Grizzlies admit they were wrong about 2009 draft, still completely miss the point

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The Grizzlies have learned! They admitted a mistake! An NBA front office actually admitted a draft mistake! Good times are on the way! We can learn!

Or not.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Geoff Calkins has an article today leading with a fine quote from the man in charge of the Grizzlies, Michael Heisley. If you thought the answer to that question was General Manager Chris Wallace, you’re looking for the “basketball teams run sensibly” class down the hall. Heisley leads the article admitting that the Grizzlies made a huge mistake in last year’s draft. Having begged the Grizzlies not to take Hasheem Thabeet, this was an especially sweet moment of closure for me and…

Wait, what?


Turns out Heisley completely glosses over the highest pick to ever be assigned to the D-League who still looks two to three years away from being able to contribute even meaningful, much less impactful minutes, and instead decides to throw the 27th overall pick DeMarre Carroll under the bus in order to praise DeJuan Blair. From the Appeal:

“We should have taken him,” Heisley said. “He was 15th on our list. But
sometimes, in the heat of the moment, you get derailed. We got swayed by
some discussions with the doctors. This year, we’re going to take the
guy who is next on our list or someone is going to have to do a very
good job explaining to me why we’re not.”

Oh, okay, I see what you’re doing there. You’re making a joke. You’re saying that instead of your big mistake last year being the drafting of a seven foot pogo stick who had to be assigned to Dakota for 10 days in order for him to start even knowing where he was on the floor with the #2 overall pick in a loaded draft, that it was really you taking a hard nosed defender with upside over a guy who 29 other teams passed on due to his considerable injury history. All of this while retaining Mike Conley. I get it. Very funny, Mike. Such a kidder.

But, of course, because the world is a cruel and dark place, Heisley is not kidding. Look, let’s be clear. Yes, passing on Blair was a mistake. He’s shown in his rookie year that provided the super-glue and duct-tape holding his major leg joint together remains intact, he can definitely contribute with fierce rebounding and tough putbacks at the NBA level. And the Grizzlies had one of the worst benches in the league last year. But then again, drafting Blair would have meant this is what the Grizzlies’ frontcourt would have looked like, in terms of viable options:

Zach Randolph,Marc Gasol, DeJuan Blair, Hasheem Thabeet, Hamed Haddadi

That’s a lot of big guys to distribute minutes to.

Now, let’s look at their real, honest to God, viable backcourt rotation:

Mike Conley (kind of, sort of), O.J. Mayo

Right, because it’s really that 27th pick that hurt you. Let’s try that last part again with any of several combinations.

Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley
Stephen Curry, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley
Brandon Jennings, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley
Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley

The list goes on. I’d even throw Jonny Flynn in there.

I appreciate that Heisley is admitting that mistakes were made, which is an important part of rebuilding a relationship with your fans. But the Grizzlies continue to try very hard, and yet somehow completely miss the point. Drafting DeMarre Carroll was certainly not a brilliant move, but not because they could have had DeJuan Blair. This is all beside the fact that as Heisley says this, he’s simultaneously damaging the team’s relationship with Carroll who can still contribute (and who they’ll need if he doesn’t want to pay out the wazoo for Rudy Gay) and glossing over the fact that they had another pick in front of him!

The Grizzlies had him 15th, and passed on him at 27 . But what about selecting Sam Young at 36, after you’d just drafted a highly identical player at a position you’re loaded at? Heisley makes it sound like the low-hanging fruit was right there, they had their hand on it, and pulled it way. But the truth is they walked right back around to the fruit again, and still decided it had worms in it.

Blair has been a force for the Spurs, in very limited minutes, and while he certainly projects to an All-Star, the knees are legitimate concerns. That’s why the Grizzlies weren’t alone in passing on him. But if they’re looking in the mirror to try and learn from their mistakes, it’s not that pick that should haunt them. It’s the cavalcade of all-rookie team selections that followed immediately after the player they went with after their rare lottery luck landed them the second overall.

As usual with Memphis, the right idea is there, the execution isn’t. Close, but no cigar. And by cigar, I mean Tyreke Evans.

Kelly Olynyk nutmegs Kyle O’Quinn to set up Josh Richardson dunk (video)

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In the Heat’s rout of the Knicks last night, Kelly Olynyk scored 22 points and dished a career-high 10 assists.

This was the prettiest, a pass between Kyle O'Quinn‘s legs to Josh Richardson, who dunked.

Malik Beasley stumbles, bumbles, fumbles during turnover (video)

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Malik Beasley isn’t a point guard, but he was playing the position for the Nuggets in garbage time of their win over the Bulls last night. And Torrey Craig‘s pass was low and behind Beasley, which is why Craig was assigned the turnover.

With those caveats acknowledged, Beasley’s contortions as he tries to corral the ball are something to behold.

Five NBA Draft prospects/teams to watch in the Sweet 16

Associated Press

Just like me and everyone else, your bracket is busted. That was not the only thing to go belly up in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament — so were a lot of the top-tier draft picks. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton didn’t see the second game of the weekend. Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges of Michigan State join the long list of players and teams stymied by Syracuse’s zone. Mohamed Bamba. Out. Michael Porter Jr.? Out. Trae Young? Out.

That doesn’t mean there are not guys NBA fans should be watching the round of 16 starting Thursday night. There are likely lottery picks playing, not to mention guys down the board who will be playing in the NBA next season.

Here are five things for NBA fans to watch in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

1) Battle of the zone defenses and lottery prospects: Duke vs. Syracuse. The Blue Devils are the most loaded team left in the tournament… forget that, they were the most loaded team in the tournament, period. If you’re a fan of a team in the midst of the tankapaloza going on at the bottom of the NBA standings right now, this is your game.

Duke’s big man Marvin Bagley III is likely going to be taken between No. 3-5 come June, and he is worth keeping an eye on. He’s a phenomenal athlete who can get buckets — he had 22 points in each of the first two Tournament games and shot a combined 18-of-24, he is an incredible finisher around the rim — plus is a beast on the boards (16 in the two games). Scouts and teams that liked him all season at Duke saw more of the same in the first two rounds, he helped his stock (if that’s possible)

Next to Bagley on Duke’s dominant front like is the more polished Wendell Carter Jr. (a likely top 10 pick), who had 24 points on 15 shots through two games of the tournament. This is a game where against the Syracuse zone Carter’s passing — big-to-big to Bagley, or kicked out to guys like Grayson Allen — will both matter to the team and show something to scouts. Allen is a likely late-first/early second round pick who can help his cause by showing how he can shoot over the top of that zone.

For Syracuse, Tyus Battle needs to show he can make good decisions with the ball in his hands — he’s been inconsistent with that all season. He passes the eye test as a 6’6” NBA guard, but his decision making needs to be better and Duke will test that. Battle is a late first/early second kind of guy who needs to get a team to fall in love with him.

The fact both of these teams play so much zone will turn off NBA scouts — it’s the right basketball move for both Duke and Syracuse, but it masks the defensive flaws the top prospects on both teams have. And there are defensive questions about all three of those guys.

2) It’s the NCAA Tournament, of course you should be watching Kentucky. Two things are inevitable this time of year: John Calipari will find something to complain about so he can say everyone is against him; and Kentucky will be loaded with NBA prospects.

Kentucky’s guys to watch when they take on Kansas State starts with back-of-the-lottery/mid-teens pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, their smooth point guard. He was impressive with 46 points on 15-of-25 shooting in the first two tournament games (which is good, the consistency of his jumper was a question mark for scouts), although he did not show much of a stroke from three (2-of-2). His hesitation moves and smart game look like something that will translate to the NBA.

Then there’s Kevin Knox on the wing, who also should go in the lottery. He had 25 points on 16 shots in a strong game against Davidson in the first round, and what teams like are his defense and versatility. Combo forwards are in demand in the NBA.

Also keep on eye on Hamidou Diallo, a likely second-round pick.

3) Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Villanova will get a test from West Virginia. At this point in the season, scouts/GMs have opinions largely formed about players, but they want to watch them play one more time and want to see them tested. West Virginia should do that for the two Villanova prospects

Mikal Bridges is the kind of long, athletic defender that teams are looking for, plus he can knock down threes — he is 8-of-14 from deep so far in the tournament. He dropped 23 on a good Alabama team, and he looks like the kind of switchable wing role player at the NBA level a lot of teams are searching for.

The bigger test is for likely second-round pick Jalen Brunson — the guard struggled at points vs. Collin Sexton, and now goes up against a strong defender in Jevon Carter (a possible second-round pick himself). Brunson can help his cause with a good game here.

4) Hey Nuggets/Clippers/Lakers/Pistons fans, take the time to check out Texas A&M’s Robert Williams, he might be your late lottery guy. If anyone helped their cause in the NCAA’s first two rounds, it was A&M’s Williams, who played a key role in the Aggies upset of North Carolina with his 13 boards and strong play inside. The question never has been “does he have the talent?” but rather “will he bring it every night?” Williams showed everyone against North Carolina what he looks like when he can bring it, and you could see where he would be dangerous in the NBA where more skilled players around him will open up the floor and give him more space to operate. Think a poor man’s Clint Capela. Can he show he will bring it consistently on a big stage?

5) Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith had a strong first weekend, but he will get a test from Purdue’s Vincent Edwards and Carsen Edwards. Smith has plenty of talent and it showed against Florida in the first weekend — 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and strong defense.

Smith may be in the mold of a guy where some will say “he needs another year in college to develop” but after 28 points on 21 shots through the first two rounds of the tournament, the potential second-half-of-the-first-round may well come out and get paid to develop. He will get another chance to show how much he has developed against a quality Purdue team.

Between his clutch FTs, LeBron James goes out of his way to high-five Raptors G Fred VanVleet (video)

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

High-fiving the opponent between his free throws is a wellestablished trick to break concentration.

LeBron James turned the tables in the Cavaliers’ win over the Raptors last night.

Toronto guard Fred VanVleet brushed hands with LeBron between a pair of late LeBron free throws. Unfazed, LeBron turned around and got a crisp high-five from VanVleet:

LeBron made both free throws.

No matter how much better the Raptors have been than Cleveland this season, LeBron wants the mental edge. He led the Cavs to playoff-series wins over Toronto the last two years, and this only increases perception he’s in complete control when these teams meet.