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The great Grizzlies convey debate returns


Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It has returned. The great Convey debate of 2018-2019 for the Memphis Grizzlies has been resurrected. If you thought it was done, you were wrong.

If only you had been right.

The Memphis Grizzlies are currently 10-18, good for 7th in the lottery order in the 2020 NBA Draft. Grizzlies fans are well aware that that order doesn’t really matter - the Grizzlies jumped multiple spots in the 2019 lottery to “earn” the opportunity to select Ja Morant in the 2019 NBA Draft. But this year, different from last, the likelihood of conveyance is less - if the pick falls in the top-6 (unlike the top-8 in 2019) Memphis holds on to the selection. 7 and below? The pick goes to Boston.

Currently being 7th feels a bit more relevant now, doesn’t it?

To start the process of renewing this conversation, I reached out to my Associate Editor and GBBLive buddy Parker Fleming.

GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming - Well, Joe, “making the playoffs” is a topic in month 2 of the rebuild. Do the Grizzlies have the design of a playoff team? Probably not. I think it’s more about the bottom half of the conference being fairly mediocre - very 2010’s East-esque. The takeaway here for me is, the Grizzlies are good enough to convey this year’s pick, as they’re better than the teams currently in the bottom 6 right now. I think it’s best for the Grizzlies to be in a spot where they either give the pick up to Boston, or land in the top 4 - which puts the Grizzlies in position to draft Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, or use the pick as an extra asset. What are your thoughts on this convey conversation?

GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax - They don’t have enough life experience, much less NBA experience, to compete with the veteran teams above them in the Western Conference. The Thunder collapse was a great example - a veteran team, arguably less talented than Memphis, roared back thanks in large part to the fact that the likes of Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul, and Steven Adams have been there before. That will remain the norm, and that is OK. This season isn’t about playoffs, and if you allowed that thought to enter your mind it’s your fault, not theirs.

The good news about this convey debate part deux is that because of the stroke of luck the Grizzlies got last year moving up to be in the mix for Ja Morant, the end result isn’t that relevant anymore. If Memphis fails to convey and has a pick within the top-6? Awesome - LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Cole Anthony, James Wiseman...there are players at the top that can add to the talent pool of this Grizzlies team. In theory the pick will be less valuable in 2021 because Memphis will be better in 2021. If it does convey? HELLO TRADE SEASON. The flexibility that comes with taking that pick and sending it to the Celtics at 7th or worse in the lottery makes the Grizzlies able to fully utilize their draft pick treasure chest if they want to make a big time move.

Imagine Bradley Beal in Memphis with Ja and Jaren. That’s not going to happen...but a 2022 1st from Memphis, the 1st rounder from the Jazz (whether it conveys this year or not), the 2024 1st from Golden State, and multiple 2nds alongside whatever cap filler would be needed would at least make Washington pause. THAT is a big three to build around.

Again, Beal is highly unlikely. But Gary Harris from Denver? Sign and trades with Brooklyn for Joe Harris? Even a DeMar DeRozan? I wouldn’t make that deal, but the point is flexibility to make that kind of trade comes with the payment of the draft debt to Boston.

Washington Wizards v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

PF- Yes, I agree there, and that’s totally fine. Remain competitive throughout the season and get in a position where it’s top 4 or convey.

And to your point, they could cash in on assets with more flexibility from conveying. Beal may be far-fetched, but the fact that they could be in a position to land an impact player without sacrificing flexibility. Tobias Harris down the road? Khris Middleton, if Giannis bolts? It’s all possible.

They could even do what Dallas did with Luka in the 2018 draft in the 2021 draft. I think the draft position for them might be better or the same, given the inevitability of the Warriors and the Wizards to a much lighter extent - as well as the urgency of Atlanta. They could use say the 5th pick + the 2022 Grizz pick top-4 protected for someone like Jalen Green - friend of Ja and potential Memphis Tiger. Even the 100% guarantee of drafting in 2021 is nice.

That’s all just more enticing than this draft. Aside from Ball and Edwards, I don’t like fits more than I don’t like the players. Yes, that includes (now former, insert sad face here) Memphis Tiger James Wiseman.

JM- James Wiseman next to Jaren isn’t a perfect match. The perfect guy with Jaren may already be on the roster...Brandon Clarke.

I LOVE the Jalen Green idea...and the conveyance of the pick would allow for such a move to be more conceivable. But it’s important to understand that the future starters on the wing for the Grizzlies - no offense to Dillon Brooks and Jae Crowder - are not currently on the roster. Memphis surely understands is nice to look at a front office and be able to say “yeah, they’re got it together.” Jason Wexler, Zachary Kleiman and crew have earned that trust.

The pursuit of conveying the pick matters much less than the pursuit of figuring out who on this team currently fits next to Jaren and Ja, however. There are multiple expiring contracts on this roster, and the Grizzlies need to see in action whose game can be malleable and fit alongside their two young cornerstones. If that equals a few more losses than wins, so be it.

Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

PF- Yes to your point on Wiseman. Clarke is the ideal interchangeable big next to Jaren and Ja, and there shouldn’t be any debate on it. Yes, they do have to figure out who is going to be Ja’s backcourt mate.

Looking at the 2021 mock draft from ESPN - essentially Draft Express - every player in the top 10 (aside from Evan Mobley) is between 6’5” and 6’8”. Though it’s far too early, it just leaves more optimism in finding that wing you want between Jaren, Ja, and Clarke.

I do think there could be equal priority here when it comes to both conveying the pick and finding who’s of value for the next Grizzlies playoff team. Dillon Brooks looks like a legitimate NBA rotation player, but what’s his role? And do you want to shell out probably $6-10M per year on a 6th/7th man gunner? De’Anthony Melton and Grayson Allen have shown some value as well. Melton projects as a fringe starter that can be the backcourt stopper and a secondary playmaker. Allen has flashed the potential to be an off-bench asset in terms of energy, playmaking, and 3-point shooting.

You can find out who’s going to last, even with the idea of conveying the pick, because figuring out who fits will ultimately lead to a few extra wins here and there. The bottom of the league’s will play a part as well.

JM- Currently “ahead” of Memphis in the lottery are Golden State (how crazy is THAT to read), Atlanta, New Orleans, tonight’s opponent Cleveland, New York, and Washington. It seems unlikely the Grizzlies fall so far that they’ll be worse than any of those six teams. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry aren’t walking through that door. The Hawks and Knicks are a mess. It’s very possible that NOLA (Jrue Holiday) and Cleveland (Kevin Love) move their best players ahead of the trade deadline. Washington is better run than it was a year ago, like Memphis, but unlike Memphis the Wizards don’t have a plethora of young talent just yet.

From there? It’s squads actively trying to be better, and more likely to be buyers at the trade deadline, than Memphis. Chicago should improve with better health. Minnesota could be a dark horse in the Andre Iguodala sweepstakes. Detroit, Phoenix, San Antonio, Charlotte, Portland...of all those squads, only really Charlotte could fall back to earth and collapse. The others have too much skill, coaching, or a combination of the two, to fall completely apart and lead to Memphis cleanly surpassing them.

If I had to make a prediction today, I would say the pick conveys. Which is what I said last year. And as you know, Ja Morant is here and I was wrong. That’s what you get for trying to predict chance. Probability wise, at this stage its most likely the pick goes to the Celtics this season. But all it takes is one bounce of a ball to get the Grizzlies another cornerstone-level talent.

All the more reason to play the games as best you can and let things fall where they may.

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