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VOL. 131 | NO. 104 | Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sports Notebook: If He’s Available, Should Grizzlies Take Labissiere In First Round?

By Don Wade

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While it’s difficult to imagine the NBA matching the NFL for draft night drama this year – hopefully there are no Twitter bong photos seconds before tipoff – the mock drafts don’t seem to agree a lot beyond LSU forward Ben Simmons going to Philadelphia first overall and Duke forward Brandon Ingram going second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Once considered a likely Top 10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere could slide out of the lottery. If he is still there for the taking at no. 17, the Grizzlies might have a tough choice.

(Photo by David Blair/Icon Sportswire)

The Memphis Grizzlies hold the 17th overall pick. And in a year when the draft has mostly been criticized for lacking depth. There is neither the space nor time to consider every mock draft or scenario, so this week let’s focus on three.

First, the most intriguing scenario: Kentucky power forward/center Skal Labissiere, Memphian by way of Haiti (and guardian Gerald Hamilton), slips all the way to No. 17, according to bleacherreport.com, and is picked by the hometown team.

This is fascinating on several levels. Had John Calipari been coaching at Memphis instead of Josh Pastner, Labissiere would have played his freshman season here instead of Lexington. But it was not the season anyone had expected at Kentucky, as he averaged just 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Labissiere, of course, did not get to play his senior year in high school because of Hamilton’s shenanigans. And it hurt Skal’s development. Still, early mock drafts typically had him in the Top 10, and in some cases, the top 5. Now, most have him going at the back of the lottery or sliding out of the lottery.

For the Grizzlies, he poses a bigger risk, smaller reward. If he’s there and they don’t take him and he becomes a long-time NBA starter, maybe makes a couple of All-Star teams, then future conversations about Grizzlies draft failures will mention taking Hasheem Thabeet No. 2 overall in 2009 (yes, the Steph Curry/James Harden draft) and passing on Skal in the same sentence.

But if the Grizzlies were to take Skal 17th overall and he’s a flop? Then the scenario plays out the same way; the pick is ridiculed for being the second-worst in the Memphis franchise’s history and the Grizzlies are ripped for taking him because of his local connections.

Truthfully, if he’s there at 17, it’s a potential lose-lose proposition for the home team.

Hoopshype.com has Skal going at No. 13 to Phoenix and with the Suns having three first-round picks (also 4 and 13), the Suns are a perfect team to take the Skal gamble. If his stock drops further, the Sixers also hold the 24th and 26th picks and might be tempted to take a shot.

Meanwhile, foxsports.com has the Grizzlies taking Vanderbilt guard Wade Baldwin IV 17th. But the rationale for this pick is also a bit troubling given point guard Mike Conley’s free agency. Baldwin would be a hedge against Conley leaving: “At 6-foot-4 and just 200 pounds … (Baldwin) is physically ready to step in and play in the NBA tomorrow.”

Lastly, at nbadraft.net the Grizzlies are projected to take Marquette power forward/center Henry Ellenson in the first round. He’s in the lottery in some mocks, but while he is lauded for being smooth and having a good feel for the game, he also is judged a “below average run/jump athlete.” Which is the last thing the Grizzlies need. In this same mock, the Grizzlies also take Wichita State guard Ron Baker late in the second round. He is praised for being “scrappy” and having a nice feel for the game, but is deemed “undersized for a SG and lacks speed and athleticism for either guard position” and, even worse, is only rated a solid shooter “but not elite.”

Former Bartlett High School Pitcher Daniel Wright to Start for Reds

The Cincinnati Reds called up Daniel Wright from Triple-A Louisville and he was slated to make his major league debut and start Tuesday, May 24, in a late game in Los Angeles vs. the Dodgers.

Wright was undersized as a high school pitcher and did not receive many Division 1 offers. He went to Arkansas State and did well enough that the Reds plucked him with a 10th-round pick – pretty high in baseball.

Most impressive, Wright has made his way to the majors as a right-hander with a fastball that resides in the low 90s. In other words, he’s “pitched” his way there and not been promoted on perceived potential because of big numbers showing up on radar guns.

Big 12 Expansion Still Not Certain

Around here, University of Memphis fans have focused on the Tigers’ chances of being included in Big 12 expansion and zipped right past the real possibility that the Big 12 will not expand in the near future.

There are more meetings in Irving, Texas at the end of the month and perhaps then there will be more clarity.

But one media report out of Cincinnati had the University of Texas putting pressure on Texas Tech and TCU to withhold needed votes to make expansion happen, and the Austin American-Statesman reported that a source close to the Texas program said there was only a “15 percent” chance that the Big 12 expands beyond 10 teams.

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