Believe it or not, the Memphis Grizzlies could still convey the pick to Boston this season.
Granted, it’s not the best proclamation to make, as this team has lost to Chicago (twice), Cleveland, Atlanta, and Washington since the trade deadline. However, to counteract those losses, they’ve stolen games against playoff hopefuls in Portland and Utah.
Another reason to be hopeful in the uninspiring race to convey is, the other teams in the picture are in worse situations and have more promising motives. In case you didn't know, teams are vying for the services of Zion Williamson — the most hyped, and talented, prospect in the draft since arguably LeBron James. He’s a freight train that has the power of prime Shaq, the athleticism of peak LeBron, and the build of an All-Pro NFL linebacker. Landing this generational talent could catapult a struggling franchise to new heights.
As the Grizzlies are trying to win games, there are teams behind them that’d like to be in their position. Memphis sits at 6th in the reverse standings, resulting in a 9% chance of winning the lottery and drafting Zion — more than double the odds of the 9th-worst team, where the Grizzlies want to be.
With around a dozen games left in the season, who could potentially help the Grizzlies in their race to convey?
The Likely Candidates
- Dallas (0.5 games behind, 28-41, 13 games left)
The Dallas Mavericks are the most likely candidate here to jump the Grizzlies in the reverse standings. Though they pulled off a blockbuster to land Kristaps Porzingis, the team right now is Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, and the soon-to-be-retired Dirk Nowitzki. They’re not very good, and they’re probably fine with that, since their pick goes to Atlanta if it’s not in the top 5.
Since the trade, they’re 5-13, and they have the 13th-hardest remaining schedule (a strength of schedule — SoS — of .499). With Doncic banged up, depleted depth, and a desire to keep their pick, the Mavericks could continue falling down the standings.
If the Grizzlies could win a home-and-home against them in April, that would surely help.
- New Orleans (1 game back, 30-42, 10 games left)
The New Orleans Pelicans have a light schedule to close the year, possessing the fifth-easiest schedule in the league. However, they’re broken. They’ve lost 6 games in a row, Anthony Davis is on minutes restrictions and ruined the team’s dynamic, and Jrue Holiday is on the shelf. It’s easy to see them become more motivated to shut down Holiday and limit Davis to preserve their trade value and to help their lottery odds.
Unlikely but possible
- Washington (2 games back, 30-40, 12 games left)
Of all the teams in this category, the Wizards might be the unlikeliest pass of all. Bradley Beal is absolutely balling out, and they have a quartet of players eyeing bigger paydays this/next summer (Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant, Bobby Portis, and Jabari Parker — who’s under a team option). Saturday’s loss doesn’t help; their easy schedule doesn’t help either. This frisky bunch, rallying around their emerging superstar, will probably have a strong finish to the season, especially since the playoffs are still in reach.
- Charlotte (3.5 games back, 31-38, 13 games left)
The Charlotte Hornets have a nice cushion on the Memphis Grizzlies, but their schedule is insanely difficult (8th-hardest schedule), and the team just isn’t very good. Kemba Walker’s production is falling off, shooting 41.7% from field and 33.3% from 3 since the All-Star break. This team is healthy, and their second-best player is Jeremy Lamb. With a terrifying schedule, and a horrible supporting cast, I could envision a scenario where the Hornets jump the Grizzlies in the reverse standings.
Yes, Only Because We Want All The Chaos
- Los Angeles Lakers (3 games back, 31-39, 12 games left)
I don’t really need to go into depth on this one. The demise and drama revolving the Los Angeles Lakers is heavily discussed on every national media outlet — ESPN, FS1, The Ringer, The Athletic, SB Nation, all over the place.
Envisioning them closing the season out strong is difficult, especially considering their SoS is at .555. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram’s absence hurts this team more than haters are willing to admit. The veteran role players the Lakers signed this summer all suck. LeBron went from “Playoff Mode” to “Space Jam 2 Mode” quicker than you can say “Michael Jordan is actually the GOAT.” Memphis native Johnathan Williams and Alex Caruso — the team’s two-way players — are in the rotation.
It’s just not pretty for the Lakers. They probably should shut LeBron down here soon and shift their efforts towards Zion Williamson, whether they keep the pick or turn it into a trade chip.
The Memphis Grizzlies are going to need help in the race to convey. Mike Conley needs to sustain his superstar-level of play. Jonas Valanciunas has to average nearly a 20-10. Joakim Noah needs more games where he dips into fountain of youth. Avery Bradley has to be “Boston Avery Bradley” more than “Clippers Avery Bradley.” Delon Wright has to also play like a man that wants to be paid this summer.
It’s a lot to ask for, but this bunch of crumbling teams could help the Grizzlies achieve their goal of conveying the pick.