The Memphis Grizzlies hope they have finally found help for their long-range shooting woes.
The question is whether Wade Baldwin, a 6-foot-3 guard from Vanderbilt, taken with the 17th overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, will be part of a group providing more useful production than previous Memphis drafts.
Baldwin was one of four players selected by the Grizzlies in the draft. In a deal announced later Thursday night, Memphis traded up to get early second-round picks from the Boston Celtics, choosing Deyonta Davis from Michigan State at No. 31 and Serbian forward Rade Zagorac with the 35th pick.
With its 57th pick, Memphis chose 7-footer Wang Zhelin of China.
“We had a whirlwind of activity, and we’re very pleased with the results,” said Chris Wallace, the Grizzlies general manager.
Baldwin, who played two years for Vanderbilt, provides Memphis with a young guard, but also hopes of a long-range shooter.
“It’s awesome,” Baldwin said after his selection, later adding: “Memphis is a great city. I’ve been there before and couldn’t be happier.”
The Grizzlies finished 42-40 in an injury-plagued season and were swept in the first round of the postseason by the San Antonio Spurs. They don’t have a great history of success in the draft. Since point guard Mike Conley was selected with the fourth overall pick in 2007, only two Memphis draft night picks – Jordan Adams in 2014 and Jarell Martin last year – are still with the team. And both were injured at the end of the season, part of an NBA-record 28 players who dressed for the team last year because of injuries.
The Grizzlies entered the draft – their first under new head coach David Fizdale – facing several unknowns: Conley enters free agency after an injury-plagued 2015-16 season; center Marc Gasol is recovering from a right foot injury. His recuperation leaves questions about the timing and level of his return. Wallace said Conley’s status did not contribute to the selection of Baldwin.
Wallace was more excited that the Grizzlies were able to make the trade with the Celtics to move up in the second round with an eye on Davis, a 6-foot-10 forward, who blocked 64 shots at Michigan State last season.
“Deyonta Davis is someone that we, quite frankly in our wildest dreams, never thought would be there at 31. We had him ranked well into the top 20. He’s the best future shot blocker in this entire draft,” Wallace said.
He added that Davis’ college coach, Tom Izzo, said if Davis stayed in school another year, his stock would have increased.
“We hope we’ve got a lottery-potential guy, just a year early,” Wallace said.
Zagorac and Zhelin are expected to continue to play internationally next year to get more experience.
Baldwin was a second team All-Southeastern Conference pick as a sophomore, when he set a Vanderbilt record with 172 assists. That 5.2 average in assists was the sixth-best in Commodore history.
He said the wait until the 17th pick was worth it based on the result.
“I just wanted to be picked,” he said. “It didn’t matter what team it was. I’m super, super, super ecstatic it was the Memphis Grizzlies.”