Well the long anticipated draft night has come and gone. While the draft experts seemed to have the Grizzlies plans down pretty tightly (yes that means Chad Ford among others) so what do the Grizzlies think they have done to improve the team in this draft? Well 3 Shades of Blue was fortunate to be included in the Don Poier Media Room to listen to Head Coach Lionel Hollins and General Manager Chris Wallace discuss the players acquired and what they see for these players in the future.
In this blog we’ll cover Lionel Hollins comments and hope to have Wallace’s up by Sunday afternoon.
LIONEL HOLLINS: On Hasheem Thabeet
Question: What do you think?
LH: We’re excited about the pick. As we went through the draft process there were a lot of people that came up, came to mind, and as we kept going through it, watching film and everybody debating the merits and the negatives we just felt like this was the best pick for us.
Question:Were you wanting to keep the pick the whole time or were you looking to trade?
LH:When we started the process I for one didn’t really care. We weren’t #1 and we knew Griffin was going #1 and there was no chance we were trading up to get him I didn’t really care. I thought that if we traded and got multiple players so be it. Then as we started going through the process and I think everybody kind of got the same feeling and we started locking in. The only way you can trade down is if you got multiple guys that you think might be there for you but as we started locking in on Hasheem then that became less of an opportunity. We started thinking someone was going to have to blow us out of the water and frankly there weren’t a lot of good offers out there, some of them laughable. We honed in on him we decided to keep it. If something would have come up tonight it’s a very real possibility we could have but we didn’t think it would and I was comfortable with everything, Mr. Heisley was comfortable, Chris was comfortable, all the scouts with where we were and we weren’t trying to force anything.
Question: Lionel, have you had a chance to talk to Hasheem and what has he said if so?
LH:I haven’t talked to him tonight. I talked to him and with both of his agents and he’s doing all that he can to get ready for the NBA. We’re just waiting for him to call so I can talk to him. Now I’ve talked to him multiple times and I have a pretty good feel for the kid. We’ll introduce him tomorrow.
Question: How do you see him working with Marc (Gasol)?
LH:Well the best man is going to win the job. That’s the NBA way. That’s basketball. It’s competition. He’s got to come in here and earn the right. Marc’s going to be heavy competition for him. We’re trying to grab a good player. The way it’s going to work is one guy is going to be the starter and one is going to come off the bench and they both bring a little something different.
Question: Do you see them being able to play together?
LH:There’ll be times when we can do that. We did that last year and we’ll do that when we see the right moment. When we think we need to go big instead of small. We’re in the West so there will be a lot of times when there is only one big guy on the court at a time anyway.
Question:I imagine there was a lot of consensus with the pick but was there any dialect between any parties about wanting to go in another direction or two?
LH:All through the process. That’s what I have been saying. I am so happy the process is over. We have gone back and forth, up and down and we started taking straw votes. You know we’ve had multiple players at that pick. Then we keep watching film and you keep seeing the kids athleticism and his instincts to block shots and rebound. When I say athleticism I’m talking about agility and quickness to move across the lane, to run up and down the court and to be a force instead of just being a big guy. When I went into this and when I first saw Thabeet on TV a couple of years ago I just thought he was big and didn’t know much about him. I still didn’t know much about him until the season ended and we started getting into the process.
I didn’t know much about any of these guys so when I first started to watch them work out my first thought was Curry but then as we kept going through the process this kid started to rise to the top and everybody else started to fall.
Question: Lionel, was the decision based mainly on need or value or was it a combination of need and value?
LH: When you say value are you talking about trade value? We weren’t looking to pick and trade. We were looking for the best player on our team. The best player at this particular pick. You know there was a lot of people who thought Rubio was the guy who we should have drafted but we felt that this guy could make the biggest impact for the next 10, 12, 13 years and that was what we were looking for.
Question: The one thing they talk about Hasheem is that he can play defense, he can protect the rim but do you see him becoming an offensive threat?
LH:There’s two things – well three things he can do right now. One – he can run the court. Two – he can offensive rebound and three – he can catch lobs. He scores. He’s not a stiff offensively. He just has to get stronger and he has to develop a basic move so that he has something he can go to whenever the ball is thrown to him in the post. We’re not really counting on him to score right now. We’re counting on him to help us defensively, to help us on the glass and allow us to be more aggressive defensively, be able to run better. That’s the way I see it. I believe you have to be a decent defensive team to win and I think to be a decent defensive team you need to have an anchor behind you.
I look at Orlando I don’t consider them a good defensive team but they had Dwight Howard behind them and they got to the finals. I don’t consider the Lakers a good defensive team overall but they had Pau and Bynum behind their perimeter people and that is what you need to be a good defensive team. You’re go all denying and covering but you are going to get beat and if you have some shots altered and have some decisions made not to go and then you can block some other shots then your defense is going to be better.
Question: From a defensive scheming stand point can one player help in eliminating opposing teams second chance baskets?
LH: Well that is what the rebounding is all about. One man can help with that.
Question: Having the fact that he hasn’t played organized ball for many years like most guys do, does he have a nice upside to get better and really getting better and really learning more?
LH:No doubt about it. That’s what I meant when you look at his athleticism and agility. I’ve watched a lot of film of him. One, when you see him hit jump shots that many people don’t believe he can do. He does have a little jump hook. I just think he has tremendous upside and he’s a moldable player because he doesn’t have all the negatives or – what is the word I want to use – habits that young players get playing in the play yard and AAU Ball. He hasn’t gone through all of that. He’s a very competitive player and he’s a very good team player and we are just looking forward to be working with him.
Question: Will you have a big man coach specifically designed to work with him?
LH:No. I mean a coach is a coach. People have asked me that multiple times. When I coached in the league as an assistant coach The majority of that time I was the big man coach. Having a big man doesn’t give the player any more confidence than having a small man. What you need is a coach who knows what he is doing. One who will help him get better. When a player believes the helping him get better it doesn’t matter what size that person is.
Question: Do you see him with All-Star type upside potential or is he more of a defensive specialist with one particular skill but will not be an all-star type of guy? What the upside for him?
LH: Well if he can average 4 and 1/2 to five blocks a game and average 12-13 rebounds then I think that is all-star type material. If he averages just 10 points a game then he is still all-star material. Bill Russell wasn’t a great offensive player but I will take his 11 championships in 13 years. I think that over the years we’ve become enamored with big men who can score a lot of points but not a lot of them do. We’ve got Shaq Diesel but Dwight Howard isn’t that kind of guy yet. He’s trying to develop that and he’s gotten better but there aren’t a lot of scoring big guys so I will take a guy who allows you to play an uptempo game that rebounds and blocks shots and he can do that well.
Question: What player in the league today do you see Hasheem developing into off the top of your head?
LH:There’s nobody in the league like him. Now people compare him to Mutumbo but he has a lot more agility and mobility. [lost in translation] He’s going to walk and form his own trail. I think there’s been guys like that in the league but not as big as him. When you look at Yao Ming, he doesn’t run like him. He doesn’t have that mobility that he has. You know Shaq certainly isn’t like him. He’s not like Shaq either.
Question: Was Tyreke Evans ever a strong possibility?
LH: Very strong. Very strong. Very strong. He was very high. When we brought him in for a workout we were very high on him and if we had moved he was certainly one of the guys we wanted to have wherever we went to.
Question: Did not having Rubio work out here hurt his chances at being that #2 pick because you worked out Tyreke and you loved what you saw? Was there anything that made you shy away from Rubio or was it simply that Hasheem Thabeet was the guy you wanted?
LH: Well when we got through the process, Hasheem was definitely the guy we wanted. No, we went through the process and we just didn’t feel that Rubio was the guy for us. Obviously as the draft unfolded there were a lot of other people up there that were thinking the same thing. We said that if he didn’t go to Minnesota he might slide more maybe to New York or even down all the way to Milwaukee. Fortunately for him he didn’t slide past Minnesota.
Question: Do you think that had to do with his not working out?
LH:It had nothing to do with working out. We watched tons of film. The workout is just a small piece of the process. The body of work they put in through the years – not just this year but all the years – to see how he’s grown. I mean we look at guys when they are Sophomores and Juniors and Seniors or if they come out early we’ll look at film of him when he was in high school. It’s not just a workout. Some guys come in and blow you away in a workout. James Harden obviously didn’t play as well as he would like to because he was a little fatigued when he came in for his workout but that wouldn’t dissuade us and obviously it didn’t dissuade Oklahoma City from taking him either.
Question: Obviously you aren’t done tonight or for the rest of the off-season. Do you feel you need to do something to get better at the four?
LH:If that is something that becomes a possibility then we will do it but it’s a process. We’re trying to take whatever we can get. If there is a power forward that was better than Thabeet then obviously we would have taken him. I just think you have to take what you have in front of you and work with it and then you go to the next year. I think that we will grow a lot. We’ve had a lot of hard work going over our young players. O J Mayo has been in town and working at the facility a lot. Conley is working real hard. Marc’s working real hard and we hope to get two more good players in this draft and we’ll see what happens as the day unfolds.
Question:With that being said Lionel is there a lot of discussion about who would be the next 1st round pick?
LH:We’ve had a lot of discussions. We have our list of players we hope that will be there. We hope at least one of them are there. We’ll just keep marking them off until we get to 27. As I said earlier, and I will say this, it will either be a guard or a wing player.
Question:So there is no doubt that Hasheem Thabeet be a Grizzly at the end of the night?
LH:Uhh, no doubt.
Question: Will Darko Millicic be a Grizzly at the end of the night? You have four centers. Four foreign 7 footers. Are you going to be able to keep them all?
LH:I didn’t even notice. Well you’ll have to wait for the call. I mean, I already know the answer to that but you’ll have to wait on the call. If you get a call.
Question: You’ll just Twitter?
LH: Absolutely [giggles]. No seriously, it’s a process. All kind of things can happen. There is a lot of stuff that can happen within our team and with our next two picks that are going to be made. I’ve had people call me, other GM’s, people that have never called me and I was flattered. They didn’t really want me. They just wanted to know if I would be willing to make a deal or not. That is all.