Even two seasons after playing his last game for the Grizzlies, the cloud of Jeff Green still lingers over Memphis in the form of the protected first-round pick traded to Boston. The pick is top eight protected in 2019, top six protected in 2020, and unprotected in 2021.
And while it may seem like kicking the can down the road would be better, it may actually be better in the long term to get out from under the obligation this season.
Memphis’ offseason has been spent serving the two masters of keeping the team competitive in Mike and Marc’s twilight without sacrificing “too much” (see: McLemore trade, 2nd round pick) of the future.
Make no mistake, though: their goal this year is to make the playoffs.
Whether they get there or not will depend heavily on the health of the veterans they’re still catering to. The West—plus LeBron, minus Kawhi—will be as competitive as its ever been. You can make a reasonable argument for more than two-thirds of the conference making the playoffs; if Mike and Marc aren’t playing, the Grizzlies aren’t in that mix.
But, for multiple reasons, even if the playoffs fall out of reach, the Grizzlies are better served by remaining competitive, staying out of the top eight, and getting off the Boston obligation.
2019 Draft Class
It’s worth noting that early opinions of the 2019 class have not been particularly rosy. Per Sporting News, “the 2019 class looks a bit disappointing with most of the top prospects facing some combination of concerns about their long-term upside, approach to the game or actual skill set.”
Obviously, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Projecting the quality of a draft class even during the draft is difficult; projecting it a full year out is borderline impossible.
Still, if you’re going to look to convey a pick, it’s far better to do it in a draft class that’s as thin as possible.
If the pick doesn’t convey in the next two seasons, it converts to unprotected status in 2021. As Peter Edmiston has discussed on Locked On Grizzlies, the NBA is expected to end one-and-done rule around that time, if not earlier. When that happens, the draft class has the potential to have double the depth of a normal draft. Needless to say, missing out on that sort of talent pool could do massive long-term damage to the Grizzlies rebuilding plans.
Protecting Young Talent
Once the tank went into full effect for the Grizzlies, Grind City Media’s Chris Vernon railed against tanking, believing that losing for the sake of increasing your odds at a top pick damages young players.
Vernon might have been overstating the negative effects of a one-year tank, but if the “Process” continues in Memphis for multiple years in an attempt to push off the Boston obligation, I’d be much more worried about stunting the growth of players like Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson long-term and hurting the fan base and box office at FedExForum as well.
The ideal situation for building them into players that can be part of the next great Grizzlies team is to let them learn winning habits from Conley and Gasol. Even if it’s not at the highest level, and even if the best the team can muster is a fight to sneak into the playoffs, that experience will have value.
As the old saying goes, there’s no use crying over traded picks (or something like that). The trade was made. Jeff Green turned out to not be the missing piece. We got some laughs out of the situation, but it’s done.
Now, the goal for the Grizzlies is to minimize its impact on the franchise moving forward. And, given the projections for the future, the best situation for the Grizzlies would happen by paying up now and getting the obligation off their books.