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Should the Memphis Grizzlies trade up?

With the Grizzlies outside of the top 3 looking in, here are the scenarios and potential prices Memphis will have to pay to trade up

Basketball: Luka Doncic Sipa USA-USA TODAY NETWORK

If you were like me, you were disappointed that the Grizzlies fell two spots in the lottery and ended up at the four spot. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the fourth selection--it’s still pretty dang high--but it is disheartening when they were originally slated to have the number two pick.

A top two pick is better. How much better it is than number four depends on your opinion of this draft. Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton are at the top of the class until proven otherwise, and they seem to have a large separation between them and whoever is considered the third-best prospect. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young are considered high-upside prospects while Marvin Bagley III has been heralded for years as a future NBA star.

But after a dreadful and blatant tank this season, it hurts to feel like you’re settling. Those latter three prospects may be fine on their own right, but if the Grizzlies are confident that this is their only shot in the lottery for the foreseeable future, they may want to capitalize by swinging for the fences and trying to get whoever the front office falls in love with.

That would likely mean trading up in the draft.

That may seem unnecessary because of how highly the Grizzlies are selecting, but Doncic has been called the greatest international prospect ever. Deandre Ayton is a physical freak who absolutely decimated all his competition last year and posted eye-boggling stats to go with it (20.1 PPG and 11.6 RPG on 61.2% FG and 34.3% on three-pointers). Those two could change the entire direction of a franchise, almost from the jump. Trading up could perhaps guarantee yourself a chance to snag one of those two players for at least the next 7 years.

What would it take to do so? Trades in the NBA are a lot different than the NFL, especially with draft picks. 2nd round selections are throw ins in NBA trades while they may make or break an NFL trade, considering there are 7 rounds in their draft and so many more positions on a roster to fill. Memphis would have to be willing to give up #4 and some players. Depending on where they trade up, it could become quite costly.

But unlike the NFL, trade-ups in the NBA aren’t necessarily win-now moves. Most of the time, NFL teams trade up to get their quarterback of the future and they’re simply isn’t any single position in the NBA as important as the quarterback in football. This is all about guaranteeing yourself the prospect that you want. Who wouldn’t want that if it was an option?

Here’s how each situation could play itself out and what it would cost the Grizzlies to ensure they’re happy with their draft choice.

Trading to #3

This is more of the “Holy crap Ayton or Doncic are still on the board somehow we NEED to get them” type of deal on draft night.

Trading with the Atlanta Hawks to get the #3 pick shouldn’t take that much on paper. However, just the fact that (in this scenario) Memphis feels the need to trade up, Atlanta has the leverage and will jack the price at least slightly.

Example trade:

ATL Receives: #4 via MEM, C Deyonta Davis

MEM Receives: #3 via ATL

This trade is pretty simple, yet it still hurts to get rid of Deyonta Davis. I have faith in him turning out to be a valuable rim-runner/protector, even off the bench. He also fills one of the largest needs for the Hawks, a center that can play next to PF John Collins and protect the rim, especially with Dewayne Dedmon.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This trade is just one example, but any of the Grizzlies’ young guys could fill Davis’ spot. Memphis could also throw in a 2nd round pick to sweeten the deal. The roster, with a few exceptions, can all be considered replaceable. Frankly, losing a player like Dillon Brooks isn’t going to alter the trajectory of this franchise.

Even if Ayton and Doncic are gone, Memphis could make this trade to guarantee their choice of JJJ or MB3. Atlanta could be very happy to gain an extra asset while taking whoever remains, because both are great prospects in their own right.

Trading to #2

Vlade Divac is still running the Kings? HAHAHAHA...

Wait, Chris Wallace is still running the Grizzlies. I take it back.

This is the scenario where the Grizzlies fall in love with both Ayton or Doncic and they’ll be happy with either on their team. Whoever Phoenix takes, Memphis should gladly take whoever remains.

Example trade:

SAC Receives: #4 via MEM, 2022 1st-round pick via MEM (lottery-protected), G Andrew Harrison, F Jarell Martin

MEM Receives: #2 via SAC, #37 via SAC

Jarell got more playing time and a bigger role this season, but he didn’t do enough for me to consider him Terry Rozier-level untouchable. I’ve been an Andrew Harrison fan for a bit and I’m confident in his potential, but again, not enough for me to turn away a chance

Two first rounders are a hefty price, but with one being swapped and the other lottery protected, I’m comfortable enough to pull the trigger on this deal.

Meanwhile, Sacramento gets to keep accumulating assets in an effort to recover from a disastrous Nik Stauskas and Carl Landry deal that mortgaged their future to free up some cap space. In exchange, Memphis gets one of the most heralded prospects in this year’s draft, even if it is whoever Phoenix passes over.

Trading to #1

In order to circumvent any confusion or wondering who above us will pick whom, Memphis can just go ahead and take it.

It’ll be pricey, but the #1 pick in a top-heavy draft is an extremely valuable asset. Phoenix isn’t going to give that up all willy-nilly. It’ll have to be a sweet package to entice the Suns, and unfortunately the Grizzlies only have All-Star talent and (very) developmental prospects to sweeten the pot. Very little middle ground for the Grizzlies to operate.

Example trade:

PHX Receives: #4 via MEM, #32 via MEM, 2022 1st-round pick via MEM, C Marc Gasol

MEM Receives: #1 via PHX, C Tyson Chandler

So Memphis gives up two first-round picks and one of the best players in team history for the chance to draft whoever they want this year. The Grizzlies also shed more than $10 million from their books, which shouldn’t be THE reason to make the trade, but it does help if they can’t move Parsons this off-season. Chandler is an expiring contract, which would be an eventual $13 million off the ledger as well.

Marc Gasol will be 34-years old next season, with two years remaining on his contract, the final year being a player option. His decline has already begun and it is noticeable. Saying goodbye to him won’t be easy, but it’s the right basketball move for an organization in flux. Devin Booker, Marc Gasol, and whoever they pick at #4 can be a solid core in addition to the more unproven players like Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, when trading up in the draft, you’ve gotta make yourself comfortable with getting rid of some assets. No one is going to give up a high draft pick out of the kindness of their heart. In fact, I’m kind of worried that the example trades I provided were a little too light in terms of what Memphis had to give up to do so.

This isn’t advocating for a trade up, nor is it excusing giving up the farm to do so. But the logic behind the Grizzlies trading up is sound, in theory. The Grizzlies and Luka Doncic have been linked for months now (A very one-sided type of link. Like calling the person you went to lunch with once your significant other and telling other people about how much you would love to marry said lunch companion.) and this is the best way to guarantee their choice of prospect, whether it be him or Ayton.

Trading up could right the wrongs of the draft lottery and undo all the worrying we’ve had since May 15th. It’ll come at a price though, and the Grizzlies will have to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze.

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