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Grizzlies’ lottery selection Xavier Henry intriguing

With the twelve pick in the 2010 draft, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Kansas swingman Xavier Henry. The pick is certainly intriguing, in that it engenders further questions about the length of restricted free agent Rudy Gay’s stay in Memphis. The common perception is that Henry was selected solely because of the Rudy Gay situation. Is it a prelude to a potential trade of the explosive 6’8″ small forward?

Despite the rumors that have flailed about for several months now, Memphis owner Michael Heisley has remained steadfast in his commitment to retaining the budding forward. At least his comments have been. His actions, however, would suggest otherwise.

Heisley said his team was going to make a big move in the draft. They did. Only this time they again moved to the ATM machine to make a deposit. The Grizzlies’ 25th overall pick, Dominique Jones, was dealt to the Mavericks for cash considerations. Instead of getting an experienced junior ready to contribute right away, a player who can score, rebound and pass (the only player in college to average 21 ppg, 6 rpg and 4 apg last season), the Grizzlies got three-million dollars to put in Michael’s back pocket.

You can read into this in one of two ways. You can say that Heisley would rather deflect the loss-making enterprise that is the Grizzlies organization than spend big dollars to build a winner. The folks in Tennessee sure feel slighted, particularly when you consider the team has a solid core in place that is not too far away from being legitimately competitive in a difficult Western Conference. Or, perhaps Heisley is stashing the cash in order to offset the impact of the hugely overvalued contract his highly sought after free agent is certain to command.

The first seems more likely, but consider the second.

The Grizzlies produced a starting rotation of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol last season – certainly a potent core, lacking only in superior point guard play, an ability to stretch the floor and defense.

Xavier figures to fit in quite well in this regard. The swingman joins a youthful team, with four of their five starters 25 years of age or younger. Henry brings with him a silky-smooth perimeter stroke, a skill they sorely need. Last season, the Grizzlies posted one of the league’s worst three-point shooting percentages. The 33.7% mark was good for 26th of the association’s 30 teams. He also brings defensive intensity. Head coach Lionel Hollins will count on him to help shore up the league’s 7th-worst field goal percentage defense last season.

But unless the Grizzlies trade one of their young players, Henry figures to come off the bench and contribute in an auxiliary fashion. Or does he?

Throughout his entire well-publicized high school career (one he shared with Bill Walker), O.J. Mayo played the point guard position. But when Mayo arrived at USC, his coaches slotted him at shooting guard. When the Grizzlies traded up to get Mayo, many assumed he would replace the slumping Mike Conley at the point.

It was not to be. Mayo remained a shooting guard for his rookie and sophomore seasons, pouring in points with his outside shot and rarely running the offense. The problem, however, is that Mayo is often considered too small for the shooting guard position, unable to guard taller counterparts such as Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson, or Kobe Bryant.

Apparently Mayo might be making the switch this summer.

The Grizzlies have invited O.J. to play summer league ball this year, which is uncommon for an accomplished third year player. Their rationale is that Mayo can use the low-pressure environment to better learn how to run an offense from the point and give the man some confidence heading into the season.

So what in fact may seem like a fortuitous draft pick may in fact be a prelude to an eventual position in the team’s starting rotation at shooting guard. A swap of Conley and Henry would transform one of the shortest backcourts in the game today – a combined 12’4″ – into one of the tallest – a combined 12’9.5″ – with no corresponding loss in athleticism. And the shooting strokes of Henry (who splashed 3-pointers last season at a rate of 41.8%) and Mayo (who is a career 38.3% shooter from beyond the arc) could complement the penetration game of Gay quite well.

But experiments like these tend to be difficult to implement. So difficult, in fact, that Mr. Riley was unwilling to take such a gamble on Eric Bledsoe or Avery Bradley. And while Mayo dribbles the ball like a point guard, the sentiment to put him at the point seems misguided – he can’t beat shooting guards off the dribble and has no hope of penetrating defenses from the point. He doesn’t see the floor particularly well either, posting a rather dreadful 1.16 assist-to-turnover ratio on the year. Running the point is an instinctual gift, one which is nearly impossible to teach. Of course, Memphis, Tennessee would seem like an ideal place to try.

It comes as no surprise, in that regard, that Memphis selected Terrapin point guard Greivis Vasquez in the second round as added insurance. There may not be a more experienced player in this year’s draft than Vasquez. He was a full-time starter three of his four years at Maryland, and he made significant improvements each season. Moving forward, he has a chance to be a rare player in the league. The 6’6″ guard has tremendous feel for the game and he could end up being a quick starter if the Mayo project fails (which, ironically, could make Conley the more available Grizzly – ahead of the more coveted Gay and Thabeet).

Still, you’d have to wonder whether Heisley would truly be open to offering up the 5 years and $76 million that matching a maximum offer sheet would demand. For that matter, you’d have to wonder whether anyone would be willing to make such a bid.

If teams shy away from offering up a contract to the restricted free agent, unwilling to lock up more than $13 million in cap space for the better part of a week while Mr. Heisley sits back in his rocking chair and decides whether or not to match, Michael could get exactly what he wants. He’d have no incentive to trade him. And, particularly with a new and far more restrictive collective bargaining agreement to come, he’d have no incentive to pay him anything more than his true worth.

A similar concurrence of events transpired the season prior with another highly-regarded restricted free agent to limit his own potential for a lucrative, long-term contract. That time David Lee was the victim. Such is the difficulty that is the “restricted” tag.

It would appear that Heisley has all the pieces he wants, at least for now. A trade, unless it involves a true point guard, may not be necessary. But Rudy is still a free agent. So nothing is assured.

How much cash would you be willing to lock up for a week? Is it a large enough amount for Heisley to shy away from matching? Is it small enough to allow for flexibility in rounding out your ideal roster?

Add these to the list of questions which will begin to be answered in five days.

Categories: Commentary Tags: ,
  1. Logan
    June 26th, 2010 at 01:32 | #1

    I still say sign Bosh and make an offer to Gay. If Memphis matches, then sign a serviceable sf. Next year Gay will be unrestricted and we can try to sign him outright.
    One quick question, with everyone assuming LeBron and Bosh are going to Chicago, wasn’t there some bad blood between Noah and James? Although I don’t like LeBron, he would still be option #1 if he made it known that he wanted to come to Miami.

  2. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 03:10 | #2

    If the Bulls get a better team than we do, you can safely say is Pat’s fault. The Bulls freed $9m per year with their first rounder. We freed $2m for ours. And we still have JJ’s toxic contract.

    The Bulls’ GM was 450% better than Pat. Of course, you can say Kirk is much better than Cook, but who’s fault would that be. He signed Cook, and we lost our valuable first pick for making that decision.

    We could have tried to move JJ, and instead of the 32th,we would had the 35th or so.

    Even if we lost Pittman, Pat wasn’t supposed to care. He just hates rookies and youngsters. And though you need experience, you also need good, young cheap labor to round out the roster.

    He should never ever have signed JJ, and he should have moved Cook for far less. For an old dog like Pat, to get fooled by Oklahoma “youngsters” must not have looked good around the NBA. But, of course, he’ll be the one laughing last!

  3. Heat-Struck
    June 26th, 2010 at 12:11 | #3

    @Logan

    Not only that… playing in Chicago, he’ll have to play in Jordan’s shadow… and anything less than 6 championships in Chicago would be a failure. Lebron would have a lot less pressure in Miami, but if he kept winning with Wade, Wade would always have one more ring than him. Though, with Lebron being a lot younger than Wade, once Wade goes down hill, I still think Lebron would have a couple of good years to get more rings than Wade.

  4. Heat-Struck
    June 26th, 2010 at 12:15 | #4

    @lucas fb

    I don’t think it’s Riley’s fault if Chicago gets the better team. He got stuck with Beasley when he clearly wanted Rose. And the fact that someone would take Hinrich for $9 mil over Beasley for $5 mil tells you how much of a problem player Beasley is. That Wizards’ deal stinks to high heaven and makes no sense for them to stack their back court with John Wall, Gilbert Arenas and now Kirk Hinrich… especially when that team is in some bad need of a SF and backup big men. No sense what so ever.

  5. Logan
    June 26th, 2010 at 13:16 | #5

    It is kinda crazy that LeBron has said he is going to change his Number from 23 to 6. Being that the HEAT and the Bulls (of course) are the only ones to retire that number.

  6. Heat-Struck
    June 26th, 2010 at 13:50 | #6

    @Logan

    LOL! Even though the Heat retired a Bulls #23 jersey? I’d tell Lebron he could keep his #23 jersey, we’ll take down Jordan’s number and plan on putting his up in its place. Lebron’s #23 is better than Jordan’s #23… even if we don’t believe that, we need to tell Lebron that.

  7. Logan
    June 26th, 2010 at 17:00 | #7

    I wish if LeBron doesn’t sign with the Heat, that he signs a 3 year deal with the Cavs. I surfed through Youtube to see what the beef between LeBron and Noah was, I had forgotten that Noah had called James out for dancing while their game was still in progress. Noah also said that Cleveland (the city) sucked. So if LeBron does go to Chicago he is going without bringing a championship to his home state and joining the man who said his town sucked and that he was a fool for dancing. As you can tell I don’t want to face LeBron and Bosh with Chicago.

  8. Harara
    June 26th, 2010 at 18:09 | #8

    If GS is so desperate to dump Ellis as rumored we should be all over that deal:

    Ellis and Wade will make or back-court of the future giving more than 50 points per game.
    Adding a Max Pf that gives a 20 10 a night should be the next deal, While retaining Beasley to post 17 and 8 of the bench.

    Ellis (11) Chalmers (1)
    Wade(16.5)
    Beasley(5) (Butler)
    Max PF (16.5) (Varnando)
    Pittman(min)

    That is 52 M (including Jones buyout), Leaves 4 empty roster spots raising the salary figure to 54 M , though we should have around 3.5M to through at another free agent or one of our own preferably JO.

    This lineup would match up the best against CHI If they add a Max Pf + Lebron although its not possible yet since there short a few million by my calculations.

    Ellis Rose
    Wade —–
    —– Lebron
    Max pf Max Pf
    JO Noah

    Our bench will rape there bench having players like Beasley, Chalmers , Butler and Pittman and possibly Raja Bell, and them having only Dung and overrated Gibson.

    Not Bad what do u think?

  9. Heat-Struck
    June 26th, 2010 at 18:12 | #9

    If Lebron does’t go to Miami, we better pray he stays in Cleveland, because in that case we would be the favorite to get Bosh… since Cleveland can’t resign Lebron and add another max.

  10. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 20:04 | #10

    im saying that,cause ll be hard to again have a such weak pg spots,
    and we just give away bledsoe for nothing(cause cook shouldnt be resigned),but 1.2m.
    but how u gonna have a starting pg for less than 1.2m,only if blake is absolutelly thriled to have a spot in miami,cause he very probably would earn more from some team.
    other option would be foye,but he isnt a pure pg(far from that) and needs to lose lot of weight to keep up with the fast pgs on nba,specially on defense!!!

  11. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 20:11 | #11

    and u can say pitman need to lose weight too.
    i agreed,but he lost around 100pounds since highschool.

    foye is exactly how he entered the nba, but i think he can do it.
    qrich and pitman showed is mostly a matter of focus!!!

    the same goes for jerome,alabi,whiteside needing to bulk up!!!
    frame matters too,but focus is the key.

  12. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 20:22 | #12

    just to see how i am. im thinking of how to get bledsoe from the clippers.

    if it fails, we should try to get avery from wherever he is. but he’s like foy; more of a sg.

    u could try 1 of the new o guards. cp3, collison
    suns bench barbosa and dragic.
    and it goes on…

    so if pat can make something like that happen,without losing beastley,i take back what i said.
    but if mario at best,ll be starting for us.i blame pat for bledsoe,cause i think he in his first season would be much >.(if u dont think so,just look colison,i wont even bring guys like curry,brooks and jenings).

    btw curry would be near perfect for us,i knew he would be such a steal at 7th last year.
    if u imagine thabeet was second and harden 3rd!!!

  13. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 20:23 | #13

    and flyn at 5th i think!!!

    it amazes me how stupid lots of gm’s are!!!

  14. Heat-Struck
    June 26th, 2010 at 22:12 | #14

    Looks like Bosh just stated that Miami is his top choice while playing golf in Miami!

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/26/1702872/bosh-says-heat-is-in-top-contention.html

  15. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 22:17 | #15

    @Heat-Struck
    also spo has lot more fault to beas low value than even beas him self!!!
    …and spo is pat’s boy ,so…

    and i was the guy that was contrary to people bashing pat.
    im just kind of mad on his draft moves specially.
    and the way heat handled beastley,i hope this low value keep him,cause in 1team or another he s gonna prove lot of people wrong!!!
    i hope and i think so!!!

    and of course beas is the keeper instead of ud,that is a no brainer!!!

  16. lucas fb
    June 26th, 2010 at 22:18 | #16

    and look that i like ud. medium player, great guy!!!

  17. H
    June 26th, 2010 at 22:54 | #17

    @Harara

    Only that by most accounts, Ellis needs the ball in his hands, and this conflicts with Wade.. sometimes there is more to it than simply numbers….

  18. k215215
    June 27th, 2010 at 01:10 | #18

    @lucas fb…your posts are unintelligible. There are like 5 of them in a row, and nary a one of them is in English. Im not trying to rip you, but please take a moment and reread your posts before you submit to make sure they make sense

  19. Heat-Struck
    June 27th, 2010 at 11:42 | #19

    @lucas fb

    If getting rid of Beasley means getting Bosh or a great third piece, then I say we do it. It’s going to take Beasley 2+ more years to start getting it… and Wade, Bosh and maybe Lebron want to start winning championships now. If we come up big in FA, then we have to dump Beasley.

    I agree with you that Beasley is a better player than Haslem, but Beasley plays for fun and not to win. He’s lazy. Period.

    In regards to Haslem, I’ll only want him back if he agrees to take the minimum, so his salary doesn’t count towards the cap.

  20. lucas fb
    June 27th, 2010 at 19:47 | #20

    @Heat-Struck
    i think you made good points. but i still think heat and beas would really thrive with beas as a 4th option, or as scoring punch from the bench. as a bench player, even spo would allow beas more free reign, rather than yanking him out at every bad play.

    beas was having a really good season. plus, beas will continue to grow physically (he’s 21), and maybe mentally too. with him maybe taller and stronger, you could expect better rebounding and maybe some simple post up plays. the fact that he’s a lefty helps, because beas could attack from the right side of the post and make a left hook (going left) or a turnaround layup or jumper (going right).

    to the other guy:
    i don’t have much free time, so when i come here and i have a point, i just dump it all. plus, i’m brazillian, so i haven’t practiced proper english in a long time and i’m kind of rusty. but i’m such a wade and heat fan that i like to contribute. see what i wrote in the article before this. i had more time and ideas that time.

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