MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies went searching for a backup point guard and to improve their scoring off the bench in the NBA draft in their quest to return to the playoffs. They picked Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez and swapped their second first-round pick for a little cash.
Holding three first-round picks for the first time in franchise history, the Grizzlies went guard-heavy Thursday night in taking Henry from Kansas with the No. 12 pick overall. They added Dominique Jones from South Florida at No. 25, then followed up with Maryland’s Vasquez at 28th overall to help Mike Conley.
Jones didn’t remain with the Grizzlies long. Memphis swapped him to the Dallas Mavericks for cash in a deal believed to be close to the league maximum $3 million. That money could be a big help for a team trying to keep Rudy Gay, the eighth pick overall in 2006 who will be a restricted free agent July 1.
General manager Chris Wallace said the Grizzlies addressed a need by adding perimeter scorers in Henry and Vazquez, who Wallace said could play both guard positions. Wallace said the team worked the phones discussing possible moves. Speaking just before the trade with Dallas was announced by the NBA, Wallace wouldn’t comment on Jones.
But Wallace did say the Grizzlies didn’t draft the 6-foot-6 Henry with Gay in mind. The Grizzlies wanted perimeter players, but Gay averaged 19.6 points a game this season — second only to Zach Randolph in scoring.
“The priority is to re-sign Rudy,” Wallace said. “That’s what we need to get done. We got to address the Ronnie Brewer situation as well. That would be a big help to our team, if we could get him in the fold as well.”
The general manager praised Henry’s outside scoring ability and his character. Wallace did say Henry needs to become more assertive on offense.
“Everybody thinks he’s even a better person than he is a basketball player,” Wallace said. “He’s a guy I can’t see failing.”
Memphis has a solid starting five for now with All-Star Randolph, Gay, O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol and Conley. All five averaged in double figures. The Grizzlies even found themselves in playoff contention until a late fade with nine losses in the final 11 games dropped them to a 40-42 finish that still was a 16-win improvement over the previous season.
But the Grizzlies got almost nothing from their bench. Sam Young was the next best scorer with 7.4 points per game as a rookie.
Their picks Thursday night scored in double figures and shot better than 44 percent from the floor in their last college seasons.
Henry averaged 28.3 points and shot 44 percent in leading his high school to an Oklahoma state title. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range.
During his one season at Kansas, Henry averaged 13.4 points and 4 rebounds. But he scored a career-best 31 points while hitting 45.8 percent of his shots, including 41.8 percent from 3-point range.
Henry said he thought he’d be drafted between No. 9 and 15 and had studied the Grizzlies’ roster. He won’t have a problem coming off the bench.
“The last time I came off the bench was probably in high school when it was senior night and I wasn’t a senior or something,” Henry said. “It won’t affect my play at all because I’ve always been taught to play the game as hard as I can every time I step on the floor.”
It’s only fitting that Memphis drafted Henry.
He committed to the University of Memphis and coach John Calipari. When Calipari jumped to Kentucky on March 31, 2009, Henry refused to follow and instead chose family tradition by going to Kansas where his parents, Carl and Barbara, both played basketball for the Jayhawks. His brother C.J. also had committed to Kansas before choosing baseball.
So that means the player who spent his lone year in college at Kansas — the school that beat the University of Memphis in the 2008 national championship — now is set to play ball finally in Memphis for the town’s NBA team.
“It didn’t work out the first time around coming to Memphis, but you never say never,” Wallace said. “We got to bring him to Memphis for the fans here.”
Memphis used the pick from the 2008 trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers on Vasquez, a 6-6 guard who was the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year as a senior. He averaged 19.6 points and 6.3 assists per game. Playing for Venezuela in 2007 against the United States, Vasquez scored a team-high 12 points while going against Kobe Bryant.
Wallace said the Grizzlies love how Vasquez can score and play defense and both guard positions. He noted Vasquez hugging his parents once his name was called in New York as proof of his passion.
Vasquez immediately announced he intends to compete against Conley for the starting job.
“That’s my mentality. I’m going to try to be the starting point guard, but in the meantime I’ve got to build a good relationship with Mike because we can do a lot of damage together,” Vasquez said.
Teresa M. Walker/The Associated Press