 49th pick is different in terms of guys who will come in and work out for you,” Barone said. “We’ve got guys calling us in the middle of the night to come in and work out, as opposed to if you have a lottery pick, you are begging those guys to come in.”
Memphis has needs to fill, primarily an outside shooter to provide much-needed 3-point relief for the Grizzlies’ productive inside game and a backup power forward/center to help effectively spell post starters Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
“When you are at this pick, you just have to really investigate. If you’re not doing your due diligence and investigating, then you are not doing your job,” Barone said this week.
Some possible players for Memphis at No. 49 could be Malcolm Thomas, a 6-foot-9 power forward from San Diego State, combo guard Malcolm Lee from UCLA, Isaiah Thomas of Washington, Greg Smith of Fresno State and Cory Joseph from Texas.
Players picked in the late portion of the second round have had an impact. Chicago Bulls shooter Kyle Korver was picked 51st overall in 2003. Paul Millsap was the 47th overall pick by the Jazz in 2006, and Wesley Matthews, who emerged as a scorer for Portland last season, was undrafted out of Marquette in 2009.
The Grizzlies will be picking so late that they aren’t holding a watch party Thursday night.
That’s a change from the anticipation during the past rebuilding years that featured Memphis’ spotty success with early first-round picks.
Backup shooting guard O.J. Mayo came to Memphis when the Grizzlies traded Kevin Love to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Starting point guard Mike Conley was the fourth overall pick in 2004, and starting forward Rudy Gay was selected by Houston and came to Memphis in a draft night trade.
The Grizzlies also have missed badly when picking high. The failed experiment of Hasheem Thabeet, selected No. 2 overall in 2009, ended when he was shipped to the Rockets in a trade deadline deal in February.
Finding a good shooter is going to be tough in the draft with Grizzlies officials doubting whether a college player can come in and take on that role. Memphis expects to fill that void with a veteran.
While everyone wonders what Memphis can find at No. 49, getting healthy may be the Grizzlies’ best offseason option to improve. Xavier Henry, last year’s No. 12 pick, missed much of last season with a knee injury. He is expected to provide much-needed scoring from the guard position, which is what the Grizzlies envisioned when he was selected.
Memphis also is hoping Rudy Gay, lost in February to a season-ending shoulder injury, makes a full recovery by the start of the season.