The Memphis Grizzlies have nailed the NBA Draft since Zach
Kleiman took over the front office. In recent years, he and his
staff have clearly identified their kind of prospects and honed in
on these players.
Several months after Kleiman was promoted to Memphis' executive
vice president of basketball operations on April 2019, he selected
Ja Morant with the No. 2 overall pick.
Later that draft night, the Grizzlies traded up to draft Brandon
Clarke with the No. 21 pick. Clarke was a fringe top-10 player on
many big boards, but continued to slip on draft night due to his
age (23) and limited wingspan (6-foot-8, which is the same as his
height). Many of Memphis' picks fit this description; by
unsubscribing from groupthink, the Grizzlies have managed to find
sleepers that other front offices overlooked due to perceived
Clarke went on to deliver the most efficient season from the
field in NBA history for a rookie (61.8% field-goal percentage),
and he was the Grizzlies' biggest impact player during their
first-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the
2021-22 NBA Playoffs.
The Grizzlies did not have a first-round pick in 2020, but sent
two second-round picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the
No. 30 pick. Kleiman then selected Desmond Bane, who was still on
the board because of his age (22) and wingspan (6-foot-4,
despite standing at 6-foot-6).
Bane had the highest college PER of any Grizzlies draft pick in
franchise history. All Bane did was become a Most Improved Player
candidate in his sophomore season, and he is currently emerging
as one of the most lethal shooters in the league.
In the second round, following the Bane selection, Kleiman moved
up again to get Xavier Tillman Sr. out of Michigan State; Tillman
was another 22-year-old with first-round talent who slid because of
age. He hasn't had the same impact as Clarke or Bane, but he's had
his moments over the last two seasons.
The 2021 NBA Draft is yet another prime example of Kleiman doing
things his way. The Grizzlies moved up from No. 17 to No. 10, with
players such as James Bouknight, Moses Moody and Chris Duarte on
the board. Most assumed that Moody was the no-brainer pick for the
Grizzlies, but Kleiman and Co. had a different plan; Memphis
selected Ziaire Williams out of Stanford. Most mock drafts had
Williams as a mid-to-late first-round pick, but the Grizzlies were
not going to take any chances and risk missing out on their
Then, in back-to-back years of the draft, Memphis bought back
into the first round by acquiring the No. 30 pick to gain a
cheaper, controlled contract. The Grizzlies dealt the No. 40 pick
and two future second-round picks in exchange for the No. 30
selection, where Santi Aldama was the choice. Most teams didn't
have Aldama atop their draft board at that spot, as a number of
prospects with late-first grades had slipped, including JT Thor,
Ayo Dosunmu and Joe Wieskamp. However, the Grizzlies were
determined to add the 6-foot-11 forward who can dribble, pass and
shoot — providing versatility and spacing.
Leading up to the 2022 NBA Draft, multiple outlets reported that
Memphis was interested in moving up again. The Grizzlies were
rumored to be after the Sacramento Kings' No. 4 pick and the New
York Knicks' No. 11 pick (and they likely inquired about some
selections in between).
Here's what we know: the Grizzlies have a type, and they'll do
whatever it takes to get their guys — even if that means trading
up. Outside of Morant, every draft pick from Kleiman and Co. has
been the result of Memphis moving up in the draft to snag its
Should a team go after the best player available or prioritize
the best fit for its roster? This is one of the main debates that
surfaces every year around the NBA Draft. For the Grizzlies, the
best player available is the guy who is the best fit. For
Memphis, best fit doesn't just refer to someone who fills a
positional need. They are looking for the player who best fits the
current mix of players as a person and a player. And unlike other
teams, the Grizzlies aren't focused on a player's age and
“What we really care about is: Who is the person and are they
good at basketball?” Kleiman said.
Armed with picks No. 22 and No. 29 in this year's first round,
it felt inevitable that the Grizzlies were going to trade up and
snag their guy. Was it going to be Tari Eason from LSU? AJ Griffin
seemed like a perfect fit. Even Jalen Duren made sense. But when it
comes to Memphis, identifying the team's targets without inside
knowledge is a crapshoot.
Then, it happened: Memphis packaged their two first-rounders to
move up to No. 19. Malaki Branham was there, slipping out of the
teens. Christian Braun and MarJon Beauchamp were also on the board.
However, the Grizzlies opted for Jake LaRavia out of Wake Forest.
This was their guy. With the San Antonio Spurs rumored to like
LaRavia at No. 20, they made sure to go get him.
Now, would Memphis once again try to trade up into the end of
the first round for the third year in a row?
The Grizzlies didn't wait for the last pick of the first round
this time, jumping back in four selections after LaRavia's to
surprise everyone once again. Jaden Hardy, Andrew Nembhard and
Patrick Baldwin Jr. had all been linked to Memphis during the
pre-draft process. Instead, it was David Roddy, the 6-foot-6 defensive
lineman forward from Colorado State.
As the second round progressed, a few players began to fall. EJ
Liddell, Bryce McGowens and Kennedy Chandler were sliding despite
having first-round grades. Then, Memphis struck again, acquiring
the No. 38 pick for a future second-rounder and cash. Here, the
Grizzlies selected Chandler.
"We were shocked that Kennedy slipped to where he was,” Kleiman
said after the draft. "That wasn't the first team that we called
trying to get in using a second, trading in and trying to get a
point guard who fits what we're about.”
Kleiman still had No. 47 even after trading up twice. Memphis
selected Vince Williams Jr. out of VCU, a 6-foot-5 wing with a
After their second-round exit against the world champion Golden
State Warriors, it was clear Memphis needed shooters and guys who
could defend and play in the half-court. All four of the
organization's draft picks shot better than 38% from deep last
season and averaged over 2.0 stocks (steals and blocks) per
While they vary in size and position, the Grizzlies selected
four players who can dribble, pass, shoot and defend. And though
shooting was the priority in this draft, they stuck to their plan,
searching for good people who are also good at basketball.
After an eventful draft night, they ended up with four players
who can contribute in a multitude of ways early in their