MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies didn’t make the noisiest move of the night. That belonged to the Nets. But Memphis quietly got better in and around the 2013 NBA Draft.
That successful character trait of this new ownership — winning despite trading the team’s biggest name in January and hiring a rising coach in Dave Joerger earlier Thursday — struck again.
Memphis entered the night with three second-round picks and tried unsuccessfully to get into the first round. When that didn’t happen, its first move became a trade.
Power forward Darrell Arthur, along with the 55th pick, went to Denver for center Kosta Koufos. Then San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin fell out of the first round and into the Grizzlies’ lap at No. 41.
Franklin is an immediate impact player, the only Division I player to lead his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. CEO Jason Levien made no secret of what the team was trying to do.
“There were reports we were trying to move into the first round of the draft, which were true,” Levien said. “And we had our eye on Jamaal Franklin. We were fortunate to get him where we did.”
It was a busy day for Levien, who sat at the same podium just more than 12 hours earlier to introduce Joerger.
Franklin has publicly compared himself to Grizzlies guard Tony Allen — the “Grindfather” and leader of Memphis’ grit-and-grind defense.
“We’ve already given him a nickname, which we had given him during the draft process, ‘the Grindson,'” said Levien. “The toughness Jamaal plays with, we think he’s going to fit in very nicely. We think he’s going to add to our grit-and-grind mentality.
“The guy is just a big-time competitor, big-time toughness at the highest levels. And he’s a winner.”
Franklin stands 6-foot-5 but still had nearly 10 rebounds per game. There were questions about why he slipped out of the first round. None of those questions produced a solid answer.
But Levien, as he has proved before, showed that he knows how to get what he wants. What he wants has worked out well for Memphis in his short time here, and this draft — one many coined untalented — has the potential to be seen as special here.
Levien had already nicknamed Franklin. He was obviously his target. It should have taken a first-round pick to get him. But Levien was pushed away and still got his man.
The Grizzlies are pushy on the court and have become pushy off of it. How can free agent Allen leave now that his offspring has arrived?
Levien could afford to be loose in the post-draft chat with media. After all, things went well and it was nearly 1 a.m. What’s not funny at 1 a.m.?
Some are laughing at the shooter-lacking Grizzlies for taking Franklin. His stats are great (17 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game); his 28 percent from behind the arc not so much.
But former teammate Kawhi Leonard entered the NBA with his shot questioned, and that’s worked out well for the San Antonio Spurs, a team Memphis is trying to emulate.
“Memphis is a perfect fit for me. If I had a choice to pick a team, Memphis would definitely be one of those choices,” Franklin said in a conference call. “I feel like I’m a little better on the offensive end than Tony Allen, but Tony Allen is a great player, a great defender. I want to be a defender just like him. I need to work on shooting the ball more consistent.”
Koufos fits Memphis, too. Just ask, well, Memphis. In his first full year as a starter in his fourth season, Koufos had a career-high 16 rebounds in a win against the Grizzlies last season.
He is the selfless big man Memphis can play behind Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol. Trading Arthur also will allow forward Ed Davis to play behind Zach Randolph.
Coaches have harped on getting better internally. That has to start with Davis and point guard Tony Wroten. This is the place improvement needed to start.
The 7-foot Koufos averaged eight points and nearly seven rebounds per game in 81 starts for Denver.
“Having a guy like that who started 80-plus games this year for a playoff team that got the third seed in the West was something we think is going to be advantageous for us,” Levien said.
Janis Timma, 21, may be the NBA’s version of Mr. Irrelevant, taken at No. 60, the very last pick of the draft. Or is he? Is he a stash-away? Maybe not. Timma may get his chance right away.
He may even be the shooter Memphis needs.
A 6-foot-7 Latvian forward who had an impressive workout shooting the ball and showing his leaping abilities here Monday, Timma will be back in Memphis on Monday to join the Grizzlies for summer league.
“I can finish, make the 3-point shot. I can defend, rebound the ball,” Timma said.
His knock is a lack of effort on the defensive end, but there weren’t many knocks on him when he worked out here in back-to-back sessions Monday.
“The guy is a real horse,” Levien said. “He can shoot the basketball. He’s an interesting player and we’re planning to have him with us this summer and to take a closer look at him. But he’s someone we’re excited to get.”
So Levien got the Latvian and he got his target. If both turn into NBA shooting threats, this no-name draft will have produced the “Grindson” and a Latvian who is sure to be given his own moniker by the “Grindfather.”