After paying close attention to the Grizzlies' team this past season and intently following college basketball, the following is my list of players that I feel the Grizzlies should consider regardless of the position of their current picks. As I will elude to, I feel that management should swap several of their picks to trade down from the number 12 spot.
Hassan Whiteside- Whiteside is one of the greatest upside picks in the entire draft. Despite the fact that he was a 20 year old freshman, Hassan displayed an uncommon knack for blocking shots. Whiteside is one of the truly elite athletes in this year's draft class, as he possesses unique speed out in transition, and a quick leaping ability which allowed him to tally so many blocks this past season.
Offensively, Whiteside is still very raw, and he relies predominantly on his length and deceptive quickness to blow by his defenders. If this ability is harnessed at the next level, however, he has a chance to be a truly special NBA player. Moreover, while he has demonstrated some signs of solid post footwork, his lack of lower body strength really hurts him in establishing position on the block. At Marshall, there were critical moments this past season where he was unable to establish position in the post, and it really cost his squad. At the next level, this should pose somewhat of a problem for him because it will force him to move around more in order to become an effective post player. Obviously, due to his body-type, it is clear that he will never develop into a tremendous back-to-the-basket player. However, in the past, when he was able to move around and secure the post entry pass, Whiteside often successfully slipped past his defender on either side with a quick drop step move. From watching him extensively, one learns that he is often able to sneak past his defender because of his body type and overall quickness. Furthermore, Whiteside must continue to develop his post moves, as he does not display much variety in this facet of his game, relying predominately on a baby hook. Despite the aforementioned drawbacks, Whiteside possesses rather unique potential from the perimeter. He has a soft touch and a solid form on his shot, which really allows him to draw players out on the perimeter. Moreover, this will allow him to take advantage of his quickness through his face-up game. Such a style has worked in the past for such stars as Chris Bosh, and thereby, it is reasonable to believe that Whiteside's shortcomings should not completely hinder his ability to develop into a star at the next level. Undoubtedly, Whiteside is a raw prospect who has to put in a lot of work on the offensive end in order to actualize his potential. Due to his relatively weak handle, Whiteside's face-up game is not yet advanced enough to allow him to consistently blow by defenders in the league.
On the defensive end, Whiteside could very well become an elite shot blocker at the next level. Simply by relying on instincts alone, he was able to become the second leading shot blocker in the nation this past year. And, this was in his first college season, no less. Physically, Whiteside's 9'5 standing reach should allow him to immediately impact an NBA game as a help defender. With that said, he is going to have to improve his man-to-man defense in order to receive playing time at the next level. While he relies primarily on his length to contest shots, this is not going to be enough at the next level. In college, he often allowed stronger, more physical opponents to obtain post position way too low on the block. Derrick Caracter, for instance, was able to score virtually at will off of the catch against Whiteside. However, with the proper strength development program at the next level, one should expect his post position defense to improve dramatically. Furthermore, he needs to be more attentive on the defensive and generally work harder. He often seemed to lack the focus necessary to front the post and contest the catch in college. In time and with the proper team motivation, this should change as well.
All in all, there are only a handful of players with similar upside to Hassan Whiteside in this entire draft. Rumblings in the pre-draft are that he will slip to the 20's. As such, it is clear that the Grizzlies should capitalize on his current projections and trade down to draft him. While they already possess a shot blocking presence in Thabeet, Whiteside represents a deviation from previous draft strategy because he has a developing face up and outside shooting game, which will probably never be part of Thabeet's repertoire. For the Grizzlies organization, it is time to move forward after what retrospectively looks like a poor pick a season ago. Altogether, it is rather bullheaded and negligent for the Grizzlies' management to miss out on selecting a potential star simply due to the fact that his selection may immediately draw criticism because he outwardly resembles a similar pick from a year ago.
Quincy Pondexter- Pondexter has some of the best upside of any senior prospect in this year's draft. The improvements that he evinced a year ago demonstrate that he is committed to actualizing his potential and getting better year in and year out.
On the offensive end, Pondexter is one of the most complete players in this draft right now. His jumper will be tremendously effective at the next level and will allow him to seamlessly transition to the small forward position. Moreover, Pondexter is most effective slashing from the baseline, and demonstrates the ability to effectively either bull his way inside, or quickly drive by his man with an excellent first step. Pondexter is one of the more crafty players inside and somewhat resembles a Paul Pierce during his college years at this point. (in body type and penchant for playing inside, not specifically in the faceup game) Similarly, Pondexter will have to transition to the perimeter, which he should be able to do given his play this past season. Pondexter is physically imposing and athletic enough to really be effective on the offensive end at the next level. The most glaring hole in his game at this stage is his long range shooting, which should develop in time.
Defensively, Pondexter is quick and physical enough to hold his own as a post defender against small forwards. However, it will be interesting to see if he can transition to more of a perimeter defense role. Given his athleticism, it should not be too difficult. However, because he has not had this role yet, it is clear that he will need an adjustment period. His height, at 6'6, is somewhat small for a small forward and should give him some difficulty guarding longer players such as Kevin Durant.
The Grizzlies could only be so lucky to see Pondexter fall to pick 25. According to buzz, Quincy has performed extremely well in workout settings and could very well be a sleeper pick to rise in this draft when it is all said and done. However, if he is available, the Grizzlies should take him immediately.
Lance Stephenson- With the last pick, number 28, the Grizzlies should select Stephenson or trade down to the second round to pick him up. Despite all the hype- both good and bad- coming into this college season, Lance performed somewhat well for a freshman even if he did not quite live up to expectations.
At Cincinnati, Lance was able to demonstrate his strengths and weaknesses on the offensive end. He has one of the best handles in this draft and is able to get to the hoop because of his crafty dribbling and elite strength. Even coming into the NBA, Lance will be able to use his physicality and chiseled body as a strength to throw off and create space against NBA defenders. After putting in some serious time in the offseason, Stephenson came to pre-draft camp and measured in at 227 pounds on only 9% bodyfat. For comparison, that means that Stephenson is inches shorter than the bulky Damion James, yet weighs the same amount with less body fat. Considering the fact that he was only in college for one season, this commitment to staying physically fit is rather remarkable. And, with more advanced physical training, one can only expect this to become more of a strength. Lance's physical tools should allow him to get his shot off more effectively and get to the basket. The difficulty, though, is that Stephenson is not an efficient shooter off the dribble at this stage in the game. He will need to make remarkable improvements in this area if he ever expects to see time on the floor. Still, because he is not yet as effective at creating separation from defenders, most scouts have interpreted this as a sign that he is not athletic enough to blow by opponents. While it is true that he is only a marginal athlete by NBA standards, his lane agility tests demonstrated that he was towards the middle of the pack amongst NBA prospects. This may indicate that he has made some strides already from his days at Cincinnati. Explosiveness will probably never be his greatest strength, but his ability to implement a change of pace dribble and an effective crossover should somewhat conceal this weakness at the next level. As a shooting guard, Lance will have to develop a long range shot as well because the abysmal 20% from beyond the arc that he shot in college will not suffice in the NBA.
Defensively, Lance does not possess elite lateral quickness, so he may struggle at times. Another point that must be made is that he is somewhat caught between the small forward and shooting guard positions. His handles and ball dominating mentality, along with his physical height, indicate that he would be more primed to be a lead guard at the 1 or 2. However, he is most effective on the inside and would probably better defend against NBA small forwards as opposed to shooting guards.
Lance's attitude has always been a major concern as well, and he tends to get down on himself during the course of the game. I think that one should note, though, that this says nothing about his work ethic or his willingness to learn the game. Many people have doubted him in the past, and he is ready now- more than ever- to adjust to a complimentary role. With that said, film shows that he is extremely ball dominant, and this cannot be at the next level at least until he develops an efficient perimeter shot. However, his form is relatively solid, and this part of his game may come in time. A relatively underrated aspect of the equation is his ability to effectively play isolation basketball. Against even the most elite competition in college, he was able to get off his shot. He struggled when the help defense came and teams converged on him. Thus, it can be said, that this aspect of his game may be more suited for the NBA rather than college because far fewer teams are going to target him as the primary weapon on offense.
The Grizzlies should select Stephenson because he has a unique skillset and a lot of room to improve. He is still very young, and taking a flyer on him this late in the 1st round or potentially second round (if they trade down) would be advisable because he is a high risk-high reward pick.
Scottie Reynolds- If the Grizzlies are able to secure a second round pick late in this draft through trade, they should select Scottie Reynolds. Offensively, he has become an extremely efficient player. After a remarkable year, it was clear that Scottie had molded himself into an extremely unselfish player and improved his basketball IQ tremendously over the past 4 years. Scottie is a solid shooter from the perimeter when his feet are set properly. His release is relatively quick and he is crafty at getting his shot off. Off the dribble, the major concerns from scouts have been that he will not be able to get a shot off against elite NBA defenders. However, college teams often geared their entire defenses towards Scottie. This will not happen in the NBA. As a complimentary player, he will receive some open looks from the perimeter, and he can knock these shots down. Moreover, he is much more adept off the dribble than scouts give him credit for. His vast array of fakes allowed him to get to the line virtually at will at the college level. This should not change in the NBA, as he is capable of making some difficult layups. Two major problems are that Scottie does not play above the rim, and that his athleticism limits his ability to get past defenders. While more of his shots may be blocked, Scottie does have the basketball IQ to play a ground game similar to that of Stephen Curry. Finally, there are concerns that Scottie is not a tremendous passer. The truth is that while he does not rack up a ton of assists, he often sees two to three passes ahead and makes the right plays in order to allow his team to come out on top. Defensively, Scottie is not an elite defender by any stretch because of his limited lateral quickness. However, his scrappy effort on the defensive end and overall basketball IQ should allow him to at least be a marginal defender at the next level.
The Grizzlies should take Scottie Reynolds late in the second round because he could very well become a decent spot up shooter and decision maker off the bench. He is an extremely smart player with a great work ethic, and these are qualities that the Grizzlies management should look for. At the very least, the Grizzlies could maintain his rights and allow him to develop his game overseas.