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2019 NBA Draft Lottery Preview

Is it the end...or the beginning?

NBA: Lottery Draft Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

WHAT: 2019 NBA Draft Lottery

WHERE: Chicago, Illinois

WHEN: 7:30 PM CT

WHO: Grizzlies Director of Player Support and minority owner Elliot Perry will represent the Grizzlies on the stage. Head of Grizzlies basketball operations Zachary Kleiman will represent the Grizzlies in the actual lottery room.


The Draft Lottery order: The top-four picks will be selected at random. From there, the order will be determined by inverse regular season record. For example, this means the #1 overall team in the lottery, the New York Knicks, cannot select lower than #5.

  1. New York Knicks (14% chance at #1 pick)
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers (14%)
  3. Phoenix Suns (14%)
  4. Chicago Bulls (12.5%)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (10.5%)
  6. Washington Wizards (9%)
  7. New Orleans Pelicans (6%)
  9. Dallas Mavericks (currently projected to go to Atlanta Hawks, protected 1-5) (6%)
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves (3%)
  11. L.A. Lakers (2%)
  12. Charlotte Hornets (1%)
  13. Miami Heat (1%)
  14. Sacramento Kings (currently projected to go to Boston Celtics, protected #1 and would go to Philadelphia 76ers if that occurred) (1%)


  • #1 overall: 6%
  • #2 overall: 6.3%
  • #3 overall: 6.7%
  • #4 overall: 7.2%
  • #8 overall: 31.2%
  • #9 overall (would convey to Boston): 34.1%
  • #10 overall (would convey to Boston): 8%
  • #11 or #12 overall (would convey to Boston): roughly .5%

Welcome to one of the most consequential days in the history of the Memphis Grizzlies organization.

That isn’t hyperbole. That’s fact. And no team has as much at stake tonight as Memphis.

The Knicks will likely get Kevin Durant, and maybe Kyrie Irving. Every other team in the top 8 selections has a path to a future beyond this evening. Others owe picks - like the Cavaliers and the Mavericks - but they either are locks to keep the pick this year (Cleveland) or already have multiple pieces in place to succeed long-term (Dallas). This night, and the bouncing of the balls in the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, just means more to Memphis.

After two seasons of discontent and dysfunction, and multiple years of a 1st round pick being owed to Boston hanging over the heads of the Grizzlies ever since the fateful (and failed) Jeff Green trade, we have arrived at this moment. A new-look Grizzlies front office, led by Zachary Kleiman and Jason Wexler, is staring down the barrel of a bucket of ping pong balls whose random movements will directly impact the next five to ten years of this franchise. It’s the first major event for Kleiman and company in their new roles, and how things wrap up will dictate who they hire to be head coach, what they do with franchise scoring leader Mike Conley, and what it will mean to be a Grizzly moving forward.


You should be.

Here are the stakes - there are three possible outcomes this evening.

Scenario one - Memphis “wins” the lottery

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies could move up to the #1, #2, #3, or #4 slot in this draft, and if they get any of the top-three picks that would be widely regarded as a massive win for the franchise. This draft is seen by most as a top-heavy one, with one can’t-miss prospect - Duke’s Zion Williamson - and two players that are a tier below Zion but are still likely to be pretty darn good NBA players, Murray State’s Ja Morant and Williamson’s teammate at Duke RJ Barrett. Even with missing out on the chance to convey, this would mean a chance at another cornerstone type of piece to slot alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. for hopefully the next decade. That would be nice.

At #4 overall? Uncertainty rules. There are a few consensus favorites for that #4 slot - Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver, and Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland are real possibilities - while North Carolina’s Coby White, Duke’s Cam Reddish, Oregon’s Bol Bol, and Sekou Doumbouya of Guinea/a French basketball league are dark horses. The bust potential and/or possible floors for NBA careers to a certain extent on all of these prospects are why they are lower than the top-three, and all are reason why outside of those selections most believe there is a big, big drop off. But if the Grizzlies land at #4, at least they’d get their pick of the bunch...and it would make for a much more unsettled lead up to the 2019 NBA Draft.

There is an combined 26.2% probability of landing a pick between #’s 1 and 4, making this scenario the least likely of the bunch.

Scenario Two: Welcome to hell

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Duke vs Syracuse Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The 2nd most likely outcome for tonight’s festivities is the Grizzlies staying put at #8 overall. Memphis has never selected #8 overall...and they do not want to start now.

Could the Grizzlies find a star at #8? Of course! Here are the last five #8 overall selections-

  • 2018- Collin Sexton. Still early, but he turned around a slow start and appears to be coming along on his way to being a key player in Cleveland.
  • 2017- Frank Ntilikina. Yeah, he’s been a bust so far in New York. But is is a gifted athlete, and still very young. Could turn it around.
  • 2016- Marquese Chriss. This exercise is getting worse.
  • 2015- Stanley Johnson. Oh no.
  • 2014- Nik Stauskas. OH COME ON.

Recent history is not friendly to the #8 overall selection. That, of course, doesn’t mean that this trend will certainly continue. Written in scenario one are seven names outside the top three prospects that could, in theory, be in the mix for the #4 overall pick. Simple math tells us that three of those seven will be available for the taking at #8. If Memphis lucks out and a possible star like Darius Garland, or a solid combo guard like Coby White, falls to them? #8 doesn’t look so bad.

If they’re choosing between Bol Bol, Cam Reddish, and Sekou Doumbouya? Welcome to a high ceiling, high bust potential nightmare. Those names, and that risk, are not worth missing out on sending the pick to the Celtics this year and moving forward obligation free.

This is a 31.2% probability. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Scenario Three: Celebrating Failure

2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational - Vanderbilt v Butler Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The most likely outcome of tonight’s festivities in one single pick is at #9 overall and 34.1%. That would mean the failed Jeff Green trade’s draft pick obligation would go to the Boston Celtics, resulting in Memphis not currently having a selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Combine those odds with the roughly 8.5% chance the Grizzlies fall to #10 or #11 and at 42.6% this scenario, while less likely than a pick in this draft, is very possible. Outside of a Mike Conley trade getting you a 1st in this draft, the Grizzlies will sit the 1st round out if this occurs (bet on Memphis getting in this draft somewhere, especially in the 2nd round). Long-term, this frees up the team to pursue their future. Short-term? It’s an anticlimactic end to NBA Draft Lottery night...and the reason the Grizzlies are not hosting an official lottery watch party.

They want the least sexy option to occur.

The Prediction

Is there something less meaningful than predicting game outcomes in a non-gambling setting?

Yes. Predicting Draft Lottery outcomes. Let’s do it.

On one hand the allure of Zion Williamson, and to a lesser extent any top-four pick, is intoxicating. Visions of Zion and Jaren Jackson Jr. terrifying the western conference the next 10 years are definitely dancing in my head. As stated above, even Morant or Barrett would be worthy of kicking the convey can down the road another year.

But there’s only a combined 19% chance of that happening. Beyond that are two scenarios far more likely to occur that you either need to talk yourself in to (#4 overall) or want to avoid if at all possible (#8 overall). Memphis has a combined 38.4% chance at either of those two picks...that will make for a steady sweat.

Many will argue that lady luck owes the Grizzlies...and I agree. Just not in the way fans want. Statistically it is more likely that Memphis picks in this draft, but this time the odds will be in the favor of the Grizzlies and they will indeed convey their pick to Boston this season, at #9 overall.

It will finally be over. And the future can begin.

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