Here’s a question: Why on Earth did the Grizzlies draft Thabeet when they had Gasol?

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Hasheem Thabeet is probably the worst draft pick of the 2000’s. I know you’re going to want to say Kwame Brown. I get that. Bear in mind that Kwame Brown ended up an average center, ten years later. Sure, Thabeet could wind up in a similar boat, it just looks remarkably unlikely. Brown couldn’t put it together. Thabeet has nothing to put together. Also, was Michael Jordan going to take Pau Gasol? Come on. Tyson Chandler took several years to become who he is, nobody saw Tony Parker becoming Tony Parker except R.C. Buford, and Joe Johnson wasn’t a fit either. But Memphis? Memphis could have had Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, really any player except Thabeet.

But that’s not why the pick was so terrible. Let’s say that under the tutelage of the Houston Rockets’ fine developmental structure, Thabeet becomes a solid defensive center capable of making an impact. Let’s say he becomes the very best he can be, which is a B-level Dikembe Mutumbo (and that was his ceiling at draft). It would still be a terrible pick. And if you want the proof, just take a look at what’s gotten the Grizzlies here: Marc Gasol.

Consider this excerpt from an excellent piece from Tom Ziller of SBNation.com today:

Marc Gasol was a treasure, the most Thunder-y player on the roster, and without him, this crazy escapade doesn’t work. He’s the pre-existing make-up call for Thabeet, who was pawned off for a rental of Shane Battier, another Thunderish roleplayer.

via Memphis Grizzlies, The Anti-Thunder, Cheat Death Again – SBNation.com.

The term “pre-existing” there is crucial. It’s not like Gasol suddenly became good. Yes, he lost a significant amount of weight in 2009 which helped him make a leap. But Gasol was every bit the beast in his rookie season. The pattern was there. The potential, production the works. You could make the argument that Gasol’s been more important to the Grizzlies’ playoff run than any other player. Zach Randolph has been magnificent, the best he could be, but you could count on that. You saw that coming. Teams did not expect Gasol to hit them with tough putbacks, crisp passing, and solid mid-range shooting. (All things Thabeet cannot do, by the way.)

And if that was already not only on their roster, but starting for them, why on Earth would they have drafted Gasol? You might theorize that the Grizzlies had plans to play Thabeet and Gasol together, with the younger Gasol at power forward. But then, why would they turn around and trade for Zach Randolph? The short answer is because they’re the Grizzlies.

The point of this post is not to try and bury the Grizzlies as so many, including myself, have done for the past four years when they’re one hot shooting night away from the Western Conference Finals. The Grizzlies have actually done a pretty splendid job in roster creation ever since… the second after they drafted Thabeet. Barring the Ronnie Brewer “let’s trade a first round pick for a player in restricted free agency, then renounce his rights, literally surrendering a draft pick for absolutely nothing” play they made last summer, they’ve put together players that go together, and even managed to turn Thabeet into Shane Battier, without whom their playoff run would have been impossible.

But the point is simply to recognize that Marc Gasol is an incredible young player who they need to re-sign once the CBA is settled. More so than Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, or Zach Randolph, all of whom have received huge extensions, Gasol needs to stay in Memphis. He’s the building block they didn’t know they had. Instead of pouting or flipping out at the selection of Thabeet, he worked harder. He hedges the screen, recovers on the pick and pop, defended Tim Duncan, has a reliable hook shot, can hit the mid-range and managed to find chemistry next to Zach Randolph.

The lesson is: before you go chasing the next big thing, make sure you don’t already have it.

Reports: Lakers, Pacers both confident in tampering case

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The Lakers reportedly expect to be cleared of the tampering allegations brought by the Pacers over Paul George.

As for the Pacers?

Bob Kravitz of WTHR on The Rich Eisen Show

They feel very strongly that there were correspondences between Lakers executives and Paul George’s representative. They had heard those rumors for quite some time. They think there’s some there there.

Wishful thinking by both sides? It sure looks like it.

The Lakers probably tampered, because everybody tampers. But teams are rarely punished for it, so they can also believe they did nothing egregious enough to become an exception.

A paper trail between the Lakers – Magic Johnson or any other executive – and George’s camp would go far. But even that must be more specific. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Lakers forward Julius Randle and former Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. So, he’d have good reason to communicate with the organization.

I don’t know what the NBA will do here. Tampering rules are rarely and arbitrarily enforced. That gives each team plenty of room to believe it’s right.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?