If the Grizzlies finish ninth from the bottom of the NBA standings, there is a 79.7 percent chance they will convey a top-eight protected draft pick to the Boston Celtics as part of a 2015 trade for Jeff Green.
But if Memphis struggles in the season’s final two weeks, odds are it will have a critical draft pick to make on June 20.
Of the top 12 draft picks projected by Basketball Insiders in a recent mock draft, 10 of them are in action during the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, including three on Thursday night.
Here is a look at the potential Grizzlies draft prospects in action Thursday:
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Florida State | 6:09 p.m. Thursday | CBS
Rui Hachimura | Gonzaga | 6-foot-8 | SF/PF | Age: 21
The Grizzlies appear set for the future at the hybrid small forward/power forward position with Kyle Anderson under contract for three more seasons. But if they wanted to pivot toward a more athletic, physical option in that position, Hachimura could be worth a look. His 3-point shot remains a work in progress, but his uptick to 47 percent (on only 32 tries) this season indicates he could be a better long-term shooter than Anderson.
Hachimura has improved drastically each of his three seasons at Gonzaga, and the West Coast Conference Player of the Year will only increase his draft stock by showcasing that improvement on the national stage this weekend.
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Purdue | 6:29 p.m. Thursday | TBS
Some mock drafts have Tennessee senior wing Admiral Schofield and junior forward Grant Williams sneaking into the first round.
But it would be surprising if the Grizzlies took a chance on either in the top eight.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Texas Tech | Thursday at 8:39 p.m. | CBS
Jarrett Culver | Texas Tech | 6-foot-6 | SG | 20
The Big 12 Player of the Year has seen his 3-point shooting percentage drop from 38 percent as a freshman to 33 percent as a sophomore. But he is regarded as an all-around player, and the Grizzlies don’t have a long-term option at shooting guard on the roster. With Justin Holiday on the final year of his contract and Memphis with a decision to make on Avery Bradley, who has a $13.2 million player option for next season, Culver could compete for a starting role as a rookie.
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 12 Oregon | 8:57 p.m. Thursday | TBS
De’Andre Hunter | Virginia | 6-foot-7 | SF | 22
A 6-foot-7 player who can defend and is making 44.6 percent of his 3-pointers this season, Hunter might be as ready made of an NBA player as the Grizzlies will find outside of Duke’s Zion Williamson in the 2019 draft. His average ball-handling and vanilla offensive game could use some improvement. But Hunter could be a valuable role player right away.
Watching him play against a rangy, athletic Oregon team could provide a glimpse of how he will fare against the NBA’s elite athletes.
Reach Grizzlies beat writer David Cobb at [email protected] or on Twitter @DavidWCobb.
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