If you are reading this insert Drake album cover here, you already know that the Memphis Grizzlies will have the number four pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. For a franchise that has certainly never had much luck in the draft, this surprised absolutely no one.
But put down your pitchforks and torches for just a minute. When the dust finally settles, this could be a night we will always remember. A night where the Grizzlies actually won the NBA draft lottery.
To be sure, it would have been amazing if the Grizzlies had gotten the number one pick. It would have given the franchise a desperately-needed morale and PR-boost, as well as “validated” the tank. It would have also have given them the obvious advantage of being in position to select the player they think is the best in the draft.
However, the opportunity to pick the best player in the draft is still very much available for the Grizzlies at number four. This is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, with each of the top five or six prospects having a legitimate chance of becoming a perennial all-star. As far as the top five is concerned, there may be not be a “bad” pick.
Outside the consensus top tier of Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley and Luka Doncic, there are players like Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr. and Jaren Jackson Jr. that could still be franchise cornerstones moving forward.
Young, who led the nation in assists and scoring this past season, has Stephen Curry potential (If you want to argue with me on this, you may do so here). Although he has injury concerns, Michael Porter’s scoring ability at 6’10 has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant. It’s important to remember that many thought Porter could still be the number one pick even after his back injury at Missouri. Regardless of where he lands, the superstar potential is there for him. Jaren Jackson, who averaged 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes and shot 39% from three in his lone season at Michigan State, has versatility that echoes Kevin Garnett. He will likely never live up to that ceiling, but he still has a chance to become a unicorn-type big man in the NBA.
In most other drafts, the Memphis Grizzlies falling to four after having the second worst record in the league would feel like a death sentence. Since 1980, 77% of number one picks have become all-stars while only 29% of number four picks have done the same. Sheesh. Although there are exceptions like Kristaps Porzingis, there is often a significant drop off in talent between the first and fourth pick.
Fortunately for Memphis, that may not be the case for the 2018 NBA draft.
With the possible exception of Jackson, it can be argued that the players in the second tier have just as much (if not more) talent than the Ayton-Doncic-Bagley tier. The difference between them, however, is that the the players in the top tier have a higher floor than Young and Porter. Even if Ayton, Doncic or Bagley do not become the generational superstars that many envision them to be, their combinations of size and skill will allow them to become great role players at the very least. There is no such guarantee for Porter and Young.
To put it simply, there are just more question marks around them, even if they still have incredibly high ceilings. Perhaps Trae Young’s playmaking and shooting won’t transfer to the NBA, and he goes the route of a Johnny Flynn rather than a Stephen Curry. Maybe Michael Porter will deal with nagging back issues that keep him from ever being an effective NBA player.
When draft night arrives, there will be no easy answer for the Memphis Grizzlies. They will badly need to select a future all-star in a position that historically doesn’t have many. But in a deep and loaded draft, the Grizzlies will still have a solid chance of choosing greatness. Perhaps in 10 years, we will look back at Trae Young as the greatest draft pick in franchise history.
And maybe, we will look back at May 15, 2018 as the day the Memphis Grizzlies truly won the draft lottery.