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!
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…
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.