If you’re waking up this morning still kind of angry, it’s OK. But know that things aren’t as bad as they felt in the moment last night.
Yes, the Memphis Grizzlies lost the 2018 NBA Draft lottery and fell two spots to #4 overall in the NBA Draft. Yes, the dreams of Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic spending the next near decade of their careers in Beale Street blue have most likely been dashed. Yes, there are now far more opportunities for the Grizzlies to mess this up now than there would be at #1 or #2 overall.
I’m here, as one of those still kind of disappointed, to let you know that Memphis can still take full advantage of this very poor season we all just endured.
It’s just now no longer completely in their hands.
The Memphis Grizzlies are now looking up at three other teams - the Phoenix Suns (expected), the Sacramento Kings (unexpected but good for that fan base, they deserve it) and the Atlanta Hawks (I dislike this, but it could still work out - more on that later). Unless they try to trade up (they shouldn’t), what those franchises decide to do will dictate the decision making process of the Grizzlies.
Despite what Chris Wallace said in the wake of the lottery fall, which made very little sense, falling to four is far from ideal. Yet the direction of the Hawks especially matters...and their choice will help Memphis make theirs.
Here is our first Mock NBA Draft with the Lottery now behind us. We will have a weekly mock moving forward, and will expand it every week the next few weeks. This week? Just the lottery.
1. Phoenix Suns- Deandre Ayton, Center, University of Arizona
Phoenix “tanked” just a little bit better than the Memphis Grizzlies did, and as a result of their additional loss on the season they reap the benefits of having the #1 overall pick. Ayton has tremendous ability and arguably the highest ceiling of any player in the draft, a rare contribute now and later type of prospect. A young core of Ayton, Josh Jackson, and Devin Booker is something truly impressive to build around...as long as they keep Booker happy.
Doncic may be in play here considering Phoenix’s new head coach, Igor Kokoskov, has a relationship with him. But it’s widely assumed that the Arizona player will be tasked with becoming a Phoenix legend...and if he does, the Suns may be the next very good Western Conference squad.
2. Sacramento Kings- Luka Doncic, Guard/Forward, Real Madrid
Doncic was reportedly very high on the Grizzlies wish list, which makes sense - a ready to play in the NBA 19 year old prospect is hard to come by, and Doncic will be coming to the NBA from the 2nd best professional basketball league in the world. As a wing who can facilitate and create for himself and others, he would have been a tremendous fit in Memphis...
Now? He will almost certainly be that for the Kings. A De’Aaron Fox-Bogdan Bogdanovic-Doncic perimeter combination is nothing to stick your nose up at, and in an NBA where wings and guards are as important as they ever have been Doncic makes total sense for Sacramento. It’s possible they get scared by his measurables and athleticism concerns, but to pass on perhaps the best European prospect ever because of that would be a potentially tough mistake to make.
The KANGZ maybe make that mistake. But this Kings group seems to be turning things around a bit. Doncic is the pick.
3. Atlanta Hawks - Jaren Jackson Jr. - Center, Michigan State University
Atlanta could go in any number of different directions here. Marvin Bagley III is probably the best prospect on the board at this point, outside of a “healthy” Michael Porter Jr., but Bagley is not a true NBA center. The Hawks already have John Collins to play the four, and he is darn good at it, so Bagley maybe doesn’t fit here. Porter also isn’t a clean fit though, considering they already have Taurean Prince. Now if Atlanta likes Porter better than Prince, or Bagley more than Collins, then they will take those players regardless of fit.
But if Jaren Jackson Jr., an athletic freak with tremendous length and almost limitless defensive potential, is equal in grade, or close to it? He makes more sense fit wise in Atlanta than Bagley or Porter. He provides rim protection immediately, and over time given his skills he could be a good-to-great offensive player as well. Jackson wasn’t dominant at Michigan State, which may scare Atlanta, but in terms of ceiling and fit Jackson works for the Hawks here.
This result would make Memphis...well at least me...very happy.
4. Memphis Grizzlies - Marvin Bagley III - Forward, Duke University
See? It all worked out.
Memphis will consider Michael Porter Jr. of Missouri here if he is healthy, and especially if Bagley is indeed off the board to Atlanta (which he is not in this mock draft but may well be on June 21st). Considering how that “if” has scarred me for life as someone who follows the Memphis Grizzlies, I am terrified of making that selection. Spinal surgery is never routine, especially for a player competing among the greatest athletes in the world. There is no denying that Porter checks a ton of boxes for Memphis - size, athleticism, facilitation on the wing, scoring ability - but he needs to prove he is back to what he was before the back injury for me to take him here.
Therefore, Bagley is the guy. As he would have been at #3 overall, and perhaps even #2 overall. The 2017-2018 ACC Player of the Year did dominate his conference, and he does fit well next to Marc Gasol. There are fair questions about his defense, but he can learn and develop alongside Gasol and company on that front for likely the next two seasons. He has the physical tools to be a solid player defensively, and his offensive potential makes that more than acceptable.
JaMychal Green isn’t in the long-term plans of Memphis, more than likely. Bagley could, and should be if he is there at #4.
THE REST OF THE LOTTERY-
5. Dallas Mavericks - Mohamed Bamba, Center, University of Texas.
6. Orlando Magic- Trae Young, Point Guard, University of Oklahoma
7. Chicago Bulls- Michael Porter Jr., Forward, University of Missouri
9. New York Knicks- Wendell Carter Jr., Forward/Center, Duke University
11. Charlotte Hornets- Kevin Knox, Forward, University of Kentucky
13. Los Angeles Clippers- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Point Guard, University of Kentucky
14. Denver Nuggets- Robert Williams, Forward/Center, Texas A&M University