MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies had a dubious draft history under owner of Michael Heisley. New owner Robert Pera and his front office now get their first opportunity to show what they can do with little room to make a splash.
Their best draft may have been just before the franchise relocated from Vancouver to Memphis when they picked Shane Battier at No. 6 overall and traded for Pau Gasol. The following drafts are best known for players with little impact on the court like Hasheem Thabeet with the No. 2 selection overall in 2009 or Xavier Henry at No. 12 in 2010.
Some of those draft struggles are why the Grizzlies go into Thursday night's draft with three second-round picks — Nos. 41, 55 and 60. The Grizzlies traded their first round pick, No. 26 overall, to Houston in 2011 as part of a deal that brought Battier back to Memphis. That pick has ended up with Minnesota in this year's draft.
With no coach in place, team officials will handle the draft following the best season in franchise history with 56 wins and its first Western Conference final. Though their coaching situation could change Thursday. The Grizzlies didn't renew coach Lionel Hollins but announced Wednesday they will make a "major announcement" Thursday morning. Former Hollins' assistant Dave Joerger has been negotiating with Memphis to become the Grizzlies' next coach, a person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press.
Still, the Grizzlies' needs remain the same as they continue looking for more outside shooting.
"There are certain kinds of players we are looking for, certain kinds of players we value, and whoever we decide to coach this team is going to fit into that profile as well," said Stu Lash, the Grizzlies' director of player personnel.
Memphis wants to improve offensively to complement one of the NBA's top defensive teams. Guard Tony Allen was voted to the league's All-Defensive team with guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol on the second team. Gasol was the defensive player of the year.
The Grizzlies got better shooting from beyond the arc from Conley and reserve swingman Quincy Pondexter really came on in the playoffs. They ranked last in 3-pointers made and attempted, which is why the Grizzlies 93.4 points averaged a game was among the lowest in the league. The offense changed significantly after leading scorer Rudy Gay was traded Jan. 30 to Toronto, shifting more of the scoring to Conley and the inside tandem of Gasol and veteran Zach Randolph.
Memphis has worked out Louisville point guard Peyton Siva and Memphis Tigers power forward D.J. Stephens with his 46-inch vertical leap at the combine. Center Brandon Davies of Brigham Young and Dewayne Dedmon of Southern California are other options as well.
But Allen also will be a free agent, though he has said he wants to remain in Memphis where he helped coin the team's Grit and Grind mantra. Forward Ed Davis and shooter Austin Daye, obtained in the three-team deal for Gay, didn't get much playing time under Hollins. Some believe Tony Wroten, a late first-round choice in last year's draft, eventually could be the backup point guard for Conley that the Grizzlies have longed wanted.
"We're a big believer that you have to get better internally first," Lash said. "Everybody is always looking at 'How do we get better?' The tendency of that sometimes is to look outside your gym. We have some good young players on this roster, where their development this summer is very important as to how we get better. ... Internal development is something that I think kind of gets lost at this time of the year."
Late picks don't provide a high-profile, franchise-changing player. So the Grizzlies may be looking for a sleeper or specialist to fill a particular need.
"It's the most talented guy," Lash said, "and there are different layers of talent for us. There's 'fits,' and the fit is not always from a roster position standpoint. The fit is more about who we are, and what we value in players."