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Moving on from #4 in Memphis?

If Memphis traded the top pick, it could foreshadow what’s to come.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

One would hope the likelihood of the Memphis Grizzlies moving on from the #4 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft would be slim to none.

Going off of the fact that the one confirmed big name workout the Grizzlies have had in to Memphis is Wendell Carter Jr. to this point? Maybe it is more likely than we’d care to admit.

Of course, you do not need to have a player in your practice gym in order to draft him. Luka Doncic is still half a world away, and the Grizzlies front office is going to Michael Porter Jr. rather than the other way around. The most likely scenario remains one of those top propects, or Marvin Bagley III, or Jaren Jackson Jr., still being the choice at #4.

But if the Carters of the world give way to a Miles Bridges, or Mikal Bridges, or a Kevin Knox, or some other player not projected as a top five selection? The speculation of a possible trade...or the Grizzlies interest in trading out if their “guy” isn’t on the board will grow.

There are numerous directions the Grizzlies could go in to achieve this if it was indeed the goal. Perhaps they like multiple lottery-ish level talents. Maybe they want to go “all-in” and try to acquire a proven star with the asset in front of them. They could also look to get off a pretty bad contract using this piece, or even blow it all to hell and hit the reset button.

OK, that last one is too far-fetched, even for a speculation article. Let’s stick to the “realistic” possibilities, and what they would mean.

Option A: Looking for lots of lottery/draft love.

Syracuse v Michigan State Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

There are several teams with multiple first round picks in what is widely regarded as a pretty deep draft. The Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Clippers are those squads, and they all have enough resources to make a move of #4 possibly worth while for the Grizzlies if, say, Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III are gone and they’re not in love with Michael Porter Jr. or Jaren Jackson Jr. Memphis could get #12 and #13 from the Clippers, for example, and look for a player like Mikal Bridges, Carter, or Trae Young to possibly fall. They may also see value in a Miles Bridges/Collin Sexton combo, two perimeter players who, with a couple years of grooming, could be NBA stars thanks to their talents despite not being the best fit on the roster currently.

The Bulls, with #7 and #22, could mean Mohamed Bamba and, say, Anfernee Simons. The Hawks with #19, #30, and a future 1st could bring in Kevin Huerter and Jalen Brunson. The 76ers and #’s 10 and 26 could get Mikal Bridges and Donte Divincenzo, a pair of winners perhaps ready to contribute now. Throw in a 2nd round pick and a young player like Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, Kris Dunn, or Bobby Portis from Philly or Chicago wirh salary filler leaving Memphis (cough Ben McLemore) and there is decent value theory.

Those are just some (purely hypothetical) possibilities. The idea behind this logic is that the Grizzlies are broken beyond just one elite prospect fixing them. Multiple bites in a big, deep draft would be welcome if you subscribe to this line of thinking. If the Grizzlies did this, they’d be saying that they want good, cheap(ish) depth because they don’t see that superman saving Memphis at #4.

I don’t say that, though. You’ve got a better shot of getting a game changing talent at #4. I’d think on #7 with Chicago, but the others would have to offer more for a move to come from Memphis.


Option B: Bye bye Chandler.

Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

How bad do you want to (again, hypothetically) part with Parsons?

There are multiple teams with enough salary cap space to absorb Chandler Parsons without having to send out any unwanted salary. That would, of course, come with a price - #4 overall in this case. A team like Chicago could want #4 and Chandler for #22, or something similar to that. If the Bulls wanted to send bad contracts back for Parsons? Hard pass.

If Dallas wanted to reunite Chandler and his BFF Mark Cuban by swapping #4 and #5, while shipping Chandler and #32 to Dallas?


Go back to the previous projected draft order of Ayton, Doncic, Bagley. Say you’re there at 4, and you really like both Porter and Jackson. Dallas is HORRIFIED you’re going to take Jackson. They want him badly. They’re willing to rid you of the Parsons mistake of a contract in exchange for taking Jackson, a project as it is, and still allow you to get access to Porter Jr. It frees up cap space. It makes your books far more sound now and moving forward. It makes re-signing Tyreke Evans much more likely.

This isn’t as far-fetched as you would think...

It won’t happen. But this feels more realistic than option A...and also seems like something more worth Memphis’ time if they truly want to trade out of #4.


NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Ah yes, the pipe dream.

You won’t find any Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis deals in this section - that’s too out there even for this exercise. Yet there is an argument to be made that for a team as cap-strapped and as interested in “bouncing back” as Memphis claims to be, moving this pick for someone who can win them some games in the here and now could be appealing.

What kinds of deals least according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement? Well, if you take Chandler Parsons (or expiring deals in JaMychal Green, Ben McLemore, and Jarell Martin - whichever the other teams prefers, depending on the contract), #4 overall, #32 overall, and a future 2nd round pick, you could (again, in theory) acquire one of the following -

  • Jimmy Butler
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • C.J. McCollum

Even within this unlikely list, there are ones that would maybe make more sense than others. Would the Raptors, after their unceremonious departure from the playoffs, be open to a rebuild move? Is that an easier sell than the Wolves or Trail Blazers doing the same thing? Perhaps...but again, these trades would require multiple levels of thinking to be real.

  1. The Memphis Grizzlies believe they can get back to the Western Conference Finals as constructed if they get one All-Star level player. This feels silly.
  2. Any of the above squads feels that they are so far removed from contending that taking the #4 overall pick would be worth essentially punting higher levels of competitiveness. This, too, feels silly.
  3. In the case of Minnesota in particular, you believe that Butler is not going to re-sign with you, or anyone that isn’t a bigger market or a team ready to be “super”, and you want to maximize assets for him before he leaves. This kind of works...but is still a stretch.

That #4 pick could get a heck of a lot more value in a trade if Doncic, or Bagley, or somehow both, fall to the Grizzlies. Maybe then a player of the caliber of those listen above could be had for the right price. If that worth Porter or Jackson to those teams, though?

Probably not.

What have we learned? That the Grizzlies likely will be sitting at #4, and staying there, come June 21st. There could be avenues for Memphis to move back for more picks, but that probably doesn’t serve the needs of the Grizzlies for a star through the draft. Teams may be willing to take on some bad money to get that type of pick, but the cap space it would create almost certainly would not mean a stud free agent signing to play in Beale Street blue. Depending on how the picks go down, maybe someone is willing to part with an under-contract star. This surely would be enticing to Memphis, but does that really move the needle for the Grizzlies in this Warriors-LeBron James world we NBA fans live it?

All possibilities should be explored. If the Grizzlies did indeed move, the return would mean the world in terms of what would come next in Memphis.

The real meaning, though, will be in what the Grizzlies do when they stay still and are on the clock.

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