Draft prep: Grizzlies look at Paul, TSU’s Covington

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Grizzlies had another diverse group for their third draft workout on Monday at FedEx Forum, including a basketball player who recently gave the NFL a shot, a small-school shooter from the state and one 18-year-old prospect.

The workout included Tennessee State’s Robert Covington, Mississippi’s Murphy Holloway, Creighton’s Gregory Echenique, Indiana’s Christian Watford, Illinois guard Brandon Paul and Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin.

For the second straight workout, Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins and GM Chris Wallace were in attendance.

Memphis has the 41st, 55th and 60th picks of the June 27 draft.

“We were able to kind of put them in different scenarios, to see different elements of their game,” said Grizzlies director of player personnel and basketball development Stu Lash. “Having those guards, bigs and wings allows us to get some actions into it. We’ve been doing a lot of playing. It gives us a real opportunity to see what they have.”

Covington, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound power forward, wasn’t on many radars from his small school, but after a solid shooting performance as a late invitee at the NBA Combine, he’s created his chance.

Covington reportedly impressed during the closed Monday workout, and Memphis needs a shooter. He averaged 17 points as a senior and shot 44 percent from the field — 39 percent from 3-point range. He enters the draft as an 85-percent free throw shooter, an area in which the Grizzlies struggled during the playoffs.

At the next level, Lash knows he’ll have to get more comfortable handling the ball on the perimeter.

Asked if he knew what the Grizzlies needed, Covington had the right answer: “Another wing guy, another scorer, really.” Followed by a question of what he could bring to Memphis: “Definitely that.”

Echenique is a 6-foot-9 center who played three seasons for the Blue Jays after his first two at Rutgers and averaged 9.7 points and more than six rebounds per game, a 66-percent shooter.

Goodwin is Echenique’s polar opposite, declaring for the draft after what many considered a disappointing freshman season at Kentucky. Projected by some as a late first-rounder, Goodwin won’t turn 19 until August.

An analytical look at the 6-foot-4 guard shows an 0.87 assist-to-turnover ratio. That said, he has an attractive wingspan and formidable athleticism for a guard.

His freshman season may have declined his prep stock, but Goodwin still shot 44 percent and averaged 14 points, with nearly five boards and three assists. The Grizzlies, though, need a 3-point shooting guard, and Goodwin hit only 27 percent behind the arc.

Lash said Goodwin’s versatility, explosiveness, quickness and athleticism make him unique. Memphis needs someone behind Mike Conley, and that’s where Goodwin wants to play.

“I’ve been working on my point guard skills a lot, ball handling,” Goodwin said. “A lot of teams I’ve been working out for are looking at me at that position. I feel like I’m really good at attacking and slashing and using my athletic ability, but I need to get better at getting my shot consistent, getting stronger and getting my ball-handling better.”

Brandon Paul has shown he can score in bunches, notching a 43-point game against Ohio State in 2012. He averaged 16 points per game last season. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Paul has been all over mock draft boards, especially in Round 2.

If the Grizzlies invest a pick on a potential 3-point shooter, Watford could be that guy. A 6-foot-9 forward, Watford didn’t shoot a ton behind the arc, but hit 60 of the 124 for the season, while improving from long range each season with the Hoosiers. He averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds as a senior.

One of this draft’s more interesting stories is Holloway, who started his career at Ole Miss, transferred back home to South Carolina where he sat out the season, then came back to Ole Miss, where he averaged 14.5 points and nearly 10 rebounds as a senior last season.

“(I would bring) energy, focus, just toughness,” Holloway said. “Just do whatever, go hard. Grit and grind, I’m down for it.”

At 6-foot-7 and a muscular 240, Holloway drew some praise from NFL types as potentially another Antonio Gates (basketball player-turned tight end). He was quickly cut by the Baltimore Ravens and has turned his attention back to basketball, for now. Holloway was told he’d be welcomed back at Ravens training camp if basketball doesn’t work out by July.

For now, Holloway says basketball is his sole focus.