Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back in School: The Chris Wallace Interview - Part 3

This is the 3rd part of the exclusive interview Chris Wallace gave 3 Shades of Blue on Friday, June 6th. Part 1 discussed his introduction to the NBA up to his first draft. Part 2 dealt with the draft process and how it has developed.

As in the Michael Heisley interview in April, we are presenting the interview in its entirety and not taking excerpts out to forward any agenda or point of view. We at 3 Shades of Blue hope everyone enjoys the interview and trust our readers to draw whatever conclusions they want from it.

3SOB: Are there certain things about a player's background or play that is a red flag for the you and the Grizzlies? I assume with the preponderance of knowledge about the players games that this backgrounds take greater prevalence.
CW: This is much more important. Some of the things which are red flags are obvious such as substance abuse. You obviously have to be very concerned about that. A police record. If young person is aiming for a pro basketball career and trying to be a good citizen then why do you have rap sheet? But the biggest red flag in my opinion is not having a passion for the game. That it's not an over-riding concern for him. Being a well-rounded person is great for society. The world needs them. What we need is guys that are obsessed with getting better. They have a real passion. They have somewhat of a tunnel vision.

College coaches have more control over kids these players than we do. They are the gate keepers to these kids getting into the NBA. They basically don't have any choice but to get with the program. They also go to school and that takes up a lot of their time. So when they come to us and they sign that contract, They own us in a way. You can't just get rid of people if you want to win. Trades aren't automatic if you make a mistake. Plus they have a lot more free time and money in their pocket than they did when they were in college. We've got them for 3+ hours a day. They are on break for the other 20+ hours. No study halls. No classes they have to attend. Sure there are programs put on by the NBA but they have their money and feel like they've arrived. So if a player comes in with problems just being in the NBA isn't going to be a panacea for their problems. It exacerbates those other problems. So that is why you have to be careful who you get involved with.

At this time of year, so many people have a vested interests in the player going high. Their agent, their college coaches it's good for their programs after all. So people are reluctant to really unload on a kid negatively when you talk to people unless you really know them. And players have had issues in the past. They understand what they did was wrong and being in the NBA, they're motivated to become a great player, they won't do this and that but being in the NBA isn't some magic balm rubbed on their shoulders. It doesn't work that way. And then the outside people who have had such influence over the years, their high school coach, their AAU coach, family members, their college coach, whatever, once these guys are getting paid that impact lessens. So if you have an issue it's not like you can call the college coach to help you solve it. Maybe their mother will but basically you're on your own.

3SOB: The next question builds on this issue, everyone has a red flag. So once you have associated the players red flags how do you sort them to determine who you draft?
CW: There are almost no perfect players. There's either something in the background, injuries, size, a certain matchup they didn't fair well against in college. There's something that you can point to as a negative.

3SOB: So how do you determine I'm going to ignore this red flags and not ignore that one?
CW: That's a good question. It's a bit of a moving target. You give greater allowance for better talent. First of all you look at a player. I'm not concerned if someone says he can play or he can't play to be honest with you. We're trying to have a team that can go far in the playoffs to get a title. That's what this exercise is all about. We're looking for players projected to be of that caliber. That can be rotation players. The Celtics and Lakers in the heydays had non-entities at the end of their benches. That's not what you anticipate but to be a rotation player, if you look at those players, at the top of the page is physical ability. Do they have the athleticism, the size, the matchup at his position because there are very few long term productive tweeners or in between size players in the NBA.

Then you get into the skills. Do they have the outside shot? Can the guy rebound? It's not just athleticism. The basketball component comes into it too. So you check that off. If you got both of those boxes, the size, the appropriate athleticism, the physical makeup, the skill set then I like to resonate to the productivity. There are virtually no players that I can think of that are valuable players that weren't productive at whatever level they are at. Nobody is going to be averaging 1 or 2 points per game for the Memphis Tigers is going to suddenly be able to play in the NBA. A rotation player on a big time team is going to have to produce to climb up the ladder. There's a resume there. So you look at the statistics of them. The statistics can sometimes make liars out of you but after you look at the physical profile, look at what they did as part of a team.

And if at all possible you want somebody from winning programs although there are exceptions to that. Rodney Stuckey is an example. Rodney's a very good player in Detroit but he was on a losing team at Eastern Washington in a very small conference. I think it was the Big Sky and the coach got fired so obviously the administration wasn't happy. There are always exceptions to that rule. It's when you get into the intangibles that all those questions become a concern. Is he a quality person, how's his basketball IQ, have there ever been any issues off the court and then the big one with me is does he like to play? As the Patriots say if it's a football player, how important is football to his life? Well how important is basketball?

So when all that lines up then we really got something. Most cases it doesn't all line up. So now you have to take out the negatives and evaluate how egregious are the negatives. There's no exact formula for that. Some cases you say 'okay I understand why this happened.' Maybe this system didn't use him to the best advantage but to be great that whole tower has to line up.

One other thing to, the great players, you don't have to study, watch film, spend hours on the work to figure out who is going to be great. Those players stand out. I think you should be able to tell within 10-15 minutes. I watched Kobe Bryant play and I could tell after 2-3 times up the court that this guy is going to be special. Kevin Garnett when he was young, Alonzo Mourning. These guys stand out so noticeable from their peers, even to the casual fan.

3SOB: I guess I don't have that eye because I remember the Nike Hoop Summit a couple of years ago when Saer Sene stood out to me. I remember thinking once this guys figures things out he is going to be dominant.
CW: See now you have a big if. Is he going to figure that out? That is the problem. Will he learn offense and how to play? It seems simple to master basketball when you watch from the outside. You get a coach and shoot free throws over and over you will get better. But at this level of competition despite all the good intentions, sometimes you just don't get any better. And I have found that if you don't have a good feel for the game early on then you probably aren't going to develop that later on.

See it's different than in football. In football you can be a great physical specimen and you passed the ability to play the position then you're probably going to be pretty good. In our game it is a little more difficult. It's not enough to have that one skill, like shot blocking. You still have to, if you want stay on the court along time, to be able to add value. The guys who can produce in this league hit all of the bases. You have to be someone who doesn't consistently make mistakes. There is a whole feel for the game aspect that is a skill.

to be continued...

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Back in School: The Chris Wallace Interview - Part 2

This is the continuation of an interview Chris Wallace gave exclusively to 3 Shades of Blue. The first part of the interview began with his Blue Ribbon Basketball Digest up to the point he made his first real pick in the draft.

As in the Michael Heisley interview in April, we are presenting the interview in it's entirety and not taking excerpts out to forward any agenda or point of view. We at 3 Shades of Blue hope everyone enjoys the interview and trust our readers to draw whatever conclusions they want from it.

3SOB: So you would say your first hand picked player was Kevin Gamble. Now he ended up playing for the Celtics didn't he? Was he there when you were there?
CW: He played for the Celtics, Kings, the Miami Heat. He was a journeyman but he had a good career though. Now I did a total of three years with them with the amount of traveling I did and responsibilities growing. Then I went to the Denver Nuggets. I lasted there 8 months. Jon Spoelstra took me to the Nuggets with him when became President of the team. He got fired 3 months into a 4 year contract.

3SOB: Was there a change of ownership or what?
CW: No. He came in with new ownership and there was a controversy about a player that got signed, Blair Rasmussen. He was signed to a very hefty salary at the time for a center especially at his level. The General Manager said Jon had signed and Jon said the General Manager did it and it became a kind of hot potato. And he ended up getting fired. So I had just moved out there. I had no contract. I don't know anyone. Lasted eight months there before they brought in a new management team and I got fired. Then I went back to West Virginia and did some work on my magazine and did some work on basketball litigation and I worked for the Clippers and New York for two years on a part time basis out of West Virginia.

The Knicks situation was different because I talked them into, in 1991 or 92 at the beginning of European scouting, sending me to Europe to scout every European and American player playing abroad for 3 weeks. So I got a 3 week trip out of it. It was in Denver, the most important thing I did there, I took my first European trip. I scouted Toni Kukoc when I was there. So with that experience and what I had before it really sparked an interest in international scouting which has become a passion. Then in December of 1993 I went to the Miami Heat.

3SOB: Now when you went to Miami you are no longer just that guy somebody hired. You went there as a major player.
CW: Well I didn't really go there as a major player. I mean everyone involved is a major player because it's not that big. Even a team with the most extensive staff is still a small number of people. It's just a small world and the impetus to make a pick can come from any part of that. Scouts drive it. General Managers drive it. Coaches can come in and drive it. It's really hard to explain unless you've been in it but often there is not a clear cut pipeline like there is in other businesses.

Certain companies may have a research department come up with something and it gets moved to the top, then accounting people come and so on and it's a well defined process. We have all the names in the draft, or virtually all the names - some get added on along the way, then the lives of these players inside the personnel department kind of take a life of their own. This year the General Manager may drive it a bit, another year some guy from the scouts like an international scout might be particularly excited about a player and he drives it. So the ideas and the momentum for the choices come from all over the organization.

3SOB: Well do the Grizzlies have an extensive scouting group?
CW: Yeah we do and you have to understand the difference between our endeavor and football or baseball. You don't have the volume of players these other sports do. For example, baseball has a draft that involves college players as well as high school players that we don't have anymore in the NBA. Baseball also doesn't have an international draft I believe. So the Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves are in fierce competition in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela for the next great 15 year old shortstop. So that takes a tremendous amount of manpower with the farm clubs and all. To get ready for some 60 round draft with college and high school players and then stay ahead of the competition in Latin America and the volume of signings of 15 and 16 year olds signing hundreds of them and hope you uncover that next one or two gems.

So there's no way one person would have the familiarity to assess that talent pool and be able to make a decision. In football there obviously more players than even in baseball much less basketball. In football there is only about 13-14 games to judge players in. There is no AAU football. Some players may not even play for 2-3 years too. Players like Willie Parker for the Steelers. He's a star running back now but only gained like 4-500 yards his whole college career. He wasn't even a starter. That's not happening in the NBA. Some guy who's a very minor player and doesn't even start until maybe his last year and doesn't have numbers goes on to become a starter on an NBA team isn't going to happen.

So these other sports don't have the benefit of common competition that we have in the NBA. See these guys play AAU ball. Now we can't go watch them now but you hear about who the best guys are. You know who the best guys are in Memphis, Baltimore and Detroit. These kids rise to the top of the draft. Anyone who looks at the 2008 draft, if you read the internet and read the publications you knew who these guys were since they were 15 or 16 years old. They were separated from their peers. So the top guys in basketball tend to stay in the top. In football picking the top high school guys is more difficult because they may not make it in college. So these other sports have a much larger task as far as the numbers are concerned and they don't get to see the players compete that often.

You know if you went out and tried to scout football games you would find it difficult to see many games. I mean they play some on Thursdays now and maybe you can find a way to see 2 games in person on Saturday but you can't take in many games. We can see games from November all the way through the NCAA tournament almost every night. Thanks to TV we see a lot more in the way of competition with inter-sectional games and pre-season tournaments, post season tournaments so the guys we are looking at go up against each other more often than in football.

We only draft 60 players. Every year there are probably 75 or 80 players that can go in that 60. These other sports you are looking at hundreds. So what I'm getting at is we don't have, or I don't think we have, as arduous a task to see these players. This is where the mechanics of the job take place. You know who the guys are in this game. I mean you can just go off of mock drafts from the beginning of the college season on. You may not have them in the same order but you would have 2/3rds of the lottery. I mean everyone knew O J Mayo was going inside the lottery. Derick Rose, Beasley. They are out there early.

And what also has happened which makes the job easier is the dispersion of this talent. There aren't many NBA players who didn't come from high profile Division 1 schools. The junior college player has virtually dried up. There are almost no small college players of any significance. The historic black schools just aren't putting the players out they used to. The Willis Reed's, the Earl Monroe's, the Bobby Dandridge's. It just doesn't happen anymore. I don't know if there are any NAIA ball players in the league anymore. Maybe Devon George might be an NAIA player. That's like 1 guy out of 400 something players. The Juco players or players coming out of JUCO to Division 1 schools, that has come to a halt. So what we are dealing with is basically big time high school players who came out of the BCS conferences with minor exceptions and the high level European players. So you don't have to go out and beat the bushes like you used to do. We're not trying to outfox the experts for the next great player out of Uzbekistan. These are all known players.

So our object is not discovery. It is catagorizing. Getting those known players in the right order. Now that's no small feat. If you look back at past drafts you'll see that a lot of times the names are all upside down. Every team in the NBA has blown many drafts. Partly because it is an inexact science at best and more I think because of the decision making and the outside stimulas in the process more than people just don't know talent. So my point is having more people, a large group, doesn't neccessarily lend to a better result. Take the top 10 and there are at most 12-13 players being considered for those spots. Everybody knows who they are. The most casual fan can name them because outside of Gallinari they are all branded players. Now the trick is getting them in the right order.

Since I've been in the NBA, which is more than 20 years, there has never been so much manpower devoted to talent aquisition as there is now. More travel, greater use of technology yet the end result is not any better than it was 20 years ago.

to be continued...Part 3

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Draft Party!!!

Grizzlies Draft Party

Thursday, June 26 at FedExForum
Doors open at 5 p.m.
Festivities start at 6 p.m.
NBA Draft begins at 6:30 p.m.

Join Grizzlies’ hosts Pete Pranica and Sean Tuohy for an evening of fun and prizes leading up to the broadcast of the 2008 NBA Draft.

Get autographs from Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry.
Take part in contests and trivia.
Hear live music from Elmo & The Shades.
Watch the NBA Draft with fellow Grizzlies fans on our home court
Bring the family for fun for all ages including face painting, a balloon maker, a rock climbing wall, and the chance to shoot free throws on the Grizzlies' court.
Get your first look at the 2008-09 Grizzlies Dance Team as they make their debut just one week after the final auditions.
And of course, much more.

Back in School: The Chris Wallace Interview - Part 1

This is the first of a multi part interview conducted with Chris Wallace on Friday, June 6th.

Chris Wallace is approaching his one year anniversary as Vice-President and General Manager of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team. It has been a turbulent year to put it mildly. Chris was the handpicked successor of Jerry West. If that isn't troubling enough, Chris took over a team that had failed to make the playoffs for the first time after 3 successive trips, had the star player reportedly unhappy and requesting a trade and had just lost out on the opportunity to draft a franchise player in the upcoming draft. One year later the team again failed to make the playoffs, the star player is gone in a highly controversial trade and the owner seems to be intent on cutting costs while possibly expressing displeasure with Wallace's performance.

So with all of this surrounding him Chris agreed to sit down with 3 Shades of Blue to discuss his views on the draft and how to appraise players starting from his days writing the acclaimed Blue Ribbon College Basketball Digest up to the present. Chris was very open and informative.

As in the Michael Heisley interview in April, we are presenting the interview in it's entirety and not taking excerpts out to forward any agenda or point of view. We at 3 Shades of Blue hope everyone enjoys the interview and trust our readers to draw whatever conclusions they want from it.

3SOB: What got you started writing the Blue Ribbon Basketball Digest?
CW: I didn't have anything else to do at the time. I had no career path that I was on. I liked basketball...alot. I liked the idea. I could write a little bit. I'm not really a writer but I can organize facts and so I just got this crazy notion one day reading a Smith & Streets basketball magazine. Which was really a harebrained idea because I had never worked for a publication. never did any writing on the school newspaper in high school. I knew nothing about marketing, advertising.

Anytime a new magazine it is usually launched from editors from the Washington Post or the like. They get funding. There is a prototype and there is probably a 24 month period before it is brought out. Mine was out in about 5 months. So it was quite an interesting endeavor.

3SOB: How did you know who to write about?
CW: I knew the college teams alright. I got the information, put my opinions in, did some research and away we went.

3SOB: So it was kind of like starting a blog in that way.
CW: Well you have to realize it was very difficult. There are over 300 teams out there. You have to get the schedules together. You have to get basic information from the schools and research from people. So it was quite an endeavor. Let's put it this way, I have no desire to be involved in a magazine again. After that I'm burned out.

3SOB: Well how many years did you do it?
CW: I don't even know the exact number. Let me think about it. I started in 1981. Probably the last time I ever touched it was in 1997-98. I did it completely up until 1996. About 15 years. Then I just read some stories and edited it.

3SOB: And from there you went to scouting right?
CW: I was scouting and doing that at the same time. I'm working for the Miami Heat in office. I'm like the 3rd person in the front office after Lewis Chavell and Billy Cunningham and the owner and part-owner of the team. It wasn't an extensive operation like you seen now. There was a very small number of people. So I did that and at night and on the weekends I am doing my magazine. I just about drove myself crazy doing that.

3SOB: So you started with Miami?
CW: No, I started with the Portland Trailblazers. That was in 1986. I worked for several teams before Miami. I was with the Portland Trailblazers before Paul Allen owned the team.

3SOB: What did it entail being a scout back in 1986?
CW: My first job with them was to do research on players, background stuff. It's amazing the little twists of fate that happen in life. I would never have been hired by the Portland Trailblazers, maybe not the NBA, if it wasn't for the controversial draft back in 1986. So many of the players had problems of the court like Len Bias, Chris Washburn, William Bedford and Roy Tarpley. The Portland Trailblazers that year drafted Walter Berry out of St. Johns. There was a tremendous dissatisfaction within the organization with that pick the day after the draft when they first met Walter and had a news conference with him. Tremendous dissatisfaction. So they were looking for something different and I got hired. So their misfortune and the misfortune of others became my good fortune because they were looking for something different. If Walter Berry had been great there wouldn't have been that motivation to try something different. And I got hired by a guy named Jon Spoelstra. He's the father of Eric Spoelstra who just got hired as the Head Coach of the Miami Heat.

Jon's role was similar to what Andy Dolich's was in that he was in charge of all the business. He ran everything but basketball operations. He eventually became the #2 stock holder because the owners kept giving him stock. He started to feel empowered. He called me and said I want to try something different. I knew his name because he was buying 30 books of mine a year. And I didn't just do the magazine as far as editing; I also went to the post office and took the orders down. He was buying 30. Now back then there were no computers so I had a shoe box with people's names so I knew who he was buying 30. I knew his name. So 5 minutes into the conversation back in December taking his order he says 'I'm going to try something a little different and I want you to come work for us. I had never even considered working in the NBA.

What I didn't realize was, at the time I knew nothing about the inner workings of an NBA team, the business guy doesn't hire basketball people. He just went out and did this and told the basketball guys later about it. Maybe that would never happen again so I was quite fortunate.

3SOB: So you started in 1986 and the first draft you were involved in was 1987 then. Who did Portland take that year and how much input did you have?
CW: Well they mainly wanted me for the background. I did extensive reports on a wide variety of people. I went out and saw some games but back then I wasn't making a whole lot of money, about $9000. They just wanted the background so when I went to college games on my own and had to pay for them. I did a big report on Ronnie Murphy out of Jacksonville. About him on the non-basketball side of it. It was quite extensive and critical but they went ahead and drafted him anyway. He didn't pan out. Which helped me inside the organization.

So we had a 1st round pick in Ronnie Murphy and that didn't work out. In the early second they had a SEC parlay with Ernie White from Tennessee [sic] and Nikita Wilson from LSU. Now the draft lasted 7 rounds back then. So once you got past the 2nd round people really weren't that obsessed about the draft. So [the person] running the draft left the room and told me 'I have some things to do. If I don't get back make the pick.' There was just me, the secretary and a phone line to New York. The pick came up and I took Kevin Gamble out of Iowa who ended up playing for 10 or so years.

So the GM came back about the middle of the 4th round and asked if I made a pick. I said 'yeah I took Kevin Gamble' and he said 'Oh great.'

to be continued...Part 2

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Juan Carlos Navarro signs with FC Barcelona

Via Chris Herrington:

According to (Chris) Wallace, Navarro has signed a four-year deal with FC Barcelona for the equivalent of $20-$24 million.

Well, that experiment didn't exactly turn out so well, did it? It's not a disaster by any means, but the fact that the Washington Wizards are still owed a well-protected first round pick will have to linger in the back of the minds of many fans. As Herrington noted, they took a calculated risk and it didn't pan out.

I understand the many reasons that JCN decided to return to Spain, not the least of which was the money. I must say that I am disappointed that I won't see him in FedEx Forum next season, though, as his enthusiasm and flair were a source of uplifting entertainment during a dismal period.

The other question that seems obvious is whether or not this will have any effect on Wallace's attempts to lure F/C Marc Gasol to play on Beale Street. That should prove to be an interesting story to track over the next couple of months.

¡Buena Suerte, JCN!

BallHype: hype it up!

Workout Impressions

Well I have been to 4 workouts now and the perceptions I have gotten have dramatically changed. The first workout I felt like a fish out of water. Now it is more like a fish that is in water but in a different part of the lake for the first time.

I now can make comparisons between workouts and start noticing differences. I am starting to get a feeling for what to expect and am aware when someone fails to reach those expectations. I can get a sense of who is fast and who isn't but more important than my feelings, I have a history of reps that gives me actual numbers to associate with those feelings (for example, how many shots did he take and how many did he make during a particular 60 second drill).

I also have started to get a better feeling of what the players think about the Grizzlies workouts and from their comments I am putting together a sense of the players who like to be pushed and those that don't. To a player I have heard the Grizzlies workouts are the most taxing physically, test the broadest range of skills and that is true for both the individual drills and the one-on-one drills. The players I am getting the best feeling about all say they like the Grizzlies workout because they felt it pushed them to be their best. I like hearing that. One player actually said he was more interested in playing in Memphis after the workout.

Tony Barone is at the same time stand up comic and strict coach. He can break you out in a laugh and then make a small suggestion that really improves a players performance. It seems unlikely anyone could leave his workouts without a good idea of some things he could do to play better. I doubt anyone leaves his workouts without a funny story to tell his friends either!

Usually Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni are dispassionate on-lookers, not interrupting the coach as he puts the players through the paces. One noticeable exception occurred with Thursdays workout when Iavaroni altered a particular drill. Outside of that one time I can't remember anyone but Barone directing the show. The interesting thing was at the time Iavaroni altered the drill I wondered why. With the benefit of time I realized that he wanted to see if the players had a particular skill and figured out a good way to test it. I think he was pleased with what he saw as well.

The funniest moment occurred when one player attempted to draw a charge during a contract drill. He sold the flop well and looked like he was completely run over. Immediately Barone jumped onto the court and asked him if that was the image he wanted the coaching staff to remember him by. Point made. Then he said he was going to fine him now because that is what the NBA is starting to do. Great comic relief! The most impressive moment had to be Kevin Love hitting 7 of 10 three point shots at the end of his workout from 5 different locations on the court although DJ White's booming 'taps' off the glass were a close second.

I love the way most of the workouts end as well. Barone offers the players one chance to hit a half court shot. Usually he says one of the on-lookers is offering a Lexus as a prize if someone hits it. So far no one has in Memphis but Barone did say the first time they did this two people hit the shot. Barone regrettably informed the players that since both hit the shot they cancelled each other out!

That is how I see Barone running the workouts. He chastises, he pushes, he demands everything the players have but he doesn't berate and he uses humor to keep the workouts upbeat and moving. Barone also doesn't talk to the other coaches or Chris Wallace during the workout. He gives every player regardless of their chances of being drafted 5th, 28th or not at all, the same respect and attention he gives the big name players. I really think he is an ideal workout coach in that respect (although I admit the sample set is rather small).

And move is the best word to describe the workouts. Players only get to rest long enough to take a drink of water before they are on to the next activity from dribbling exercises to fast break weaves to around the world shooting contests to timed shots and defensive drills. If you want to rest do it while you are shooting free throws. Rarely does a workout pass the 25 minute mark without someone grabbing their shorts. Barone almost always asks that player if he is tired. When he says 'no coach' he chastises him about having better said Hell No Coach (or some other expletive) and that if he says no coach his next move will be taking a seat on the bench. It's funny stuff but it also sends the message that you have to want it more than anyone else to make it in the NBA. That is what separates good players from great ones.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008 NBA Monday Mock Draft (t minus 9 days)

Well DraftExpress has the measurements from Orlando , which is what I was waiting for to do a full first round mock draft. I have watched most prospects extensively over the past year and the few I have not had a chance to see a lot I have some trusted resources to get informed about their NBA prospects. Since the Orlando pre-draft camp concluded, the internet has been spitting out a lot of (mis)information regarding the thoughts of NBA GMs concerning prospects and the draft in general. When reading articles, even those with direct quotes, you have to understand that most GMs are using the media to push an agenda. Some are just flat out lying. NBA teams are well versed on the internet rumor game now, so even when information is "leaked", you have to be skeptical.

This mock draft is based on what I think each NBA GM will do when it is their time to send that index card up with the players that are still on the board. I consider the GMs drafting history, team needs and the team's culture. Last year's draft was very active with 12 draft day trades and I suspect the 2008 draft to surpass that activity due to so many "beauty in the eye of the beholder" prospects available from 3-30. Hopefully, this will be the offseason that the Grizzlies finally build a championship contending foundation.

1. Derrick Rose - University of Memphis
Rose's hype machine has elevated him to the #1 pick in the NBA draft and just proves that it does not matter what you do, it matters when you do it. Although Rose was the consensus #2 player most of the year, his status has gone from real good prospect to can't miss. I don't buy it. Rose has breath taking athleticism in the open court which makes everyone drool. However, he is considerably less spectacular in the half court. He has the potential to to become a superstar but it is not the lock that is being portrayed right now. There is no way Chicago can even think about passing him up and they are simply wasting time even bringing Beasley in for a workout.

2. Micheal Beasley - Kansas State University

Pat Riley might not like his approach to the game but there is no way Beasley is not drafted second overall at this point. The Heat could might trade this pick but they would be giving up a sure All Star that is likely to perform at All Star levels on his rookie contract. That is big value in the NBA. Beasley will be one of the best scorers in the leauge even as a rookie. He just has to much to offer on the offensive end. Some pundits will cry about his 6'8.5 height but his skill level is so high that it won't matter. He will score and he will board at All Star levels.

3. O. J. Mayo, University of Southern California

Mayo has established himself as the third best prospect in the draft at this point and I doubt even Kevin McHale would pass him up to fill an obvious need the Wolves have in the front court. Mayo will team with Randy Foye much the same way that Miami wants t pair him with Wade. They will both alternate between playmaker and scoring roles. Mayo and Corey Brewer should give them a very potent perimeter defense in the future and McCants should slip into the 6th man role off the bench.

4. Jerryd Bayless - University of Arizona

umors hit soon after the lottery that the Sonics wanted Bayless at this spot and I think they are true. Bayless is a superb athlete and already has a NBA style offensive game with fakes and freezes that gets him to the free throw line. He is Monta Ellis with 3 point range. He has refused to workout for the Grizzlies due to fit.

5. Danilo Gallinari, Armani Jeans Milano

When Chris Wallace returned from his trip to see Gallinari live in Europe, I had the impression that he really liked his game. Unlike other European talents to come to the NBA, Gallinari has much experience as the first option on his team at a young age. Although not a deadeye shooter, Gallinari is a versatile offensive performer that could thrive playing opposite Rudy Gay. He supposedly measured 6'10 in shoes in a recent private workout with the Grizz and has displayed the skill of a guard.

6. Eric Gordon - Indiana University
Undersized as a NBA shooting guard, Gordon tested out over the top athletically which should help him compensate. Gordon was the 2nd best player in college prior to breaking his wrist and the Kelvin Sampson fiasco torpedoed Indiana's season. The best shooter in the draft, he can get his shot off with a variety of off the dribble moves. Great spotting up and attacks the basket with power and agression. Gets to the line at an elite clip.

7. Russell Westbrook - University of California at Los Angeles

The Clippers are in desperate need of athleticism and skill in the backcourt. Westbrook brings both. Although his point guard skill level needs to improve, he has the size and athleticism to compete from day one. He should excel on defense and pushing the tempo. If Brand and Maggette return as expected, Westbrook and a healthy Livingston might be enough to put the Clippers back in the Western Conference playoffs.

8. Anthony Randolph - Lousiana State University

Anthony Randolph gives the Bucks a long, athletic and versatile frontline. Bogut, Yi and Randolph could become dominant in three years as their skills compliment one another very well. If new GM John Hammonds can somehow get his backcourt to start running the offense threw Bogut, this team would have a chance to get into the 2009 Eastern Conference playoffs.

9. Kevin Love, University of California at Los Angeles

Love gives the Bobcats a skilled big to play opposite Okafor. Love and Emeka should form a good pair as each should be able to cover the weakness of the other. Love will bring added toughness and rebounding along an ability to play pick and pop with their trio of ballhandlers (Felton, Wallace, Richardson). He also adds shooting to a team starting a SF that has an inconsistent jumpshot.

10. Brook Lopez, Stanford Unversity

The Nets lack a big post player in the middle of their offense and defense. Lopez will provide a big body that they lack on their roster while their young power forwards should be able to cover for his relative lack of athleticism. If he can draw some double teams on the post, Lopez will become a valuable part of this on the fly rebuilding effort.

11. D.J. Augustin - University of Texas

The Pacers want someone to take over for the oft-injured Jamaal Tinsley in the backcourt. Augustin is probably the most talented point guard not named Rose. His size (5'11) is questionable but he has the length of other comparable small point guards drafted recently. He should provide leadership immediately and he is a model citizen and good student. This is a good fit for him and the pacers.

12. Joe Alexander - West Virginia University

I doubt that the Kings extend Artest even if he does not opt out of his contract. Alexander would give them a great replacement and has the elite athleticism to develop into a difference maker playing with Kevin Martin. The Kings would love to get hold of Augustin or Westbrook to man the point but they take Alexander as the best talent available. Alexander can play alongside Artest this season as an undersized power forward until his handle comes around.

13. Donte Green - Syracuse University

The Trailblazers are not likely to keep this pick but if they do then Green fills a need for length and increased 3 point shooting. Green and Aldridge would give the future monster, Greg Oden, plenty of room to operate in the middle and the length of the front line should give the opponents fits for the next decade. Green just seems destined to make big game jumpers for a long time.

14. Kosta Kufos - The Ohio State University

Coming off a dominant summer, Kufos had disappointing college season. He was not seen as agressive or physical enough for most scouts. What did not change though is his high skill level for a player his size. He can shoot and he can defend the basket. He will have a place in the league. He definitely has the athleticism to be a factor on a running team and could be used to draw centers out of the post so Monta Ellis can drive. Could be a good compliment to their young front line of Biedrens and Wright.

15. DeAndre Jordan - Texas A&M University

Jordan was seen as a big disappointment as the season went forward. Came out early with a bang and was the projected #1 pick overall by some draft sites. Did not test well in Orlando but watching him lets you know that he runs the court as well as any big in the league and is very athletic. Who better to learn from in the NBA than Shaq and Amare? If they can not help him make it as an athletic big in the NBA then he is truly a lost cause. Can he be ready when Daddy Diesel burns out?

16. Philadelphia 76ers - Brandon Rush - Kansas University

17. Toronto Raptors - Marreese Speights - University of Florida

18. Washington Wizards - Darrell Arthur - Kansas University

19. Cleveland Cavaliers - Robin Lopez - Stanford University

20. Denver Nuggets - Nicolas Batum - Le Mans Sarthe Basket

21. New Jersey Nets - Chris Douglas-Roberts - University of Memphis

22. Orlando Magic - JaVale McGee - University of Nevada

23. Utah Jazz - Omer Asik - Fenerbahce Ulker

24. Seattle Supersonics - Serge Ibaka - CB L'Hospitalet

25. Houston Rockets -Courtney Lee - Western Kentucky

26. San Antonio Spurs - Mario Chalmers - Kansas

27. New Orleans Hornets - Roy Hibbert, Georgetown

28. Memphis Grizzlies - D.J. White - Indiana University

29. Detroit Pistons - Bill Walker - Kansas State University

30. Boston Celtics - J.J. Hickson - North Carolina University

Comments appreciated....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Links: Counting Down to the Draft

We participated in the Mock Draft being hosted by Ridiculous Upside today. You can click over there to find out who we selected at #5 after Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Eric Gordon went off the board in the first four picks. Also, check back on their site later this week to see who we take at #28.

DraftExpress has the details on who is in and who is out for the draft.

One of the players that is in, despite a knee injury, is Kansas State's Bill Walker, who the Grizzlies are reported to have some interest in. The Pistons (29th pick) are also said to be high on Walker.

Catching up with Mike Miller about the Grizzlies, Team USA and basketball clinics.

For a fantastic look at bloggers vs. traditional media on the issue of objectivity, head over to the Portland Tribune to see what Dwight Jaynes has to say about it.

Mike Kahn ( says that former Grizzlies big man Pau Gasol is "in a much better place now".

Blog of the day: Eric Musselman's Basketball Blog

BallHype: hype it up!

Draft Workout (6/16/08): Anthony Randolph, Darrell Arthur, Courtney Lee

The Grizzlies staff returned from California with another scheduled workout today. This was my first time attending a workout, so my perspective comes from a first time up close observation. Today's workout included Anthony Randolph of LSU, Darrell Arthur of national champion Kansas, Courtney Lee from Western Kentucky, Will Daniels of Rhode Island, Shan Foster of Vanderbilt and Jeremy Crouch of Bradley.

Here are my initial impressions:

Anthony Randolph, LSU
If you read any of my post on the Grizzlies board, then you know that I like Randolph as a player. The first thing you notice is that he does need to add some pounds to have any chance of playing on the inside in the NBA. However, it looks like he will be able to naturally add weight over time. Randolph's explosive athleticism showed through out the workout as he routinely finished off drills with dunks. He did show some of his versatility with his ball handling and he made some great passes in traffic. The one thing that stuck out through all of the shooting drills is that his jump shot is not as far off as I expected. He has decent form for a lefty but just needs to work on a consistent follow through on his shots. Now it wasn't all positive with Randolph. He was a little passive for my liking. He always seemed to be in cruise control even in live drills. He did not fight for rebounding position, attack strong off the bounce, or move with a purpose without the ball in his hand. He just seemed a little lackadaisical. You have to remember that Randolph is almost a full year younger than most in this class and the team that drafts him will be taking a leap of faith of sorts that he will work to maximize his enormous potential.

Darrell Arthur, Kansas
Arthur was my dark horse from last year. His versatile post game and offensive talent always impressed me. Today it seems that he came ready to work. He gave very good effort offensively and defensively throughout the workout. The first thing I noticed with Arthur was that he plays with power. He also did very well in the shooting drills. He nailed a fair amount of elbow jumpers during the drills. He also gave a lot of hustle and his handle was good for his position. He seems like he has a future as one of those solid but not spectacular power forwards in the NBA. He can score, rebound, defend, and block shots. The only question about him was his inconsistent production while in college. If he proves to be a consistent in the NBA then he could be one of the sleepers in this draft. He has very low bust potential and a fairly high ceiling as he good be an offensive post option for a team in the future.

Courtney Lee, Western Kentucky
Hands down the most impressive player in the workout. Lee showed great explosion throughout the drills and especially in live action. He consistently got rebounds and finished plays in traffic. He also showed a great jump shot even when pushed through long drills. He just seemed to have a lot of competitiveness in his game today. Picked up on drills fast and executed well. Looks like he will be able to help an NBA team immediately off the bench offensively and defensively. After watching him today and hearing this was his 10th workout, I doubt he will be available at 28 depending upon who stays and goes today. If he does drop into the second round then some team is going to get a real good player for next to nothing.

Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
Foster is well known to Memphis fans after getting to watch him star as a senior in the SEC. Shan was probably one of the best shooters in college last season. Transitioning to the NBA is going to be difficult for Foster. He lacks the explosiveness to thrive on the wings in the NBA and it showed during this workout. He also struggles to create separation off the dribble. Foster might have a long career in Europe ahead of him as his size and shot will be a big asset. Overseas his lack of athleticism and ball handling won't be as big a problem. He will get drafted but I don't see him sticking in the NBA very long.

Will Daniels, Rhode Island
Projected to go undrafted, Daniels showed some decent skill and promise. He will likely get an invite by some team to summer league and spend a few seasons in the NBADL. I am not sure he has the size, skill and position match to make it on an NBA roster but he will probably get several chances.

Jeremy Crouch, Bradley
Crouch showed off a nice shot in the workouts but does not have the game to make a career in the NBA.

Other Grizzlies Draft NewsThe Grizzlies were able to get private workouts with Danilo Gallinari and Brook Lopez while in California. I got the impression from Barone that Gallinari was real impressive and I already understand that Chris Wallace does like him. Also, I don't think the Grizzlies would have a problem drafting Gallinari and getting him signed. Barone referenced Lopez as an "old school, big center" with good hands and surprising quickness. He also said that Lopez is definitely a center only. I seriously don't think Lopez is an option for the Grizzlies with Gasol hopefully coming on board.

BallHype: hype it up!