To Move or Not to Move?
The draft world is in Chris Wallace’s hands. God help us all.
The L.A. Clippers taking Blake Griffin with this year’s No. 1 pick is as obvious as saying Eminem has issues with his mother. The true intrigue of the 2009 NBA Draft begins at No. 2, which appropriately belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies, who have been taking dumps on the court for years. By the way, I can’t confirm the rumor that the Lakers are sending Chris Wallace, the Grizzlies’ GM and VP of basketball operations, a title ring for his services, I mean trade, but I wouldn’t put it past them. He is this year’s Kevin McHale.
As bad as the organization has been recently, the Grizzlies are in a rare position to dictate how this draft plays out. Oklahoma City will be faced with a dilemma if the Grizzlies take Hasheem Thabeet. Do they grab Rubio and move Russell Westbrook to the 2? What if the Grizzlies select Rubio? Do you pass on Thabeet—next potential Mutombo—in favor of James Harden? Would New York swoop in to grab Rubio? You see, every other team outside of Clipperland is waiting to see what Memphis will do.
The beautiful disaster that is Memphis ensures that they need help at nearly every position. O.J. Mayo is their only true future star. We could argue about the value of Gay or Mike Conley, who have yet to fully live up to their hype, but we’d be here all night. To prevent that we are examining a few scenarios Memphis could make happen, then determine which makes the most sense. We all know those two don’t often come together for Memphis.
Scenario #1: Memphis drafts Ricky Rubio and trades Mike Conley Jr.
Rubio’s star power may be too much for Memphis to pass on, even if he has alluded that he doesn’t want to go there. If Rubio is picked, the Grizzlies could feel compelled to ship Conley to another team.
A good trade on paper is Conley for Portland’s Rudy Fernandez and a 2009 draft pick. The Trail Blazers need a young point guard and Memphis needs shooters and depth. Rudy and Rubio sounds like a buddy cop film, but it’d make for entertaining nights in Memphis. Sadly, a Portland-and-Memphis trade happening is as likely as Kanye West and George Bush grabbing lunch together. Memphis blew their chance by grabbing Darius Miles this season when Portland threatened teams not to mess with their salary cap, hoping Miles would come off the books if he wasn’t picked up off waivers. Was Portland wrong to do it? Yes. But right and wrong don’t matter when talking trades. I go back to the L.A. and Gasol trade for proof of that.
Scenario #2: Memphis drafts Ricky Rubio and keeps Mike Conley Jr.
The idea that there can’t be two sheriffs in town was dismissed this year with the success of Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry in the postseason. Rubio and Conley could become the most formidable one-two point guard combo in the League. Would Conley be willing to split time as he continues to mature, and what happens if Rubio makes a demand to have the starting spot? Rubio isn’t coming to the States to be a back-up, and he wouldn’t hesitate to demand a trade or go back overseas if he doesn’t get starter’s minutes. The Grizzlies aren’t absolutely desperate for another point guard so it may be a bigger headache than it’s worth to try and handle both Rubio and Conley.
Scenario #3: Memphis drafts Hasheem Thabeet
It’s been whispered that the Grizzlies would like two big men down low with the combo of Marc Gasol and Thabeet. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This is not a Twin Towers situation like in San Antonio with David Robinson and Tim Duncan, nor is it anywhere as appealing as Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon rocking the rim in Houston in the 80’s. Hasheem may call himself “The Dream” on Twitter but he’s delusional to think his game comes anywhere near Olajuwon’s.
The Grizzlies have enough salary cap room to make a run at a legit frontcourt threat. Whether they could land an Amar’e Stoudemire is another question altogether, but you don’t choose Thabeet just because you are lacking rebounding. The No. 2 pick should be reserved for a player that can make an immediate impact. Thabeet has project player written all over him.
On the other hand, Thabeet may use his athleticism, wingspan and defensive skills to lock down the lane, grabbing rebounds and sending shots into the stands. If he gained weight and a few offensive moves, things could get dirty in Memphis.
Scenario #4: Memphis trades down
The Portland Trail Blazers have done a great job in the last few years of trading picks to get more value and stockpiling their system. The LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Kryhapa deal is only one move that has them known as the New England Patriots of the NBA Draft. Memphis should follow in their footsteps. Boston, Houston and New York have all reportedly are asking about the pick, though this could all be an attempt for Memphis to give the pick more value. Memphis could trade down and still get a player like Jordan Hill and have another pick or player to go with it.
What Memphis should do
I admit to being excited about the play of Rubio but not enough that I can forget how bad Memphis is right now. One talented player, particularly a young player with question marks, isn’t going to turn this franchise around. There is virtually no frontcourt help, and that is what Memphis should focus on. Unfortunately there aren’t any sure things in the 2009 Draft at the post position except for Blake Griffin. So the Grizzlies would be smart to pick Rubio and hold him ransom for the best package available, like the aforementioned vet big man they are dying for. It offers the most value in a draft that is as watered down as the keg at a sorority party. If someone wants Conley enough to give up a post player, by all means make the move and keep Rubio.
If that isn’t working, trade down to get a deal from a team like the New York Knicks. Mike D’Antoni wants Ricky Rubio like Kevin Federline wants respect. The No. 2 pick would be worth the No. 8 and David Lee, assuming the Knicks would do a sign-and-trade. You could then take Stephen Curry at 8, offering you both rebounding help and energy with Lee and the smooth stroke of Curry. I’d venture to say that helps more than just Rubio.
The list of potential power forwards to trade for or sign is sick. Carlos Boozer, Lamar Odom, Rasheed Wallace, Mehmet Okur, Shawn Marion and Al Harrington are just a few free agents out there. You don’t give up the No. 2 for one of them alone, since none are superstars, but you include the pick for the power forward of your choosing and another of that team’s picks. Taking one for next year isn’t a bad idea.
Memphis, the world is yours. Do with it what you will. If past is prologue then it means you will package the second pick with O.J. Mayo and trade it to Cleveland for Ben Wallace and Lorenzen Wright. Chris Wallace will try to spin it by saying, “We’re bringing Memphis pride back! And if we can get Penny Hardaway to come out of retirement, bonus!” Sigh.
What do you think the Grizzlies should do with the second pick?