Grizzlies The second pick in the 1999 Usenet Mock NBA Draft belongs to the Vancouver Grizzlies.  Their Net GM is:   James Burns who selects:

Steve Francis, SG, 6-2, Maryland

Team History/Needs

The Grizzlies have seemed to do little more than lose in their four seasons in the league. But the '99 season was especially painful because the Grizzlies took a large step back in the win column when they were expected to improve. They drafted a very promising young point guard in Mike Bibby to replace Antonio Daniels. The chemistry of the team was the best it had ever been.  Shareef Abdur-Rahim was signed to a long-term deal. Things were looking bright. But when training camp started the first bad signs appeared. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves showed up 40 pounds overweight. Lee Mayberry was suffering from a nagging ankle injury and had to have surgery. Doug West had a nagging hamstring injury that limited his effectiveness. The compact season allowed for no practice time for one of the youngest teams in the league. Then things went from bad to worse. Just as Reeves was getting into game shape he injured his knee and had to have season-ending surgery. Lee Mayberry began suffering from tendinitis in both knees and couldn't return. Doug West injured a toe that required season ending surgery. Now perhaps you are saying to yourself, "Ok I can see the loss of Reeves impacting the Grizzlies low post game, but how does the loss of Mayberry and West make a difference?" Essentially this, Brian Hill was forced to start two rookies in the backcourt on an already young team. The lack of veteran leadership made it far more difficult for the Grizzlies to put away close games. In fact they lost 14 games by 5 or fewer points during the lockout shortened season. All these things added up to an inevitably bad season. Surprisingly despite this the Grizzlies still played hard, and came very close to beating some very good teams. But they lacked the depth and the experience to close out.

The Grizzlies have a lot of weaknesses. They could use an enforcer at power forward. Someone solid and intimidating defensively who can rebound, block shots and shut his defensive assignment down. They also need more scoring, especially from the shooting guard spot. Felipe Lopez was a pleasant surprise, but he didn't have a consistent jumper. Basically the Grizzlies need more depth. The bench rarely brought many points to their games. Those few occasions they did were the few times the Grizzlies won. With the undersized Elton Brand being the only power forward in the draft likely to be drafted in the top 7, the Grizzlies are more likely to look at drafting a shooting guard. There is also a lot of pressure on Stu Jackson to trade the pick for a veteran. That pressure is something I hope Stu does not give into, because I suspect there is little other teams are willing to offer that would truly match the value of the Grizzlies' pick. That said, if a fantastic deal comes along Stu should go for it.

Past First Round Picks
1995 Bryant Reeves (5th pick)
1996 Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3rd pick)
1996 Roy Rodgers (22nd pick)
1997 Antonio Daniels (4th pick)
1998 Mike Bibby (2nd pick)
1998 Felipe Lopez (24th pick)


Point Guard

Mike Bibby had a solid if unspectacular rookie season. Mike was clearly a vast improvement over Antonio Daniels despite being three years younger. Unfortunately, Mike's season went largely unnoticed, partly because Jason Williams attracted the lion's share of attention with his fancy passing, and also because the Grizzlies could not win. Mike started slow and he took a few weeks to adjust his shooting to the NBA level. He has a beautiful mid-range jumper and plans to work on a better 3-point shot during the off-season. As a playmaker Bibby showed flashes of brilliance. His greatest difficulty wasn't in making a play, but in seeing it bounce of the hands or chests of team-mates unprepared for a pass. On the bench Mayberry spent almost all the season injured. The team missed his veteran experience. Dejuan Wheat filled in most of the bench minutes at point guard. Unfortunately, Wheat had great difficulty running the offense and was rarely a positive factor for the Grizzlies.

Shooting Guard

Sam Mack was projected to be the starter, and initially he started very strong actually leading the Grizzlies in points. But his production gradually began to tail off as teams played him for the 3 point shot. Not effective creating his own shot, nor much of a defender Mack refused to come off the bench in a role he was more suited to. By mid-season he was traded to the Rockets for Rhoderick Rhodes. Doug West would have been Mack's replacement as starter if he had been healthy. A nagging hamstring injury limited West initially, and then a toe injury that required surgery ended his season. That left Felipe Lopez as the starter, and he did an adequate job. A good defender and excellent slasher Felipe turned out to be better than the Grizzlies had hoped for of the 24th pick in the draft. Unfortunately, Felipe lacked the outside shot the Grizzlies needed in their shooting guard.

Small Forward

The 4th leading scorer in the NBA, Shareef Abdur-Rahim produced despite facing constant double and triple teams whenever he had the ball in his hands. But the inexperience of the few talented Grizzlies, and the complete lack of team depth prevented Shareef from really shining in his role. The absence of Bryant Reeves clearly hurt Reef's performance, forcing him to shoulder the offensive load. This resulted in him turning the ball over more frequently as defenses collapsed on him. That said, there are a number of areas Reef clearly needs to improve. The first and most important is defense. While Reef did get better defensively this season, he was still too lackadaisical. His passing also could stand significant improvement, especially on inbounds plays and out of double-teams. Finally, a more varied offensive repertoire would also help, including more mid-range jumpers and a fade-away move. But in all fairness Reef is a spectacular player who probably won't get any recognition until the Grizzlies drag themselves out of the basement of the NBA. J.R. Henderson gradually got more minutes as Reef's back-up as the season went on. But in the little playing time he got Henderson did not have much of an impact.

Power Forward

Talk about a dog's breakfast. The starter for most of the season was Cherokee Parks, the major free agent signing Stu Jackson made after the lockout. If Cherokee put on 20 pounds of muscle and played aggressively he could be a good player. But right now he's too thin and too laid back. Cherokee has a decent mid-range jumper, but he often doesn't use it even when he's open. The few times he does shoot he regularly hesitates and throws off his shot. The last few games of the season Chief actually showed some jump with aggressive play and solid rebounding, but it was too little too late. If Parks puts his mind to it he could be starter level material, but he's far from that right now. Michael Smith came off the bench for the Grizzlies and provided them with a fearless rebounding spark. Now if only he was 4 inches taller and could block shots he'd be the perfect power forward for the team. Smith seems to have endless energy when he's on the floor. He is the best per minute rebounder on the team. But he has no offensive game, at times even having difficulty making lay-ups. And despite being listed at 6'8" he's much closer to 6'6", making him continually undersized against most power forwards in the league. Pete Chilcutt also saw some spot minutes, but he was unable to consistently make shots from the perimeter, which is supposed to be his specialty.


Bryant "Big Country Reeves came to camp close to 40 pounds overweight. Initially Country came off the bench, replaced by Tony Massenburg in the starting line-up. While Country's lack of conditioning was appalling for a player averaging 10 million per year he did work very hard to get back into shape. Unfortunately, he worked a little too hard and ended up injuring his knee which required season ending surgery. Had Country been able to play up to his potential the Grizzlies would have had a legitimate low post scoring threat to compliment Shareef. But with Country out the Grizzlies had to rely on Tony Massenburg. T-Mass performed admirably in Country's absence, scoring against players much taller than himself, but he did not have the size to operate as effectively as Country, nor did he draw double-teams like Country did. The back-up center situation was a mish-mash of the power forwards, with Cherokee Parks, and Pete Chilcutt seeing most of the back-up minutes.


Brian Hill won't win any awards for the '99 season but, when you see the complete lack of depth and the amount of inexperience he had to work with, it is actually amazing that Hill kept the Grizzlies as competitive as they were in so many games. A rookie backcourt and two bench players were the only help for Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the starting line-up. And the actual bench provided almost no offense. Hill managed to cobble together a team that almost beat a number of the top teams in the league. Given a healthy team and at least one more solid addition from the draft or trade, I have no doubt Hill will be able to at least double the Grizzlies win Percentage (although that's still only 0.32 ball).

President and General Manager

Stu Jackson received a lot of heat in the press as the season wound down. A large part of the bad press undoubtedly came about because the Grizzlies' expansion cousins the Toronto Raptors had an unexpectedly good season, even contending for the 8th seed in the eastern conference. The other factor was Bryant Reeves and his huge contract that matched his huge girth when he came to training camp. Jackson signed Reeves to the contract, and it is widely believed in most of the media that Reeves is overpaid. While I agree that Stu Jackson's performance as GM of the Grizzlies is not ideal, I also cannot fault most of his decisions without the benefit of hindsight. The only exceptions may be the drafting of Antonio Daniels when Ron Mercer was available, and the trade for Otis Thorpe when Thorpe made it very clear he did not want to come to Vancouver (and later became utter poison in the lockeroom). Signing Reeves to a large contract was not a mistake. If Jackson had not signed Reeves, then Shareef would probably not have stayed either. There is currently a lot of pressure on Jackson to trade the Grizzlies pick for a veteran. I hope Jackson does not give in to that pressure for a quick fix, because I doubt he will be able to get fair value in return for the pick. Hopefully, Jackson will stay the course and continue to add through the draft, gambling that the pick will develop into a franchise player, and that all the cornerstone players for the Grizzlies will be healthy and play well next season.

My Selection

Steve Francis.   Had Lamar Odom been available I would have selected him over Francis, because Odom has a more complete package of skills and expressed a desire to play for the Grizzlies. That said, Francis is still a good pick. Francis can play either backcourt position, and while he's a little undersized for shooting guard he makes up for it with his incredible athleticism. Francis has a scorers mentality and he can make spectacular plays. He would not only add points to the Grizzlies offense, but a lot of excitement as well. He would form a Snow/Iverson-like tandem in the backcourt with Mike Bibby. The only concerns were the Grizzlies to keep Francis, would be his susceptibility to being posted-up by the bigger guards in the NBA. But making Francis their pick, the Grizzlies wouldn't necessarily have to keep him. They could trade him for some combination of lower picks and veteran players. The Toronto Raptors in particular have apparently expressed a lot of interest in acquiring Francis.

Other players I considered

Lamar Odom: If Chicago had passed on him I would have picked him. Corey Maggette: huge potential, but would likely start slow Elton Brand: probably a little undersized for the Grizzlies Richard Hamilton: may have the greatest impact of all the rookies, but he's on the thin side and may be a little too frail for the NBA.

Who the team will probably take

If the Bulls pass on Odom the Grizzlies will draft him and probably keep him. If the Bulls are smart and take Odom, then things get a little more iffy. I suspect the outcome will depend much more on how prospects performed during workouts. My hunch is that the Grizzlies will likely take Steve Francis and either trade him for a veteran, or trade down for more picks. Francis is a safe bet, because even if he isn't traded the Grizzlies have the option of playing him at shooting guard. If the Grizzlies trade for a veteran it will most likely involve getting a power forward. Names that have been mentioned in the press are PJ Brown and Antonio Davis. However, the 2nd pick for either of these players is a rather steep price to pay. If the Grizzlies trade down the most likely candidates are Toronto or Cleveland. Who they take with lower picks will be largely dependent on who is left when they pick. I would guess Brand, Maggette, and Hamilton are particularly high on the Grizzlies' list.

Other possible off-season moves

The Grizzlies could really use some seasoned veterans, especially vets with playoff experience. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies will have no cap room to play with, instead having to rely on the 2 and 1 million dollar exceptions. Really the only vets available in this price range are cast-offs or old guys who would have retired if the NBA wasn't so starved for talent. In my opinion a crusty old-timer would be the best bet, ideally a wily point guard still able to perform in limited minutes, or a solid power forward who knows all the cheap-shot tricks in the paint that get missed by the refs. The two top candidates on my list are Terry Porter and Terry Cummings. Both would be useful in limited minutes. Porter has indicated he will opt out of his remaining year at 1 million with the Heat. Porter has said he wants to win a championship, and there is no hope of that with the Grizzlies over the next few seasons. But if Stu Jackson maxes out the 2 million exception for Porter over three years (2 million to start with 15% increases each year) he should be able to get him. There is some risk in this as Porter would be 39 at the end of the contract and his productivity could drop off significantly. But if he can maintain the level of play he showed with the Heat in the playoffs in limited minutes off the bench, then he would add significant depth to the Grizzlies. He would also provide Bibby with a veteran presence to support him during the tougher parts of the season. Terry Cummings on the other hand would be the 3rd power forward in the rotation after Parks and Smith. But he would be particularly useful in spot minutes off the bench during close games when the Grizzlies look like they're losing focus. I don't think Cummings would come to the Grizzlies for only the 1 million exception, and I would only give him the 2 million exception if Porter was unavailable. Beyond those two I don't really think the Grizzlies have a shot at many other useful vets. There is a remote possibility someone my fall through the cracks as other teams are capped out and use up their exceptions. But even then the Grizzlies will have a hard time getting anyone to come to Vancouver. That will only change if the Grizzlies can manage to start winning. When that will happen is anyone's guess.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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