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VOL. 131 | NO. 126 | Friday, June 24, 2016

Grizzlies Get Wade Baldwin 17th, Deyonta Davis at 31 in NBA Draft

By Don Wade

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The Memphis Grizzlies selected Vanderbilt combo guard Wade Baldwin with the 17th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft and then nabbed three second-round players after making a trade with the Boston Celtics.

Wade Baldwin IV answers questions during an interview after being selected 17th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 23, in New York.

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“We’re thrilled with this draft and where we think it can take us in the future,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. “We loaded up in this draft as currently we don’t have any picks in 2017.”

The Grizzlies stayed close to home in picking Baldwin and he was familiar with them, too.

“They’re my 2K team,” Baldwin said of the Grizzlies, referring to the popular NBA video game.

Not content to have one first-round pick and the 57th overall pick at the back of the second round, the Grizzlies traded a 2019 first-round pick to the Celtics; Boston then used the first pick of the second round, and 31st overall, to choose Michigan State power forward Deyonta Davis for the Grizzlies.

Davis not only hails from Zach Randolph’s alma mater, but figures to be a huge post presence at 6-10 and 240 pounds. He set an MSU freshman record with 64 blocks while averaging 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Wallace admitted that the Grizzlies never expected Davis to still be available. Many mock drafts had him going in the first round just outside the first 14 lottery picks.

“We had him ranked in our top 20,” Wallace said.

The Celtics then used the 35th overall pick to take 6-9, 2-5-pound Rade Zagorac of Serbia for the Grizzlies; he’s viewed as a player with offensive potential.

“We’ve had our eye on him for some time,” said Wallace.

Memphis finished up the night by using that 57th overall pick to take 7-foot, 251-pound center Wang Zhelin, 22, of Fujian, China.

Wallace indicated both international players were likely to remain overseas in the near-term for more seasoning.

Baldwin was a second-team All-SEC choice by the league’s coaches as a sophomore and averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds as the Commodores went 19-14 last season. He said he was happy to be coming to an established team with a veteran presence.

“I’m playing with guys that are awesome, fantastic players,” he said, looking ahead. “Marc Gasol is one of the best centers in the league. Zach Randolph, very good veteran. Mike Conley, terrific point guard. Tony Allen probably will go down as one of the best defenders of all-time, even Kobe said it. I mean, it’s awesome.”

Among the players the Grizzlies could have taken with their first-round pick but didn’t: Kentucky forward/center Skal Labissiere, who played at Evangelical Christian School. Phoenix chose Labissiere with the 28th overall pick for Sacramento as part of a trade with the Kings.

Taking Baldwin in the first round, Wallace said, was not a hedge against Conley’s impending free agency: “He was the best guy on the board.”

Jay Bilas, an ESPN Draft analyst, described Baldwin as “an efficient 3-point shooter” but “not a great finisher at the rim.” Baldwin has a wide wingspan for being only 6-3, and Bilas said Baldwin projects as a good defender capable of guarding either point guards or shooting guards.

“I’m flexible and versatile,” Baldwin said. “Whatever the team needs me to do, whatever that is, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

Asked if he could liken his game to anyone already in the NBA, Baldwin wasn’t shy.

“A little bit of Russ Westbrook, with my own modifications of course,” he said.

In February of 2015 in his freshman season, Baldwin and Vandy coach Kevin Stallings got into it after beating Tennessee. A Vols staff member had told Stallings that Baldwin was taunting a UT player in the handshake line and Stallings previously had been unhappy with Baldwin trash-talking opponents, according to an espn.com report.

Stallings was caught on camera berating and threatening Baldwin and using profanity; Stallings ultimately issued an apology to Baldwin and to Vanderbilt fans. Asked now about that incident, Baldwin said: “That was completely overblown. We’re both fiery, competitive guys. Our relationship skyrocketed after that.”

The Grizzlies have not had a drafted player become a mainstay piece of their rotation since taking Conley fourth overall in 2007 out of Ohio State.

In the 2015 NBA Draft, they took forward Jarrell Martin 25th overall out of LSU. In the 2014 draft, they selected guard Jordan Adams 22nd overall out of UCLA. Injuries have limited both players and their future is cloudy.

The 2016 NBA Draft started the way most had expected with Philadelphia using the first overall pick on Ben Simmons, a strong forward out of LSU. The Los Angeles Lakers then selected Duke forward Brandon Ingram second overall.

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