Re-grading the Grizzlies draft picks in the Zach Kleiman era

The Grizzlies need to build through the draft and recent misses have played a factor in their slow start.
Memphis Grizzlies, Zach Kleiman
Memphis Grizzlies, Zach Kleiman / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
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The Memphis Grizzlies built a contender through the draft under general manager Zach Kleiman. They missed the playoffs three straight years following the Grit and Grind era before returning in 2021 with a talented young core. It was Kleiman who nailed the draft and got the Grizzlies back in contention.

Memphis looked like a team on the rise, but Morant’s suspension coupled with some untimely injuries has the team struggling to begin the year. Some of those issues should fall on Kleiman. He traded two first-round draft picks to get Marcus Smart in a deal that has not gone as planned thus far. There were also some massive draft misses since acquiring their three stars.

Kleiman joined the Grizzlies in 2015, but he did not take the lead in basketball operations until April 2019. He has been in charge of five drafts as the lead decision-maker and has a fantastic reputation. Here is a look back at his selections to see how Memphis has fared.

Grizzlies select Ja Morant 2nd overall in 2019

Memphis took Jaren Jackson Jr. fourth overall in 2018 when Kleiman was assistant general manager, so they wanted a lead ball-handler in this class. The Grizzlies had the eighth-worst record but moved up to second in the lottery. Zion Williamson was the unquestioned number one pick, but there was debate about who would go second.

Memphis quickly zeroed in on Ja Morant, who has been arguably the best player in this class after four full seasons. The 6’2 guard is one of the electrifying talents in the NBA and has made two All-Star appearances.

Grade: A+

Morant has a 9.7 career value over replacement player (VORP), which leads the 2019 draft class and only four players have produced more than 5.0 after four seasons. Things have not always been smooth with the 24-year-old leading the Memphis Grizzlies, but Kleiman made the right pick and deserves an A-plus for taking the top player at second overall.