In honor of the NBA draft that has recently passed us, I thought it would be fitting to write an article on a franchise that has seemingly been forgotten about by everyone.
The Vancouver Grizzlies.
The NBA draft is supposed to be a spot where teams can build themselves up or add that last missing piece. In Vancouver, that never happened.
The Grizzlies came along with the Toronto Raptors in 1995 amid the hype of "Canadian Expansion." While Toronto has made some sort of an impact in the NBA with a few solid playoff runs and good acquisitions, Vancouver is no longer even in Vancouver, as they became the Memphis Grizzlies in 2001.
While on vacation in Vancouver recently my cousin (who was born, raised and still resides in Vancouver) and I were talking about the Grizzlies and how it would've been great if they could've succeeded in Vancouver. We then proceeded to go through possible reasons of why the Grizz never made it.
The answer? Poor management.
Blame this strictly on Stu Jackson's stupidity. Taking a look at their drafting during their six seasons in the NBA and while he was GM there, the team that could've been built never was.
Here's a year by year breakdown of the draft:
The Grizzlies were due to pick at number six with Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett all taken off the board from numbers two to five. And with their inaugural pick the Vancouver Grizzlies select: Bryant Reeves!!! Big Country, COME ON DOWN!
Reeves was coming off his senior year at Oklahoma State, leading them to the Final Four while averaging 21.5 ppg.
While at the time this seemed like the logical pick, the more safe pick of Damon Stoudamire (who was ironically taken by Toronto at No. 7) and Brent Barry were on the board.
For the first two years of his NBA career, Reeves did his best impression of an NBA player, avg 13.3 ppg and then 16.2 ppg the following year.
After year two, he was rewarded with a six-year, $61.8 million dollar deal. Suddenly he develops a "chronic back problem." And because of that, he plays sparingly and his numbers are mediocre at best.
He finally hangs it up in the middle of the 2001-2002 season when the team had already moved to Memphis and he had collected four out of six years' pay. Good job on that one, Stu.
It doesn't help that there was also a future All-Star by the name of Michael Finley falling all the way down to Phoenix Suns at 21. Oh well.
This time, the Grizzlies moved up to the No. 3 pick due to a disastrous first season. With Bryant Reeves in place at center, the Grizzlies picked Shareef Abdur-Rahim at No. 3, with Iverson going one and Camby going two.
While never outstanding, Abdur-Rahim was solid and consistent; you can't ask for more. During his five year stint in Vancouver, Shareef averaged 20.96 ppg and 8.14 rpg; outside of his rookie year where he averaged 18.7 ppg he averaged at least 20 ppg for his remaining four years in Vancouver.
He was ironically traded during the 2001 draft for a No. 3 (who ended up being Pau Gasol) pick, Brevin Knight, and Lorenzen Wright.
But, (and there's always a but) look who else was on the board at the time: Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, KOBE BRYANT!!!! Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
The fans were pulling for the local boy Nash to be drafted. With a point guard in place to go with Reeves, they would've had the inside-outside game instead of using Greg Anthony at the point. That Kobe Bryant kid didn't turn out too bad, either.
Two big men in place. NOW the Grizzlies decide to take a guard. Another bad year, another high pick. This time at No. 4 they take Antonio Daniels. What a complete failure this turned out to be.
In his only year with Vancouver, he averaged 7.8 ppg in 74 games. He was subsequently dealt that off-season to San Antonio.
While this was an insanely weak draft, a high schooler by the name of Tracy McGrady did fall to the No. 9 pick (Toronto getting another 1-upper on Vancouver.)
Considering that whole point guard blunder of 1997 known as drafting Antonio Daniels, they realized once again that they needed a PG. This time they took Mike Bibby. Solid pick: no complaints, considering they needed to start over again.
In Bibby's three years, he played all 214 games for the Grizz (his rookie year was the lockout-shortened year). He'd average 14.5 ppg to go along with 7.67 apg, including leading Vancouver in assists in all his years there. He was traded that off-season for Nick Anderson and Jason Williams, aka White Chocolate.
I don't want to say drafting Bibby was a blunder, BUT there were a lot more skilled players in that draft remaining. Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce all went later in the first round while Rashard Lewis went in the second.
While Bibby was a nice piece for Vancouver, VC, Dirk, Pierce all could've been a cornerstone for them to build around.
This was the biggest disaster by Stu Jackson, trumping everything previously written. Steve Francis openly said "I DO NOT WANT TO PLAY IN VANCOUVER." Guess Stu didn't get that memo. Being the bonehead that he is, he went ahead and drafted him.
What ensued that summer? Stevie Franchise sulked his way throughout summer camp and then on Aug. 28, 1999, Francis got his wish and was traded to Houston as a part of a three-team trade in which Vancouver received Othella Harrington, Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Brent Price, a future 1st rounder from Houston and a future second-rounder from Orlando.
Who are those players? EXACTLY. Stevie would go on to win Co-Rookie of the Year with Elton Brand.
What blows my mind is the fact that this was one of THE BEST drafts of all time. So why pick a player who wants nothing to do with you? That's like continually buying drinks for a girl at a bar who won't go home with you...makes no sense.
So who did Vancouver pass up on THIS time? Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Wally Szczerbiak, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Corey Maggette, Ron Artest, Andrei Kirilenko, and Manu Ginobili. This was a PURE disaster.
This is one draft I will give them a pass in.
The 2000 NBA draft was regarded as one of the worst ever and got rated as an F by many analysts. Picking at No. 2, they took college phenom Stromile Swift, who was coming off of a monstrous NCAA March Madness tournament.
The one season Swift played in Vancouver before the Memphis moved he averaged 4.9 ppg and 3.6 rpg. Overall he never reached his full potential throughout his career, he set career highs in every category, averaging 11.8 ppg 6.3 rpg 1.7 bpg .8 apg and .7 spg. Not much for career highs.
I will say this in defense of Swift. He was never given fair time to prove himself, never averaging more than 26.5 mpg over a full year.
Who else was in this pitiful draft? Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, DerMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm, Jerome Moiso. This list of failure is endless.
For those who believe "well, tons of GMs botch drafts for five to six years and ruin teams."
Well here's the difference between an established franchise and one that's trying to open up in a new area. Drafting for the 76ers would be one thing because Philly has been around for so long. But a new team like what happened with Charlotte is a miracle.
Look at their drafting record since they came into the league: 2004 Emeka Okefor, 2005 Raymond Felton and Sean May, 2006 Adam Morrison, 2007 Branden Wright (who was traded to GS) and Jarred Dudley, 2008 D.J. Augustin and Alexis Ajinca and this year Gerald Henderson.
Even with the botched draftings of Morrison and May and the trading away of Dudley and Wright, the Bobcat's still have a nucleus of Okefor, Felton and Augustin and now add a gritty defender in Henderson.
Just imagine if MJ wasn't so dumb and picked Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay at the #3 slot in 2006. I'll save that for another time.
Back to the Grizz. Let's re-do some of the drafts. For arguments sake, they keep Reeves in 1995. They take the Canada native Nash in 96, T-Mac in 97, Dirk in 98 and Baron Davis in 99.
Suddenly this is their lineup come 2000:
You mean to tell me A.) This wasn't possible or B.) These players wouldn't have played in Vancouver?
At the end of the day this is all that's left to be said. R.I.P. Vancouver Grizzlies. I for one wish you guys could've pulled through.
Thank you Stu Jackson for ruining the only other team outside of the Canucks that Vancouver and British Columbia actually had.