The Canadian city of Vancouver was granted the NBA's 29th franchise, the Grizzlies, in 1994 and began playing during the 1995-96 season. Much like any professional sports expansion franchise, things were not much fun in the beginning. In fact, for the first four years in the league, the Grizzlies won a combined 56 games while losing 240. It was the worst possible start for an expansion team in their first four years in existence in NBA history, and it is not even close.
They did not win more than 28 games in a season until the 2003-04 season when they finished 50-32 and made the franchise's first ever playoff appearance. They would make a few more runs the next two seasons before falling back into the losing ways they faced in the beginning until 2009 when they ended up finishing 40-42. They have not finished with less than 41 wins in a season since and it is all because of great coaching and awesome team management.
It did not hurt that they put together a stud of a lineup with Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, O.J. Mayo, Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Rudy Gay, and Hasheem Thabeet. For a few years, they won 50 or more games per year and have made the playoffs for the past six seasons with a seventh right around the corner.
Let's take a look at the last 15 draft pick selections of the Memphis Grizzlies and re-draft it to see if there would have been a better choice at the time.
15 First Round in 2009: James Harden, PG
Original Selection: Hasheem Thabeet
When the Memphis Grizzlies had the second pick of the 2009 NBA Draft, they decided to chase after a project Center in Hasheem Thabeet. His height gave him a much better scouting evaluation than he should have deserved because when the games began, he was barely even noticeable on the court. His career numbers look more like that of a backup rookie than a starting Center, averaging 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Instead, they should have taken James Harden, obviously. The number of reasons should be evident simply by looking at production levels over the years. The Memphis Grizzlies would have won a title with James Harden running the point guard position. Maybe not at first, but he would eventually turn them into contenders.
14 First Round in 2009: DeMarre Carroll, SF/PF
Original Selection: DeMarre Carroll
Speaking of defense, DeMarre Carroll is one of the league's most coveted forwards thanks to his defensive abilities. He can guard just about anyone on the court, including LeBron James. He was the main factor in the Toronto Raptors playoff run in 2015 because he was able to stop LeBron James, well, slow him down at least.
But before he headed to the Raptors, he was a member of the Grizzlies after they selected him with the 27th overall selection in 2009. The draft was not super loaded with talent so the Memphis Grizzlies should keep this original pick. The only thing they need to do is consider keeping Carroll this time around. It is surprising that they traded him away so soon before really letting him grow into one of the best defensive players in the league. They received this pick from Orlando after trading away Kyle Lowry in a 3-team trade. So maybe things back then could have gone a tad differently for them and they could be ridiculously loaded today.
13 Second Round in 2009: Danny Green, SG
Original Selection: Sam Young
Sam Young looked good on paper and actually had the best year of his career during his rookie season in 2009 and 2010 when he averaged 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and shot 45.1% from the field. He started just one game that year but played in 80. The next year the Grizzlies made a mistake and pushed him into the starting lineup for 46 games, exposing him and leading him down a path to the end of his NBA career.
Instead of wasting that pick on someone like Young, they could have taken Danny Green and maybe things would be different right now in Memphis. Danny has gone onto becoming a star role player for the San Antonio Spurs, coming off the bench at first to do one thing, and one thing only, shoot three-pointers. Since 2011, however, he began starting and is now a regular in the Spurs starting rotation. His ability to go off at any second in a game is more valuable than the Grizzlies cared about back then.
12 First Round in 2010: Eric Bledsoe, PG
Original Selection: Xavier Henry
It took Eric Bledsoe about four seasons before turning into a NBA superstar. He was originally in Los Angeles, playing with the Clippers, and was not used the right way for his first few seasons, leaving him to struggle through the seasons. Once he left for Phoenix, he was able to open up his game and turn into the high scoring Point Guard he was destined to be. Of course the Memphis Grizzlies wished they could go back in time and change this pick because the differences between Xavier Henry and Eric Bledsoe are so evident, it is not even close.
Xavier Henry is, at best, a role player that can help defensively and ended up doing so for most of his career. Eric Bledsoe, on the other hand, is a scorer that can get to the basket or drop back and take the outside shot. His main ability is his passing. That is how he has become a star in the league, he knows how to score and pass the ball, running the offense.
With Michael Conley leading the charge, Eric Bledsoe would have been able to turn into that Shooting Guard that he deserves to be.
11 First Round in 2010: Hassan Whiteside, C
Original Selection: Dominique Jones
At first, Hassan Whiteside was nothing more than a project that the Sacramento Kings wound up giving up on by 2012. He then actually signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in September of 2014 before being released shortly after, in October of the same year. So they actually had a chance to work with him and develop his defensive game to create what he has now become, one of the league's premier defensive Centers.
His story is amazing because of how many times he was released and sent to the D-League before finally landing a spot with the Miami Heat and turning into the star he is today. Before joining the Heat, he was nothing more than a 1.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, and just under one block per game player. Each season since joining the Heat in 2014, he has improved across the board and is now the league's leading rebounder with 14.2 per game. He adds 16.9 points and 2.1 blocks as well making the Grizzlies regret the moment that they cut him just a few months before he became this amazing stud of a defender.
10 First Round in 2010: Greivis Vasquez, PG
Original Selection: Greivis Vasquez
The road to glory is not always paved in Gold. For Greivis Vasquez, it was paved in mud. He was part of the Pau Gasol trade that sent him to the Lakers back in 2008. Greivis was not a player in the NBA yet but was the draft pick that the Lakers sent to the Grizzlies as part of that huge trade deal. Two years after the deal, the Grizzlies decided to use that Lakers first round pick to take him with the 28th overall selection. He was sent packing and heading to New Orleans by the following Christmas.
We decided to keep this pick the same for Memphis because of the lack of depth in the 2010 draft. For what it is worth, Greivis Vasquez turned out to be a terrific backup Point Guard even after showcasing his talents as the starter in New Orleans. During the 2012-13 season, he averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds, and steals. (He averaged 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, and 0.8 steals a game that season) His production increase landed him a job in Sacramento following a New Orleans trade during the summer of 2013.
9 Second Round in 2011: Isaiah Thomas, PG
Original Selection: Josh Selby
There are about 30 teams in the NBA that would love to go back in time and redraft the 2011 draft. It was so thick with talent that it sickens us just to mention some of the names drafted after the 14th selection. Some of the names drafted were Kawhi Leonard at 15, Nikola Vucevic at 16, Iman Shumpert at 17, Tobias Harris at 19, Kenneth Faried at 22, Reggie Jackson at 24, Jimmy Butler at 30, and Isaiah Thomas at 60, the final pick of the draft.
That's right! Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics team leader and NBA MVP candidate, has overcome many obstacles to earn himself a spot as one of the most underrated draft selections ever. He has impressed us all across the board and is now justifying why the Celtics should be the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The entire NBA would take him if they knew better back then but since we are only redrafting for the Memphis Grizzlies, we are safely going to assume they would take him with their second round pick instead of Josh Selby.
8 First Round in 2012: Draymond Green, SF/PF
Original Selection: Tony Wroten
Although Tony Wroten has been an admirable draft pick, averaging 14.2 points, 3.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game over the past two seasons, he remains a step or two behind Draymond Green for overall abilities. Maybe Draymond lucked out by landing a role with the Golden State Warriors, or maybe he is one of those players that would have turned out good no matter where he ended up because he works hard on both sides of the ball.
Since joining the NBA, Draymond Green has steadily improved each season, up until this season. Last year he averaged 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. He has seen a decrease in points, rebounds, and assists this season but has grown his steals to 2.1, his best ever. So it is safe to assume he is a defensive superstar and if he was in Memphis, he would have turned out just the same. In fact, he might have done a little better being that his role would be more clearly defined as a big man that can play the Small or Power Forward positions.
7 Second Round in 2013: James Ennis, SF
Original Selection: Jamaal Franklin
The value of some of these Memphis draft picks is tough to measure because of the number of failures in the second round over the past couple of years. In 2013, the Grizzlies originally drafted Jamaal Franklin, a Shooting Guard from San Diego State. However, he failed to produce in his first two NBA seasons and is no longer in the NBA, and not by choice. He simply could not find a job or land a role with any team.
So the Grizzlies could have gone after someone that is a little more valuable, although not by too much, and their next best option would have been James Ennis, who ironically is now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies after they cut him last year and he showed up in New Orleans where he averaged 15.9 points over a nine game period before being released. The Grizzlies then resigned him and have used him this season, starting 24 games and playing in 58 while averaging 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds. The signing might prove that he was worth the selection in 2013 to begin with.
6 Second Round in 2013: Joffrey Lauvergne, C
Original Selection: Joffrey Lauvergne
As thin as the options already are from the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft, it gets even thinner when you look at what is available after their original 55th selection so we decided that they should keep the same pick as they did originally with Joffrey Lauvergne, the 6'11" Center from France. He was drafted to be a diamond in the rough from Europe but has not been able to ever prove himself valuable to any one team, bouncing around between four different teams since 2013. On draft day, Joffrey was drafted and then traded to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Kosta Koufos.
Where does the Memphis Grizzlies struggle the most right now? A little more offensive production in the paint. They are a defensive minded team that is built to stop teams like Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers but struggle against ones with high scoring big men like New Orleans or San Antonio. It will take a lot for Memphis to win a title this season but the one thing they have going for them is there defense. Too bad they did not keep Joffrey Lauvergne when they first drafted him.
5 Second Round in 2013: TRADE!!!
Original Selection: Janis Timma
The pool of available players in the second round during the 2013 NBA Draft was thin to say the least. The Memphis Grizzlies ended up with the 60th pick in the draft, leaving them with very little wiggle room to sign someone else besides Janis Timma, the Forward they originally went with that year.
Instead, let's have some fun and trade this pick away for a team that was looking for someone else in the draft. The price tag on a late second round pick in 2013 was probably nothing more than another gamble of a player but that is just how it goes in the NBA. If you do not like what you see in the draft, go right ahead and trade it away for someone else that might fit your team a little bit better.
4 First Round in 2014: Nikola Jokic, C
Original Selection: Jordan Adams
The Denver Nuggets are finally starting to click on all cylinders and their young lineup is beginning to grow and work together to form a very dangerous future core. One of the key players in their system is none other than their Center, Nikola Jokic, who is now a tough player to stop, averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game this season.
After passing on Nikola Jokic the first time around, the Memphis Grizzlies decided to go with Jordan Adams, the UCLA Shooting Guard who has yet to showcase the talents that landed him the job in the first place. Over this past season, he has improved but not by much. He now averages 3.5 points, 1.5 assists, and 1 rebound per game. Those numbers are nothing to brag about but he is only 21 years old and was waived in October. His next option might be to earn himself another role in the NBA, just with another franchise.
3 First Round in 2015: Larry Nance Jr., PF
Original Selection: Jarell Martin
When the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th overall pick of the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft, they knew he would be a project. But over the past season, he has come along a lot quicker than first imagined. He might not have the glorious statistics that one would expect from a stud but he has thrown up 6.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game this year, including a couple of 18 point performances that shows what he can do.
The Grizzlies could have used his help this season to provide depth to the roster, building up their defense while also giving their starters a few more minutes of rest each night. Compared to Jarrell Martin, their actual selection from that season, the future of Larry Nance Jr. seems to be a lot brighter. His size and strength turns him into someone that can play multiple positions for any team.
2 First Round in 2016: Malcolm Brogdon, SG
Original Selection: Wade Baldwin
The jury is still out on who from the 2016 NBA Draft is going to pan out but the one thing we can look at was the first round pick Memphis had this past summer when they took Wade Baldwin with the 17th overall pick. It is tough to judge these guys this early in their careers but as of right now, Wade Baldwin is more of a future role player then current star in the making.
Malcolm Brogdon, over in Milwaukee, is one of those currently streaky guys that might just be a great future Shooting Guard for the Bucks. He is already averaging 10.2 points, 4.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 45.1% from the field.
The Memphis Grizzlies lack a truly talented offensive Shooting Guard and have instead decided to roll with Tony Snell, who is one of the best defensive guards in the league, but he just happens to lack the offensive capabilities that a player like Malcolm Brogdon can bring to the table.
1 Second Round in 2016: Wang Zhelin, C
Original Selection: Wang Zhelin
The 22-year old future prospect is just that, a prospect. After the Memphis Grizzlies drafted him with the 57th overall pick in 2016, they barely expected him to ever play a single minute this season. Instead, they knew he would probably stay in China and continue learning the game, developing his abilities, and turning himself into a really good player one day. But since they got him so late in the draft, he was worth every penny of the selection and there is simply no one else that we would have grabbed instead.
Over in China, Wang Zhelin is exploding for 21.8 points, 11 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and a little under one block per game this season. He is every bit a star in the making, standing 7'0" tall and weighing 251 pounds. He is a big man that is much quicker than he looks on the court. He can deceive his opponents into defending him like a slow Center when he is built more like Anthony Davis.
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