Sunday, June 21, 2009

Verno's Grizzlies Draft Notes

I got back in town last night, got up this morning, and went down to the Forum for the workouts. Here are some thoughts (warning!- this may cause weeping and gnashing of teeth)...

Sorry Rubio fans... Rubio has nobody in the organization pushing hard for him (no big fans), Thabeet certainly does. In fact, I was told that Heisley was in town yesterday and had his private jet take Hollins, Wallace, Johnny Davis, and Barone Sr. to LA to meet with Thabeet. So they were in LA yesterday meeting with Thabeet because he was going to cancel his workout this morning. I guess they just decided they were gonna go to him if he would not come here.
I have this terrible fear that the Grizzlies are about to draft slawdog millionaire himself on Thursday night. On the tail of Calkins column this morning in the CA, there were conversations to be had about Ricky Rubio. I got the impression that, for whatever reason, people involved in the decision making process have convinced themselves that Rubio is not gonna be a great player. Almost like they have convinced themselves of something to make it easier to not take him. Three weeks ago I had someone with the Grizzlies tell me that he would be an all-star one day, today I was told "he can't score." Same person said both things. Like I said, I think they have convinced themselves of something to make not taking him easier.
I am not sure that Rubio is gonna be great, but I would take him and trade him because I think that is the best way to improve the team. Because even if I don't think he will be great, someone else does.
Some of you will not like to hear this, but trust me when I tell you that I would be totally and completely shocked if Ricky Rubio is in a Grizzlies uniform next year. If I had to bet today, I would put my money on Thabeet being the pick. I need to go vomit now.
I think we need to start the "Trade Train" just so we don't get Thabeet.

This morning was supposed to be Thabeet, Jordan Hill, and Demar DeRozan. Thabeet cancelled the workout because of a "hurt shoulder."
Of course, there is nothing wrong with his shoulder. His agent was simply posturing in the hopes that Memphis will not take him. That is why, as I wrote above, they went to go talk to him yesterday.

I heard a lot of the "why would a guy not want to be the #2 pick in the draft, even if it is Memphis?"
This is a fair and legitimate question when it comes to the both Rubio and Thabeet, who are considered to be the second and third players taken in this draft. *Curry would not come in either. So at least 3 top players in the draft are trying to dissuade the Grizz from selecting them.
You and I both know there are plenty of reasons that this franchise has become an undesirable destination. No fans, no proper power structure, lack of endorsements, lack of winning, you can go on and on.
But what makes Memphis any worse than Minnesota, or Oklahoma City, or Sacramento? I believe that it is perceived (or real) lack of commitment to winning. I don't think those teams lose because they value the great bottom line over a great basketball product. The Gasol trade sent a massive signal to everyone in the league that the Grizzlies are more concerned with money than basketball. I tried to tell everybody this when it happened. They have done virtually nothing since to prove otherwise. The Grizzlies fielded the lowest payroll in the league last year, and it was much worse than it even appeared. Their "effective payroll" as I would call it was less than 40$ million. The rest was just contracts to be bought out. I would be surprised if any other team has ever bought out over a fourth of their payroll.

I never get the impression that people think that the Thunder, the Kings, or the Wolves don't care about winning. They may not make the best moves all the time, but they are trying to make moves to help them win. Intent counts. Why is a team making this move? The answer for the Grizzlies has been over and over again... to save money.

I don't think anyone in the league (agent, player, or observer) believes that the most important thing to the Memphis Grizzlies is building a great basketball team. So therein lies the problem... winning gets you paid.
Agents are concerned about the second contract because that is where the money is. Guys on winning teams get paid. They are on TV and they are in the playoffs, and the money comes.
Even the role guys get paid. The Gerald Wallaces, the Raja Bells, the Turiafs, the Arizas, and the Boris Diaws of the world. I could go on and on. Guys on winning teams stand to gain so much more than guys on losing teams. I am not saying that guys on losing teams can't get good deals. What I am saying is that guys on winning teams have a much. much better chance.
Just look at the case of Hakim Warrick and Dahntay Jones. Right now, who do you think is perceived as the more valuable player for a team? I am interested to see the contracts that those two guys get. Playing for a winner changes everything.

So to the question of why someone would try to keep their client from getting more money and being the #2 pick in the draft... it is much better in the long run to be in an organization where winning basketball games is at least a priority. The Grizzlies have not proven that it is here.