The Grizzlies' final pre-draft workouts included a hometown product and some international intrigue.
By BRANDON SPECKFS Tennessee
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The workouts are over. It’s time for Memphis to figure out its immediate future before Thursday’s NBA Draft. The Grizzlies held their sixth and seventh -- and final -- pre-draft workouts Monday morning. Nine players worked out in front of director of player personnel and basketball development Stu Lash, GM Chris Wallace and CEO Jason Levien. The group included Jordan Aboudou (France), Vander Blue (Marquette), Jackie Carmichael (Illinois State), Joffrey Lauvergne (France), Janis Timma (Latvia), Adonis Thomas (Memphis), Mitchell Anderson, Jr. (Arkansas Pine Bluff), Jack Cooley (Notre Dame) and Arsalan Kazemi (Iran).
Here are three observations from two of the shorter pre-draft workouts the Grizzlies have held.
1. Looking for a sleeper, Grizzlies? Who isn't?
With three second-round picks -- Nos. 41, 50 and 55 -- Memphis could be looking for the hidden gem of the draft. Lash says everybody is looking for that guy.
“You’re looking for a sleeper if you’re even picking in the lottery,” Lash said. “I talked about this all throughout the process. It’s the most talented guy and there’s different layers of talent for us. The fit is not always from a roster standpoint. The fit is more about who we are and what we value in players, on and off the court.
“Every guy that we’ve brought in, we’ve brought in for a specific reason and this was a very strong group today.”
Four of the nine came from overseas, including Latvia’s Janis Timma. Timma, 20, is a 6-foot-8, 226-pound projected small forward. While his mechanics have come into question, no one will debate his frame, athleticism and ability to get to the rim, above it much of the time.
Timma was still shooting around once the session opened to media and making a high percentage of those shots from 3-point range. He also put on a small dunking clinic.
Maybe Timma is that sleeper. Maybe Erick Green is that sleeper scorer. Green, who led the nation in scoring from Virginia Tech, worked out here last week. Memphis once passed on Steph Curry. Green the next great scorer?
2. Can Adonis Thomas, another hometown kid, shake off the unbelievers?
University of Memphis senior D.J. Stephens worked out last week. Former Tigers teammate Adonis Thomas is another young guy trying for an early pro start.
Thomas, 20, was once seen as a lottery pick. But an unimpressive and unhealthy freshman season (two months missed after surgery to repair torn ankle cartilage) led to a sophomore season that didn’t do him any favors either. Thomas is now projected as a late second-rounder -- if he gets drafted.
“My production wasn’t great,” Thomas said. “But going over these workouts, guys seeing how I’ve changed and developed has really helped my stock. A lot of teams are very interested in me.”
Thomas’ game is still considered up-and-coming. The 6-foot-7, two-guard made 40 percent of his shots last season, but still has his off-the-ball abilities questioned.
What isn’t being questioned is his dedication to his body. He admits he was too heavy during his sophomore campaign, but has been working at IMG for three months and arrived in Memphis lighter and looking the NBA part.
“You could see he put in a lot of time on that,” Lash said. “He shot the ball well. I think the things he’s told to focus on, you can see that translating into improvement.”
Thomas’ decision to leave Memphis early left many scratching their heads. His stock has gone the wrong way each year past high school. Monday was his 12th of 13 workouts. He said the three months in Florida have helped him regain athleticism and explosion and that he has no regrets about leaving early.
“I knew if I worked on some things, improved my game over the summer, I feel like I’m an NBA player,” Thomas said. “It’s fun right now. I’m sure I’m going to be nervous as the time gets closer.”
3. A whole lot of things to get done before -- and after -- Thursday’s draft, including lunch.
Lash isn’t revealing any draft-night secrets just yet, but he assured media of one thing.
“It’s a great time of year. After this workout, we’ll probably go into the office. I’d say lunch is imminent, first and foremost,” he said. “After that, you really hunker in, film, re-reading our reports throughout the year, getting on the phone, extensive background checks, starting to formulate our draft board ...”
All circulating around the draft, trade talks will pick up steam and free agency will soon dominate the NBA conversation. Lash said this time of year is one of three or four in the epicenter of NBA management.
The draft’s new faces will get all the play, but it’s also about faces already in place. For Memphis, Quincy Pondexter showed improvement in the playoffs and many still wonder just how good big man Ed Davis and point guard Tony Wroten can be.
“We’re a big believer of ‘You have to get internally better, first. Everybody’s always looking for ‘How do we get better?’ And the tendency of that is to sometimes look outside your gym,” Lash said. “We have some good young players on this roster where their development this summer is very important to how we get better. Internal development is something I think kind of gets lost this time of year.”