MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies worked out six more draft prospects Thursday at FedExForum, including Memphis’ own D.J. Stephens, along with Brandon Davies (BYU), Elias Harris (Gonzaga), Jason Jones (Middle Tennessee State), Erick Green (Virginia Tech) and Mareks Mejeris (Latvia).
Here are three things we learned as the Grizzlies now focus on one more day of workouts before next week’s NBA Draft.
1. How much scoring is too much scoring?
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Erick Green led the nation in scoring — 25 points per game — and no one really even knows it. That’s because his Virginia Tech program slumped to a 13-19 record his senior season and the Hokies were but an afterthought.
Scoring is taking a back seat for Green himself as he works out for NBA teams ahead of Thursday’s draft.
Working out for the Grizzlies, Green savored his chance to play 3-on-3 and showcase what he can do tossing the ball somewhere besides at the rim.
“I got a chance to show people I can play off the pick-and-roll,” Green said. “I shot the ball pretty well and I just wanted to show I can do other things besides score the ball.”
Green (6-foot-4, 185) wants to show he can also play above the rim and control the point, perhaps as the second point guard Memphis needs behind Mike Conley.
Last season, Green scored at an efficient rate, making 47 percent of his shots, a mark he improved every season in Blacksburg. He averaged four boards and nearly four assists a game last season. Memphis director of player personnel basketball development Stu Lash said after the workout that Green had a good feel for the point position.
His game is not the only thing he’s trying to improve. At the advice of his mom through his 15 workouts — Memphis was his 12th — he is working on his diet, too.
“It’s kind of hard. You’ve got to take care of your body, eat right,” Green said. “I’ve got to cut off the McDonald’s, Taco Bell, things like that. But it’s been fun, a great adventure, dream come true.”
2. Could the best athlete in the NBA Draft not get drafted?
Some have called Memphis’ D.J. Stephens the best athlete in the draft. His name has been all over the place, from the second round to off the board. Tigers coach Josh Pastner was in attendance as his former player tried to prove his fit for the hometown team.
Stephens suffers from asthma, but it has never been able to keep the 6-foot-5, 188-pounder on the ground. His dunks already had him all over the Internet, then he went and jumped out of the gym at the Draft Combine, a 46-inch vertical, the highest of any player entering the draft in more than a decade.
“I think that just created a wow factor. It opened a few more eyes to people asking questions. Everybody already knew I was athletic, knew I could jump high,” Stephens said. “But for me to get the highest vertical in NBA history, that’s probably just like, ‘OK, this kid is freakishly athletic.’
“In the grand scheme of things, that’s just the beginning of what I’m trying to do.”
Stephens, who has seen plenty of Grizzlies games and has been seen plenty by the Grizzlies, finished his eighth workout. He says his role is shaping up as a 2 or 3 in the league. He averaged 7.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game as a senior.
Lash likes Stephens at a wing position, switching from his primary frontcourt shot-blocking spots to include more of a shooting role. His range has improved, something NBA lookers want to keep improving.
“What D.J. is going through now is his development from being an athlete that plays basketball to a basketball player that’s athletic,” Lash said.
Stephens wasn’t the only local player present. Jones finished his college career at MTSU, but graduated high school from Memphis Ridgeway.
3. Attention about to turn to draft night
Memphis plans to hold two workouts on Monday, then as Lash put it, “hunker in” for draft night, evaluating who they’ve seen and watching plenty of film on guys they haven’t had in. The Grizzlies have three second-round picks — 41, 55 and 60.
Still without a coach, Lash said he doesn’t feel like that has affected the process. Coach or not, Memphis no doubt needs a scorer to complement one of the league’s top scoring defenses.
“I think we have a vision for what our roster is going to be and the kind of players we’re looking for,” Lash said. “The draft is its own entity, something we’ve been working all year on.”
GM Chris Wallace was again watching the workout, as was CEO Jason Levien and VP of basketball operations John Hollinger. Memphis is expected to name a coach before the draft.