Tanking is taking over professional sports. The argument of whether or not its good for the game is a different discussion, its just healthy for us to all acknowledge that it exists and, given how most major sports are structured, is here to stay.
So now the Memphis Grizzlies are in a tough spot. The team sucked this year despite hopes around the team performing at least at .500 level. You could suck even more and try to get a higher draft pick, but you’re not going to suck enough to lose more than the New York Knicks or Phoenix Suns. And its widely known that this year’s draft isn’t nearly as deep as recent drafts, and a pick around the 4-8 range isn’t as strong as it may become in the next few drafts.
Plus, most importantly, the you owe the Boston Celtics your first round pick eventually, either now, next year, or the year after with a few stipulations. For this year, if it falls out of the 1-8 range Boston gets that pick. Next year, there’s a smaller margin: if it falls outside of the 1-6 range, Boston gets it. In 2021, there’s no protected range. So in a draft that could be weak aside from the top three picks, it makes a lot of sense to try and send Boston that pick this year.
Talking heads around Memphis Grizzlies basketball have wrestled with the impending scenario in which the pick does not get conveyed to Boston this year. Before the trade deadline and All-Star break, this Grizzlies team was in a really bad place. The basketball was unwatchable, the coaching even worse, and fans were doubting the front office more than ever before. There seemed to be no chance that the pick would get conveyed.
Fast forward to now. Marc Gasol is gone, some other baggage in a number of role players have been traded for seemingly better bench players, and I’ll be bold enough to say: there is a chance this pick can get conveyed. As of today, Memphis the seventh worst team at 28-41. They would need to get to ninth worst for the pick to convey, meaning they would have to leap two more teams in the last 14 games. Right now, those teams are Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans, both 1.5 games up on Memphis. 1.5 games is nothing in today’s NBA, especially with 14 games left and a game with the Wizards on the docket for Saturday night.
If you’ve watched any Grizzlies game post-trade deadline, you should be able to tell that this team is having significantly more fun and is more enjoyable for the fans. They have played so much better in the last three weeks that hope has arisen from the ashes like a phoenix. Since February 25th’s win over the LA L(ebrons)akers, the Grizzlies are 5-3 and truthfully should’ve won two of those games.
The hesitation with this team is that as capable as they are to beat any team on any night, they choose to absolutely suck against teams that should be, in theory, guaranteed wins. Example A: Feb. 23 in Cleveland. Example B: Feb. 27 at home versus Chicago. Example C: March 13 in Atlanta. If you’re not familiar, two of those three teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention and are worse in every way than the Grizzlies, and that’s tough to do. Regardless, this team is playing better and actually winning again. Conveying that pick is a realistic goal once again.
So let’s take a look at the upcoming schedule and where the Grizz can make some progress toward jumping a few spots. It’s never a good idea to predict outcomes of Memphis Grizzlies games, but for the sake of this exercise, here you go.
Upcoming Grizz Schedule
|Sat, Mar 16||@ Washington||W|
|Wed, Mar 20||vs Houston||L|
|Fri, Mar 22||@ Orlando||L|
|Sat, Mar 23||vs Minnesota||W|
|Mon, Mar 25||vs OKC||L|
|Wed, Mar 27||vs Golden State||L|
|Sat, Mar 30||@ Phoenix||W|
|Sun, Mar 31||@ LA Clippers||W|
|Wed, Apr 3||@ Portland||L|
|Fri, Apr 5||@ Dallas||L|
|Sun, Apr 7||vs Dallas||W|
|Tue, Apr 9||@ Detroit||L|
|Wed, Apr 10||vs Golden State||W|
My predictions put the Grizz at 7-7 to finish the season. For this team, that would be a welcome sight to, at minimum, keep the fans engaged.
First things first, the Wizards are the next game on the schedule. If Memphis can squeak out a win in D.C. that’s a quick one game swing, putting them just .5 behind Washington overnight. This game is a huge as a Tankathon can be, plus Washington doesn’t need to win anyway. They own their first round pick this year and aren’t going to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The toughest part of the upcoming 14 games is that the Golden State Warriors are coming to FedExForum twice, the second being the last game of the season. To see the glass half full in this context, Golden State will likely be sitting their starters a good majority (if not all) of that last game to rest for the playoffs. Thrown in another home game versus the Houston Rockets coming up, and that’s three really tough games in the last 14.
Okay that’s enough bad news. Let’s stand optimistic in the face of disappointment. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be in town, they aren’t making the playoffs and have no reason to win either. Memphis will travel to Phoenix; if the Grizz lose this game I’m quitting every facet of basketball forever. Dallas hosts Memphis quickly followed by a trip to Memphis, two games versus the same team in three days. Those two games will be huge as well, Dallas stands equal to Memphis in games back right now and could be a major hurdle in this pick conveying.
Scattered throughout those 14 games are the likes of Orlando, OKC Thunder, L.A. Clippers, Portland, and the forgotten Detroit Pistons. All those teams are pretty solid shots at making the playoffs, but will likely be fighting for position as the season draws to an end. In other words, these teams actually have a reason to win.
Its also worth noting that both Washington and New Orleans have moderately tough schedules to finish out the season, with Washington having the more tough of the two. Both own their first round picks this upcoming draft and both will likely miss the playoffs. That should make for a more aggressive tank than what the Grizzlies are building in Memphis. If Memphis can go .500 through the last 14 games, I believe that would be enough to hope two spots in the final standings.
Predicting the outcome of Grizzlies games is a lot playing the lottery, where skill and knowledge hold no place because its based on dumb luck. This team has been the definition of inconsistency over the last two seasons, but with the dynamic of this team taking a major change in the trade deadline, there is still hope in making some use of this season. Stay tuned to see the Grizzlies make me look like a fool for ever expecting them to play to their true capacity against teams they should and should not beat.