Memphis falling two spots in the lottery provided a lot more questions than it did answers.
If Memphis had stayed put at #2, the future would be a lot clearer and the decision would be easier: take whoever is remaining from Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic, the two (supposedly) consensus best prospects in this draft.
The questions we have will be answered by draft night, but it makes predicting Memphis’ direction for the off-season that much harder. A lower draft pick means a lot wider of a base of prospects to choose from, giving the front office flexibility to pick someone untraditional. It also raises the possibility of a trade, up or down. Four is a middle-ground pick this year where you might miss on the elite talent and it might be too high for value prospects better selected in the back half of the lottery and first round.
That’s what makes this draft spot so fascinating to me. Chris Wallace was around the last time we had a top five pick (2007, Mike Conley and uh, 2009, Hasheem Thabeet), but the front office, ownership, and the league as a whole has changed since then. We don’t really have a precedent in place to help predict what will happen this June. Unless some solid reporting comes out between now and then, your guess is as good as mine as to who will be Memphis’ star rookie next season.
Memphis doesn’t hold all the cards in this draft. It is Phoenix, but the draft really starts with Atlanta at the #3 spot. Who will the Hawks deem the best prospect outside of Ayton and Doncic? That will most impact the Grizzlies’ decision. Atlanta might have a logjam at PF, but they may think Marvin Bagley III or Jaren Jackson Jr. is simply too talented to pass up.
Does Memphis want Atlanta’s leftovers or does an organization picking fourth feel too much pride in the seven consecutive playoff appearances run that just ended to settle?
Leftovers or not, you’ll hear plenty of spin from Memphis front office and media no matter who they select if they stay at #4. “They were always on the top of or draft board...we were hoping he’d fall....we were outright shocked when he fell.”
But if they trade back, they’ll try to appear as the shrewd organization that we know they aren’t. It would, on paper, be a shrewd move to accumulate assets if you aren’t as sold on one, good prospect. But it does no good if Memphis is trading back for trading’s sake, without a player or plan in mind.
Notice how many times I said “if” before this sentence? (Turns out only five times before this paragraph, but don’t let pesky things like “facts” ruin my point) That’s because no one knows what anyone is going to do on draft night. ESPECIALLY with three picks ahead of Memphis (for now) and a month to go before any drafting begins.
That’s why the Memphis pick is such a wild-card. It’s a high enough pick that it’ll send shockwaves no matter what Memphis does with it, and Memphis is a confusing enough situation that anything could happen.
Despite plentiful opportunities, the Grizzlies last home-run first round draft pick was Mike Conley, also picked at the #4 spot. That was in 2007, though. The game has changed a lot since then. However, Chris Wallace remains. No matter how head-scratching his comments may be, he will dictate the future of this franchise again. We’ve seen him show little regard for first-round picks in the past (see Jeff Green), but not since ‘09 has Wallace had such a valuable first-round pick to use. And even then it was a horrendous pick.
It’s a dangerous game, and we’re all left in the dark. Even if Memphis tips their hand before the draft, there are three spots ahead of them that could muck up whatever it is plan you or any fan or team employee may have. There’s a genuine wonder as to what direction Memphis will go and it makes this draft fantastic. They will not determine this draft, but their draft is not predetermined. This will be a fun month.