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MikeCheck: Sans picks, Grizz GM Chris Wallace keeping NBA draft options open

By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – It’s hardly an ideal situation, but Chris Wallace admits the Grizzlies are far from idle.

For now, the longtime Memphis general manager and his front-office staff will head into Thursday’s NBA Draft without a selection among the 60 that will be made over the course of two rounds in New York. It’s the first time the Grizzlies have been without either a first or second-round pick in franchise history.

Still, the work continues in the days leading to draft night.

“Look, I’ve got a little Mel Kiper blood in me – I love the draft,” Wallace joked Monday in comparing his passion to that of ESPN’s renowned NFL Draft analyst. “I wouldn’t mind having all 60 picks. But you have to be reasonable. You can’t get caught up in the thrill of the chase, jump in the draft and expend assets for the sake of getting in. But we’re preparing as if we can show up anywhere in the draft Thursday.”

In other words, just because the Grizzlies are on the outside of the draft looking in right now, that doesn’t mean they’ll maintain that position when teams are on the clock Thursday. Over the course of a 20-minute meeting with the media Monday at the Grizzlies’ Built Ford Tough Training Facility, Wallace offered perspective on the team’s mindset entering the draft, addressed questions about a potentially pivotal free agency process in July and also discussed Chandler Parsons’ progress from knee surgery.

Wallace on pre-draft workouts in Memphis …

We don’t have the volume of players coming in to work out right now. When you don’t have a pick a lot of the agents aren’t going to send their guys in. We’ve had a smattering of guys come in to look at for the NBA G League, for our team, the Hustle. But it’s the same preparation as far as the film and the background (checks), the statistical analysis, looking at their medical records, that sort of thing.

Wallace on his message to Memphis’ potential draft prospects …

You tell them that anything can happen draft day. Last year, we came up with (picks) number 31 and 35 on the deal with the Celtics. That wasn’t in the cards a few days out. So if you’re someone we’re looking at, come on in. We’re also stressing the situation with the Hustle, too, for the first time. We’re going to have the two-way (NBA G League development) contracts and we’re going to have not a good, but a phenomenal situation with our team practicing out of here, and then playing just 20 minutes away at the Landers Center. A lot of the agents are receptive to that. You’re approaching about 40 percent of guys in the NBA that have been in the G-League. So they understand the importance of development.

Wallace on possibly trading future picks to acquire a draft pick Thursday …

You can make that case, yes. We have multiple second-round picks now, going forward. So we’ll take a look and see if it makes sense to expend any of those on Thursday to move in.

Wallace on the looming free agency of Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, JaMychal Green and Vince Carter …

Well, it’s the biggest volume of players we’ve ever had as far as guys in our rotation, with four free agents. There are all sorts of scenarios to look at and so many things to weigh at this point. We’ve spend a lot of time on it, but we’ve still got a long way to go, because free agency doesn’t start until July 1.

Wallace on how active teams might be on draft night …

So much of it occurs on the clock. You’re teeing up some of these deals in advance, but everyone has their board and what they’re trying to do. Some teams might jump out of the draft because of what they’re trying to do down the road with free agency, and they don’t want that rookie salary on their cap. So most of the deals, with the exception of what you’re hearing about with Philadelphia and Boston, happen on the day of the draft and while we’re in the draft room.

Wallace on preparing for trade calls and reaching out to other teams …

You’re poking around. You’re doing your due diligence. We’ve talked to all the teams and teams call us. There’s constant phone conversations the week of the draft. But it doesn’t tend to get real serious until we’re pushed to the 11th hour. It’s like most people with their taxes. We have our list, but again, we won’t just jump in for the sake of it.

Wallace on assembling Memphis’ roster for the Las Vegas Summer League in July …

The main thrust for summer league is our roster players. Those five guys are going to get the bulk of the playing time, and that’s our purpose for being out there in Las Vegas. We want to see, one, can they come together as a team and play winning basketball. We’d like to go out there and win some games, too, and validate the work these guys have done. We want to see them improve in areas they’ve been weak at in the past, maybe. Some of these guys have been with us a couple of years. Jarell Martin has been through two seasons. It’s a big year for all of our young players. Deyonta Davis will be playing, starting at center. Jarell will be starting. Rade Zagorac will be starting. Wade Baldwin will be running the point, and Wayne Selden (will play). We’ll have one of the deepest teams of the 20-something in Vegas as far as our own guys, our own roster players.

Wallace on Rade Zagorac’s development …

Rade has terrific size for a perimeter player in that 6-9 range. He’s very long-armed. He can play both forward positions. He can do a little bit of everything; shoot from the outside, drive to the basket, he’s got great feel for the game, he can pass it. Once he gets used to the speed and the athleticism of the American game, compared to the game he’s used to over in Serbia, he has a chance to do quite well for himself in the NBA.

Wallace on being encouraged by Parsons’ offseason progress from knee rehab …

We expect Chandler to be here fully participating in training camp in late September. We’re optimistic about him this year. Physically, he’s where he should be. This should be his first real offseason in a few offseasons. He’s always been coming back from a knee injury. Last year was free agency and he had to see how that unfolded. So he’s doing his rehab and is now into his basketball. He’s now pretty close to being full steam ahead with basketball. We check in with him constantly.

Chris Wallace’s pre-draft media availability

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