Grizzlies Notebook: Surveying the post-lottery landscape – The Daily Memphian
There are no guarantees when projecting the futures of very young basketball players, and it’s probably not fully clear on the morning after exactly which young player the Grizzlies will be adding in next month’s NBA Draft. But Wednesday night was a great night for the Grizzlies.
Whether it’s Murray State point guard Ja Morant (likely) or 6-7 Duke playmaker RJ Barrett (let’s not rule this out quite yet) or someone else (unlikely), the Grizzlies will add a talented young perimeter player to grow alongside ultra-modern young big man Jaren Jackson Jr., and this pairing will add a great sense of purpose and direction for a franchise now fully transitioning to a new era.
Some initial next day thoughts:
The Big Decision(s)
The New Orleans Pelicans got the big prize on Wednesday night, but the Grizzlies were granted the most interesting decision, presumably between Morant and Barrett.
Chris Herrington: Movin’ on up: Grizzlies jump to No. 2 in NBA draft lottery
There will be strong pressure toward Morant, who would be my pick today. But the NBA Draft is still more than a month away, and this call is close enough to warrant full due diligence. The Grizzlies aren’t going to declare their intentions any time soon, and shouldn’t.
We’ll table a fuller Morant/Barrett comparison to a column all its own in the days ahead. Ultimately, the feeling here is that this decision should be based on a simple question: Which of these two players is the best long-term NBA prospect?
But, at least initially, there are probably more considerations for the team to work through, even if it’s only a matter peeling back down to that essential question.
Is it possible there’s another player the Grizzlies prefer? Probably not, but I’ve heard one national NBA reporter say that there are likely teams among the NBA’s 30 that have someone other than Morant or Barrett at No. 2. The Grizzlies’ new(ish) front office remains something of a mystery.
If Morant is not No. 2 on the Grizzlies’ board (again, he likely is), does that open up trade down options for the team to get the player it wants along with additional assets?
And, most obviously, does the Mike Conley question impact the draft decision or, more likely, does the draft decision impact Mike Conley? Ideally, the Grizzlies would treat these two decisions (who to draft, whether to trade Conley) as discrete evaluations whose separate outcomes would then intersect. But that will be hard to do.
The thought here is that the draft decision has to come first: This summer is now, first and foremost, about adding the best young perimeter player possible to grow alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. The rest – from a coaching hire to a Conley decision to all the rest – is hugely important, but also secondary.
The People’s Choice
If the Grizzlies have a month to decide, the people – at least those on Twitter – are speaking clearly:
Pretty sure I know where this is headed. But what should the Grizzlies do with the No. 2 pick?
— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) May 15, 2019
Here’s some catnip for the 90 percent:
“Ja Morant is going to be a superstar in the NBA” – Max
“He’s Russell Westbrook. Ja is the real deal.” – Bilas
“He takes pride in making guys around him better” – Jalen
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 14, 2019
First mocks and other intel/speculation
The first wave of post-lottery mock drafts show a near-consensus in line with Grizzly fans:
Remains of the convey
It would have made this summer less interesting if the Grizzlies had been pushed down to 9 or 10, sent their pick to Boston, and didn’t have a pick. But it would have been nice for Grizzlies media and fans to remove “convey” from their collective vocabulary for the foreseeable future. Alas, it was not to be. (In the best possible, or at least second-best possible, way.)
Resetting the team’s obligation to the Boston Celtics: The pick the Grizzlies owe is now protected 1-6 in the summer of 2020 and would be unprotected in the summer of 2021 if it hasn’t already been sent.
I don’t expect this ongoing concern to impact the Grizzlies’ roster management this summer or approach next season. They will have a couple of cornerstones now in Jaren Jackson Jr. and either Morant or Barrett and will go about their business of building a new team around them. If the Grizzlies convey the pick next summer, that will likely mean a team built on a couple of 19/20-year-olds has made some nice progress. If they don’t, it will mean they’re adding a top 6 pick to that foundational duo, and should be positioned to build a competitive team with that. Whenever a pick gets sent to Boston, it’s going to be a bummer. But putting this No. 2 pick with Jackson gives the Grizzlies license to stop worrying about it and just let whatever happens happen.
Big markets, small markets and Anthony Davis
As a dramatic event, the lottery moves too fast. One commercial break was not enough to mull over the four teams selected in the actual lottery (which is only for the top four picks).
For starters, the flattened lottery odds came through. The team with last season’s worst record, the Knicks, remained. But they were joined by teams that came in slotted No. 7 (New Orleans), No. 8 (Memphis), and No. 11 (Lakers).
That’s dramatic enough. But what a collection of teams! You had the league’s two biggest markets (New York, L.A.) and the two smallest (New Orleans, Memphis). The result (in a more jerkish formulation):
The two least valuable teams in the NBA: New Orleans Pelicans & the Memphis Grizzlies. They will pick No. 1 & No. 2.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 15, 2019
But there was an extra layer of intrigue before those final four cards were revealed. The ongoing Anthony Davis psychodrama was concentrated into one pregnant moment: The team that has Davis and has been pressured to trade him and two of the three most likely trade partners, their own picks considered likely primary assets in a deal. And in the middle of all this tension: Your Memphis Grizzlies, just hanging out, feeling good about moving up.
Last month, I wrote an initial Grizzlies offseason preview. I’ll be fully updating that in the weeks to come, but one subtle change in locking in the No. 2 pick is locking in a salary designation for that pick. The budget used in that preview was for the No. 8 pick, $4.9 million. At No. 2, the Grizzlies will be paying their draft pick $8.7 million. The Grizzlies will be thrilled to deal with that extra complication, but it is one. The Grizzlies were already projected about $5 million over the luxury tax line before jumping up in the lottery.
We’ll get into the weeds of this in the days ahead, but for starters, getting the No. 2 pick further lowers the odds that veterans Avery Bradley or Justin Holiday would be back. The big question, though, remains whether Mike Conley is dealt (seems likely) and how much immediate salary the Grizzlies have to take back in that potential trade.
The West is ruthless
Going into the lottery, five of the six worst teams (with the highest lottery odds) were from the East. But three of the top four picks went to West teams that were bad last season, but not terrible.
In last summer’s loaded draft, four of the top five picks (and, ultimately, the top four players) went to the West.
If the West is ruthless, the Southwest Division is especially so. Houston is the second best team in the conference, the Spurs are still the Spurs, the Mavericks added Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis last season, and the Pelicans just added Zion Williamson to either play with Anthony Davis or alongside whatever haul they get in a Davis trade.
A good night for the Grizzlies, but it would feel a lot better if they were on their current trajectory in the Southeast division.
That crazy 6-9 cluster
At the end of the regular season, the Washington Wizards (32-50) were slotted No. 6 and the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks, at (33-49), were sorted by tiebreakers into the 7-9 slots. The Pelicans and Grizzlies jumped up to No. 1 and No. 2 via the lottery, the Wizards and Mavs were pushed down (and the Mavs out due to a previous trade). Imagine how easily it all might have gone other ways.
One of many: On April 7, the Grizzlies lost to the Mavs 129-127 in overtime at FedExForum. Delon Wright missed a 26-foot stepback jumper at the buzzer that could have won it. If that shot falls, the Grizzlies pick is headed to Boston, the Pelicans are picking second, and Dallas and Washington are in a tiebreaker for 6/7 that might have landed Dallas Zion Williamson instead of no pick at all.
At the same time, a Grizzlies loss on the season’s final night would have put them in a tie with Washington at 6/7, which might have landed them Zion Williamson or no pick at all.
Mike Conley trade market impact
As I wrote in last week’s lottery preview, a secondary intrigue, beyond the Grizzlies pick, would be how the lottery results might impact a potential Mike Conley trade market.
At first blush, it looks like a mixed bag, but perhaps it makes a draft night trade slightly more likely than a mid/post free agency trade?
The Knicks and Lakers had been considered potential Conley trade destinations if those teams missed out on a top free agent target or two, and may remain so. But their draft picks are unlikely to factor in any trade. The Knicks couldn’t fall any lower than No. 5 in the lottery. There was very little chance that a player taken at No. 5 by the Knicks was ever going to be available in a Conley trade, but at No. 3 I’d say you can fully zero out that notion.
If the Lakers had stayed at No. 11, I think a player at that spot could have figured into a Conley trade, but it’s hard to see a player at No. 4 being used in a Conley deal.
On the other end, the Suns and Bulls both need point guards, both probably would like to get much better next season. Both teams got pushed down into the mid-lottery. At No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, the Suns and Bulls could have a chance to draft guards Darius Garland or Coby White, but the Grizzlies should make sure to feel out both teams on potential Conley deals. These are longshots, and probably not the landing spots Conley would prefer, but the lottery results probably pushed both scenarios over the line into the possible.
The most likely lottery pick to play in a Conley deal: Probably Minnesota, who got pushed down one spot to No. 11.
The Real MVP
Elliot Perry: Great Memphian or greatest Memphian?
— Elliot Perry (@eperry328) May 15, 2019
On the business side
After Grizzlies two-way honcho Jason Wexler celebrated a little, he made sure to put his business hat back on:
— Jason Wexler https://drive.google.com/drive/my-drive(@MainStMemphis) May 15, 2019
The team announced that fans who purchase new season tickets will receive a jersey of whichever player the team selects at No. 2, “while supplies last.” (C’mon: There aren’t infinite seats in FedExForum. I know this is legalese, but if you buy new season tickets, make sure you get that jersey.)
Anything’s better than “We Got Thabeet”
Ja Morant, but to the tune of “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys.
— Mike Convey Jr. (@BallFromGrace) March 13, 2019
Let me issue a preemptive warning to anyone toying with a “Hey Ja” rewrite, though. It will sound like a good idea, and it will get old very, very quickly.
In the Room
The Grizzlies were in the ping-pong-ball groove apparently:
1st draw: 7, 4, 12, 13: New Orleans
2nd draw: 5, 7, 10, 12: Memphis
3rd draw: 3, 1, 2, 5: New York
4th draw: 10, 8, 5, 11: Memphis again. Thus, a redraw.
4th draw: 11, 9, 7, 13: Lakers
Lottery draw over. Rest of draft order (5-14) determined by record. https://t.co/zhPs73C2aj
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 15, 2019
New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry, reacting just like we would:
— NBA (@NBA) May 15, 2019
It’s good to see Jaren Jackson Jr. was there last night and invested in this major step for the franchise:
The future is bright, baby. ?? pic.twitter.com/cMdCjyLZuH
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) May 15, 2019
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