The Commercial Appeal
WHAT’S NEXT FOR EX-TIGERS
Draft, deal boost defense, offensive rebounding
After going undrafted, former Tigers’ D.J. Stephens (above) and Adonis Thomas will play for NBA teams in the summer league.
It was one of the wildest NBA draft nights in recent memory and the Grizzlies were beneficiaries of the craziness.
San Diego State shooting guard Jamaal Franklin, a player they liked and expected to have to move into the first round to select, fell into their laps in the 41st spot. And the Grizzlies weren’t done — they also pulled off a relatively surprising trade with Denver, too. Let’s look closer at a busy night.
ARTHUR OUT, KOUFOS IN
The Grizzlies sent veteran power forward Darrell Arthur to Denver with the 55th pick and received Denver’s starting center, Kosta Koufos, in return. Arthur had moments of magic with the Grizzlies, but his remarkably poor injury record, declining on-court value, and the Grizzlies’ front-office determination to get more minutes for Ed Davis meant he was expendable.
From an on-court perspective, this deal makes a lot of sense. The Grizzlies have never really had a proper backup center to allow Marc Gasol adequate rest. Hasheem Thabeet and Hamed Haddadi were the last two actual centers to fill that spot, and neither was worth much more than comedy value for the Grizzlies. As a result, Gasol played big minutes, picking up nagging injuries and getting fatigued. He averaged almost 41 minutes per game this postseason, far too many for him to be at his best.
Koufos provides legitimate size at 7- 0, 265. His offensive and defensive ratings have improved in each of the last four seasons, especially impressive this season as the improvement coincided with a huge jump in minutes.
Koufos is strictly an inside presence offensively; he took 508 shots last season and only 22 came outside the paint. He’s an exceptional rebounder — his offensive rebounding rate (he grabs 13.3 percent of available offensive boards) is borderline elite. In fact, his stats compare quite favorably to those of Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent center who stands to sign a contract this offseason worth $10 million per year or more.
Koufos was in Denver what Arthur was to an extent in Memphis: an impediment to playing time for a preferred player. The Nuggets wanted former coach George Karl to play JaVale McGee ahead of Koufos; the Grizzlies would have preferred to see more Davis at the expense of Arthur. Now both teams will get their wish. The Grizzlies have a more settled depth chart with