Mission Impossible? Grizzlies Seek To Build Around Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo

A. Enslen ButlerContributor IMay 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES - APRIL 12:  O.J. Mayo #32 of the Memphis Grizzlies sets on the court aganst the Los Angeles Lakers on April 12, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

With a 24-58 record in 2009, the Memphis Grizzlies' three-year plan to the NBA's Western Conference playoffs may be starting to look unrealistic.

As the 2009 NBA Draft looms, the Grizzlies will be looking to add depth and talent to a team that started three rookies for a good portion of the season and needed to win six of their last 10 games to reach 24 wins.

For those who don't live in Memphis or in the state of Tennessee, I'll catch you up. Griz owner Michael Heisley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 2008, “We're committed to putting a contending team on the floor and the target is three years. I'm looking for three years from today (June 2008), Memphis to have a team than contends and then turning that team into a team that competes for championships.”

So going into Year Two, Memphis has their lottery pick this year and the 27th overall pick (which belonged to Orlando). They will also have the 35th pick in the second round. In addition to those picks, they have up to $20 million to spend on free agents. So for the first time, they have the resources and cap space to improve.

But let's be honest, no one believes Memphis will be major players for potential unrestricted free agents like Carlos Boozer, Ron Artest, Shawn Marion, Andre Miller, Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace. The idea is laughable. They want to build through the draft.

Last year's draft must be considered a success. The team drafted Kevin Love and traded him to Minnesota for O.J. Mayo. The shooting guard joined Chicago's Derrick Rose as unanimous selections to the 2009 All-Rookie team. Mayo topped all first year players in scoring with 18.5 points per game.

Now, they will be using their picks to build around Mayo and Rudy Gay, the small forward who led the team in scoring with 18.9 points a game. Most of the starting lineup appears to be set: Mike Conley at point guard, Mayo at shooting guard, Gay at small forward, and Marc Gasol at center.

The most pressing need that must be filled either via free agency or the draft is power forward. By the end of the season, Darrel Arthur started at power forward, but Hakim Warrick played more minutes.

Warrick is now a restricted free agent, but the Grizzlies can match any offer for the power forward. If he leaves, the team becomes paper thin at power forward.

If the team looks for a power forward in the lottery, it could be one of four names: Oklahoma's Blake Griffin (if they get the No. 1 pick), Arizona's Jordan Hill, Wake Forest's James Johnson, and Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair.

Media reports make it likely that the team will take the best player available. So the team does not appear to be locked into taking a power forward in the lottery.

They could take the best player on the draft board at the time (probably a guard or wing player). With the second first-round choice, they can hope a good power forward is available at the bottom of the first round.

I'll leave you with an interesting name that could be there: North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough.

So the Grizzlies have options. For Memphis fans, let's hope those options lead to the playoff-caliber team Heisley spoke of a year ago.


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