R.J. Barrett has not accepted the opportunity to do a pre-Draft workout for the Memphis Grizzlies, but this does not mean the team will refuse to select him.
Murray State’s Ja Morant is the Grizzlies’ intended target, but there is plenty of time remaining on the clock to change their mind. Other factors can still come into play, too. One of which took place on Saturday, which came via the news of a minor procedure in which Morant will have on his right knee, which could sideline him for “three to four weeks.”
While the news is not at all alarming to Ja Morant or the Memphis Grizzlies, this could enable them to widen their perspective on other top-ranked NBA Draft prospects just to remain on the cautious side of things. The favorites to land first and second in the Draft are Duke’s Zion Williamson followed by Morant, with Duke’s R.J. Barrett the near-lock for third overall.
Say the Grizzlies start to lose a little interest in Ja Morant. Next in line to earn their blessing would be Barrett, but this is where some conflict and tension could build. A rumor was already floating around about R.J. not being interested in playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.
R.J. Barrett would rather fall to third or fourth in order to play for a large-market franchise such as the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers. Even by taking a potential decrease in pay, he clearly understands the marketability he would gain by landing in the Big Apple or L.A.
Still, this is the NBA Draft and Barrett is not a veteran player with a player option on a contract. The 18-year-old forward must earn his stripes first in order to call the shots.
In recent days, it has been reported by ESPN that R.J. Barrett has declined the Memphis Grizzlies’ request for a pre-Draft workout. This aligns with the sentiment expressed in the initial rumor that he did not want to play for the city of Memphis.
This is nothing new to the Memphis Grizzlies. Several high-ranking prospects denied the Grizzlies’ requests ahead of the 2018 NBA Draft, including Memphis’ eventual selection at the No. 4 overall pick — Jaren Jackson Jr.
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All of Grizz Nation as well as the rest of the NBA world knows how that pick panned out. Jackson Jr. lived up to the hype in his rookie season, earning an appearance in the annual Rookie-Sophomore Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend as well as landing on the All-Rookie First Team despite playing in 58 of 82 regular season contests. On top of it all, Jaren Jackson Jr. quickly embraced the city of Memphis and appears to truly enjoy his new home.
The Memphis Grizzlies made the Jackson Jr. pick without having him in FedEx Forum for a pre-Draft workout. They saw what they needed via the NBA Draft Combine, his lone season at Michigan State, and other scouting assessments and evaluations. The same can be said of Duke’s R.J. Barrett. Memphis could select him whether he commits to a pre-Draft workout or not.
With this being said, there is still plenty of time for R.J. Barrett to change his mind. Money talks, and being taken one spot sooner in the NBA Draft would likely earn him a larger pay day. Plus, the Grizzlies could hold a discussion with him and his agent, much like the New Orleans Pelicans have done with Zion Williamson in recent weeks.
That scenario would likely only take place if the Memphis Grizzlies had legitimate concerns over the health of Ja Morant, and as of June 1st, that is not the case. Their intent should absolutely be Morant and the point guard position, regardless if they happen to trade or keep veteran starting point guard Mike Conley.
The Grizzlies are entering a full-on rebuild, but Ja Morant appears to be a sure-fire superstar in the making. Memphis needs to take full advantage as this could jump-start their rebuild while Jaren Jackson Jr. is still on his rookie contract. Even if the Grizzlies draft based off of “best available” at No. 2, Morant should take precedence over R.J. Barrett.