This roster is heaving with talent, and will be particularly special if you’re a fan of the Connecticut Huskies. Remember, this list doesn’t include Rudy Gay.
– Jeff Adrien: If Adrien was 6’11, he would have been drafted. He’s a consistent double-double player, a strong rebounder, aggressive defender and solid post-up scorer, with good post-up defence, a hook shot, and more energy than a coked-up Jerome Williams. However, he can’t shoot or face up at all, and nor does he have much perimeter defence. He’s an out-and-out power forward, generously listed at 6’7. And therefore, he’s an undersized hustle player who’ll always be on the outside of the NBA, fighting to get in.
– Darrell Arthur: Arthur’s rookie season consisted of 44% shooting, a raging foul problem, and an embarrassing incident involving marijuana and “women” at the rookie initiation. Despite being the only power forward on the team’s roster, and the opportunity of 64 starts last year, Arthur did little with it, and the team often found itself going with the unsuitable Hakim Warrick or Darko Milicic in his place. So big was the power forward hole that the Grizzlies have agreed to trade for Zach Randolph (a deal which still hasn’t been officially consummated for whatever reason). Arthur still could bounce back and be a solid contributor, especially since it’s far from certain that Warrick is going to return. But dispensing with the off-court storylines might help, as might some more defensive intensity.
– DeMarre Carroll: In my eyes, Carroll was not a first-round talent, yet he was picked 27th anyway, giving Memphis a cheap backup combo forward that means they won’t have to pay Hakim Warrick. Carroll is an example of the classic college power forward trying to reinvent himself as a small forward, but he’s done quite well at it, enough to get into the first round at least. But I still would have picked Wayne Ellington instead, especially considering the Sam Young pick at #36. Anyway.
– Erik Daniels: Daniels played all of last year as a centre, despite being a forward by trade. He did well at it, too, averaging 21.0 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game for the expansion Erie BayHawks. However, considering the above two entries, is Memphis really the ideal NBA franchise of choice for a combo forward looking for an end-of-the-bench spot?
– Daniel Ewing: Ewing played for Prokom Sopot in Poland last year, a team also in the EuroLeague. In the EuroLeague, Ewing scored 12.9 points per game and shot 38% from downtown, starting at point guard (he also averaged 2.7 assists) on a team laden with ex-fringe NBA players. It was a decent season for him, but it didn’t really change his stock any; he’s still a fringe NBA player, caught between two positions, with a decent jump shot but no extraordinary skills. And so it’s probably back to Europe for him.
– Trey Gilder: Gilder was eligible for the draft last month (I think) despite being in the D-League last year. He averaged 13.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, fairly pedestrian numbers, although they looked more impressive when you consider that they came in only 23 minutes a game. Gilder is an athletic but thin forward, who (like everyone else on this list) has a bit of a position crisis. He projects best as a small forward, but his shot is not great (only 33% from three-point range last year) and he doesn’t dribble in traffic well. He is best when using his athleticism to flail wildly around the hoop and finish, and he’s a decent if inconsistent rebounder. But you can’t be an NBA power forward when you weigh less than 200lbs, so Gilder’s best served using another season in the Developmental League, and doing what the name suggests it’s there for. (That is, to help players develop their game. Not to help them go mental.)
Something tells me that the Grizzlies are looking for forward help. Considering that Rudy Gay is going to need paying at some point in the next twelve months, and the aforementioned problems that they’ve had with the power forward spot lately, I’m not overly surprised.
– Hamed Haddadi: Haddadi is a project of a centre who had a weird season last year. He spent some time in the D-League, and struggled, but he also played 19 games in the NBA, and did pretty well in them, averaging 2.5 and 2.5 in only six minutes per game, managing to boast a PER of 19.7. That’s pretty much the most you can do with six minutes per game. Haddadi is more foul- and turnover-prone than you would like to see from a 24-year-old, but given that he’s gone from Iranian Superleague basketball to the NBA with nothing in between, perhaps that’s to be expected. He’s big and skilled; he just needs to get up to speed with the NBA game if he is to make an impact in it. He is under contract for two more years at a salary roughly equal to the 16th pick in the draft, so taper your expectations accordingly.
– Kenny Hasbrouck: Hasbrouck is a late addition to the Grizzlies summer league roster. I watched him play for Siena last year, and it didn’t help my personal bias that he didn’t play well in either game that I saw him in. Hasbrouck averaged 14.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 steals, worse numbers than the season before, and his shooting percentages were poor, too. 40.7% FG, 34.8% 3pt FG and 65.7% FT, all down from the previous season, somewhat undercut his good defensive motor. Being an undersized 6’3 scoring guard with poor efficiency isn’t the way to land an NBA contract, no matter how good your hands are. So he’s not making the team.
– Longar Longar: Like many of the players on this list, Longar Longar attended a Grizzlies free agent camp (which had a heavy D-League focus) before the draft. Clearly he did something right, because he’s back in summer league, hoping to improve on his effort with the Timberwolves last year that saw him average 3 points and 1 rebound per game. Last season was Longar’s first as a professional, and he spent it in the D-League with the L.A. D-Fenders, averaging 7.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. He didn’t turn it over nearly as much as he did at Oklahoma, which is a plus, but nor was he used as much on offence as he was there. It’s also about time he cut out the rookie mistakes, because despite his lack of basketball experience, he’s also now 26 years old, and the NBA window’s going to be shut if he doesn’t pull his finger out. It might not ever be open.
– Brion Rush: Rush is a small shooting guard who averaged 25.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and more turnovers than assists in his senior season at Grambling State. That was three years ago. Since then, he’s spent a year in the Italian second division and now the last two years in France, where he was second in the league in scoring with a 20.7 ppg average. He also averaged 5.1 points and 3.3 assists per game; however, the turnovers were there as ever (3.1 per game), and those 20.7 points per game came on 17.8 shots per game. He managed to shoot only 43% from the field, and shot only 3.3 free throws per game. His problems with making the NBA seem to be the same as Hasbrouck’s; he’s a undersized scorer with efficiency problems. And even though his scoring resumé is stronger than that of Hasbrouck – Rush has a bag, and shoots very well off the dribble – he’s also even smaller, measuring in at only 6’1. Still, I’m sure France will take him back.
– Donta Smith: Smith was most recently one of the compelling protagonists in the annual Puerto Rican pilgrimage that entices many American players every year, when he signed for Gigantes de Carolina. However, he was reportedly kicked off the team after only eight games for smoking pot, something which I think I mentioned somewhere before. Donta has actually down the full “flatter your stats” world tour this year, playing in both Australia and China before the Puerto Rico gig. In Australia, Smith averaged 15.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists as the sixth man on the NBL Championship-winning team, the Melbourne South Dragons, and in China before that he had averaged 22.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists for Shanxi. His jump shot has also made some progress, although he’s still not a catch and shoot player, and so he’s still not gotten back into the NBA. But his defensive talent is all still there.
– Greg Stiemsma: Stiemsma was also a participant in the free agent camp. He spent three years at Wisconsin, never averaging more than 3.5 ppg and 3.1 rpg, before going to the Turkish league. There, he averaged 7.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game (third best in the league). He then left and went to the basketball dream land of dreams, South Korea, where he upped those numbers further to 14.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. None of that is really impressive, though, when looked at in an NBA context – Stiemsma is big and can block, but the NBA is moving away from that. But here’s a picture of him with Alando Tucker and a girl in a hat.
– Hasheem Thabeet: Goodbye, Marc Gasol. You had a pretty good run in Memphis, and you’ve served well as a much underappreciated part of the infamous trade your brother was in. But apparently that’s it for you now. It would be nice to see you in Chicago, by the way.
– Marcus Williams: It’s been three bad years for Williams, but at the very least, he finally had a good spell recently. Like Smith, Williams became a Puerto Rican ex-pat last month, but unlike Smith, it went very well for him. Williams was possibly the best player in Puerto Rico, averaging 16.8 points, 9.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds, with two triple-doubles in 34 games. On the downside, the 572 points that he scored came on a huge 538 shots – Williams took over seven three-pointers a game, but shot only 31% from there, shot an overall field goal percentage of a poor 36%, and only 69% from the line. He’s a passer, but is increasingly forgetful about that.
He has a chance, though. Currently, Memphis’s point guard rotation features the underwhelming Mike Conley, the unsuitable Marko Jaric, and starting shooting guard O.J. Mayo. There’s room here for at least one or two more, and Williams has a good chance to at least break camp if he plays well. Although if the bizarre Allen Iverson signing goes through, he might lose out anyway.
– Sam Young: Sam Young’s great, and getting him at #36 is a good pick-up for the Grizzlies. He’s a good all-around player – a decent athlete, a decent shooter, a decent slasher, a decent defensive player, and he has the Pump Fake Of Doom which will forever make him memorable. He also doesn’t pass much, which should help him blend in on the current Grizzlies roster.
(By the way, I would have taken Dejuan Blair.)