MikeCheck: Grizzlies Draft Files – The Case of Collin Sexton
MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies are closing in on the June 21 NBA Draft with their options as wide open and diverse as the talent among projected top players on the board.
As pre-draft workouts continue and potential trade scenarios are discussed regarding what the Grizzlies will do with the No. 4 overall pick, we’ll examine the case of eight potential franchise-altering players in the draft who are – or should be – under strong consideration for that selection.
Player: Collin Sexton
Height/Weight: 6-2, 190
2017-18 Stats: 19.2 ppg., 3.8 rpg., 3.2 apg., 29.9 mpg., 44.7 FG%
Projected Draft Range: Picks 8-14
“Yes, it would be special. But I just have to go with the best team that picks me. I don’t really worry about mock drafts or things like that. I just worry about being a better player and person. It’s not about being a high pick because I’m blessed if one of these teams drafts me. If I’m in the first 10 picks or the next 20, it really doesn’t matter. Any system, I can move around and finagle myself to fit right in. I’m humbled and I’m going to stay that way.” – Collin Sexton on his chance to be the first point guard drafted.
The Case For Sexton
Oklahoma’s Trae Young. Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Florida’s Chris Chiozza. Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. Sexton faced them all this past season as a freshman at Alabama. With the exception of a poor shooting night or two in those matchups, the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year used those big-game platforms to showcase what separates him from the pack of promising point guards in this draft.
The Grizzlies were represented among nearly 60 scouts who descended on Tuscaloosa in January to watch Sexton lead the Crimson Tide past Young’s Sooners in college basketball’s most anticipated matchup outside of the NCAA Tournament. Sexton is a bulldog of a point guard. He's a physical defender with a 6-7 wingspan that far exceeds others in the draft at his position, with the exception of the gangly Gilgeous-Alexander, who stands 6-6 with a condor-like 6-11 wingspan. Sexton is also a downhill playmaker who is a blur in transition and unstoppable at getting into the lane to attack the rim.
“I play both ends of the court, and I play more physical,” said Sexton, who had a 23.5 player efficiency rating. “I can use my speed, ability and athleticism. When you can play both ends, that’s real big in the NBA. I like to play on the big stage, that’s what makes me really thrive. That’s when I feel like it’s time.”
Even though Sexton’s raw shooting numbers aren’t impressive, the advanced metrics do him plenty of justice in comparison to Young. Sexton’s true shooting percentage (.567) and effective field-goal percentage (.498) aren’t far off from Young’s numbers (.585/.518), although they operate differently.
At least two things have persisted on Beale Street seemingly forever: the intoxicating scent of barbeque, and the Grizzlies’ quest for someone to lock down the backup point guard job behind Mike Conley. With Andrew Harrison’s contract only partially guaranteed for next season and both Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers entering free agency, the Grizzlies must again address that glaring need.
Sexton was among lottery prospects the Grizzlies met with at last month’s NBA Draft Combine, and he spoke glowingly about former player and first-year Grizzlies exec Tayshaun Prince in the interview session. In theory, Sexton would be a luxury alongside and behind Conley in the rotation to fill a longstanding roster void.
The Case Against Sexton
Backup point guards in the NBA are like running backs in the NFL. They tend to be expendable and the market is usually saturated with veterans willing to accept a diminished role and minimum salary to play behind a frontline starter. However, that situation is only ideal when the established starter is durable.
That hasn’t been the case for the Grizzlies, who have seen Conley miss 109 games the past three years, including 70 last season to undergo Achilles heel surgery. The expectation is that Conley’s injury issues are finally behind him as he enters the third season of a five-year, $153 million contract. There’s also the issue of top-end roster duplication. The Grizzlies may address the point guard position in the draft but, barring a trade down in the lottery to acquire multiple assets, it’s hard to see them using the No. 4 pick.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace discussed the option of trading the No. 4 pick, and the challenges that come with moving up or down on the board within three weeks of the June 21 draft.
Obviously, you can’t just call someone and they’ll say, ‘Fine, take the first pick.’ So you always have to determine if that’s the prudent move to make. I’m very comfortable with the fourth pick. If we stay here and just take the fourth selection, we’re going to get a terrific player, regardless of how the cards are cut ahead of us at one, two and three.-- General Manager Chris Wallace
“Everybody always likes the first pick in the draft, but can you do it within reason?” Wallace said of trade discussions likely intensifying as draft night approaches. “Obviously, you can’t just call someone and they’ll say, ‘Fine, take the first pick.’ So you always have to determine if that’s the prudent move to make. I’m very comfortable with the fourth pick. If we stay here and just take the fourth selection, we’re going to get a terrific player, regardless of how the cards are cut ahead of us at one, two and three.”
As it relates to Sexton, there’s also the question of fit. He shot just 33.7-percent on threes at Alabama, and his assist (3.6) to turnover (2.8) ratio are legit concerns. The Magic gave up on a similar point guard picked in the 2014 lottery when the team dumped Elfrid Payton onto the Suns for a second-round pick last season. Is Sexton the next Payton, or is he the next Dennis Smith Jr. or De’Aaron Fox?
I’ve been watching a whole lot of film, and that’s going to help me. I feel like, with my offense, there is going to be more room to operate (in the NBA). That’s big for me. In college, they packed it in the lane.-- Collin Sexton
“Honestly, I’ve been working on that and improving it,” Sexton said of his shortcomings. “I’ve been watching a whole lot of film, and that’s going to help me. I feel like, with my offense, there is going to be more room to operate (in the NBA). That’s big for me. In college, they packed it in the lane.”
Sexton has all the makings of a player who will make teams look back on the 2018 draft in five years and regret passing him up. For what he lacks in shooting and as an instinctual facilitator, he makes up for in sheer work ethic, athleticism and force. He’s also been groomed for NBA success at Alabama by coach Avery Johnson, who a title with the Spurs and also coached the Mavericks to the NBA Finals.
“He knows what’s going to happen, and everything he knows, he talked to me about it,” Sexton said of Johnson. “He made me want to work that much harder because he’s on me every practice and game.”
The bottom line is Sexton would be an extreme reach at the No. 4 pick, considering the Grizzlies have more pressing needs at the forward spots. They’ll likely add a point guard in this draft with one of their picks.
On Wednesday, Memphis hosted a pre-draft workout that included West Virginia point guard Jevon Carter, the Naismith national defensive player of the year. Carter, the only Division I player in the nation to average 17 points, six rebounds and three steals a game, would be a quality get with the Grizzlies' No. 32 pick. If they make a trade to move down the lottery board, Sexton could be a target. He certainly caught the attention of the Grizz brass, both in that game against Young and at the Combine.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.