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Memphis Grizzlies 2020 NBA Draft Lottery Primer

One of the most pivotal moments in the franchise’s history is upon us.

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2019 NBA Draft Photo by Alex Nahorniak-Svenski/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Draft Lottery 2020

WHEN: Thursday, August 20th — 7:30 PM CT


LOTTERY ODDS FOR MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Top-4 (2.4%), 1st pick (0.5%)

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the defining storylines for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2020 is about to reach its complete form at Thursday’s draft lottery. Though we all were rooting for the Grizzlies to defy the odds and return to the playoffs, they fall in the lottery for the 3rd straight season, making the pro-conveyers nervous about the pick.

If the convey situation is still unclear to you, here’s the simple layout for it:

  • The Grizzlies traded away a future protected first-round pick for Jeff Green in 2015, with the following protections (1-8 in 2019, 1-6 in 2020, and unprotected in 2021)
  • Since Memphis landed the 2nd pick last season, they kept the pick because it fell in its protections. As a result, Boston had to wait until at least 2020.
  • If the pick falls inside the top 6 — and for the Grizzlies, that would mean jumping into the top 4 — the Grizzlies keep their pick, which means Boston gets whatever pick Memphis acquires next season.
  • If the pick stays at 14, the Grizzlies’ current lottery standing, Boston acquires the pick, and Memphis has no further obligation.

Seems simple, but it’s also perplexing. In a general sense, if the Grizzlies hit on that minuscule 2.4% chance and land a top-4 pick, it’s another high pick, although in a weaker class. And to some that seems great! However, it makes next season a crucial playoff season, as you don’t want to give Boston a shot at the number one pick.

So what should we expect? And if the Grizzlies get lucky, how should they approach it?

If the Grizzlies Keep the Pick

PK Invitational - Memphis v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

If the Memphis Grizzlies keep the pick by landing in the top 4, there’s not a clear route, but there are a plethora of options.

The popular name will be James Wiseman of Memphis, especially with the local ties. Though he has that elite high school pedigree and the physical tools, he has a lot of question marks revolving his game and his drive. Besides, there isn’t a clearcut path for him with Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Jonas Valanciunas — all players who will be better than Wiseman for the duration of his rookie deal.

Anthony Edwards will likely come up, as he could be that 2-guard next to Ja Morant. However, his inefficiency and shooting woes are alarming. They could also trade back for extra assets and grab someone like Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassel, or Killian Hayes. Those are the “best fits” of those in the lottery, and grabbing the extra asset might be worth it.

Personally, I love LaMelo Ball and Deni Advija the most of any lottery player in this draft. Ball is a murky fit with Morant, since he needs the ball in his hands to be maximized. However, you need stars in this league, and Ball is the only player in this draft with that kind of upside. Even if the fit isn’t really there, he could also become that cornerstone piece for a bigger trade — so we can stop having Brandon Clarke trade talks. Advija has the game to float between the 3 and the 4. He’s a fluid ball-handler that is improving on his shooting, and he has the chops to develop into a wonderful secondary playmaker alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Preferably, the Grizzlies could also try to dangle this asset for an established young player. It’s hard to gauge the value of any pick in a weaker draft class, especially since the pandemic will change the way scouts and execs can evaluate talent and assets.

Just remember, the Grizzlies only have a 2.4% chance of this all happening.

What should we want to happen

2019 NBA Draft Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images

Ideally, you want the overwhelming percentages to play out where the Memphis Grizzlies convey their pick. While some may argue that keeping a top-4 pick in this draft is better than a mid-teen’s pick next season, that’s a flawed argument that disregards tons of factors.

For starters, the Western Conference will be a bloodbath next season. A lot of the playoff teams aren’t going anywhere, and it doesn’t take into account teams like Memphis, Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, or New Orleans Pelicans potentially rising up. It also doesn’t consider health. In 2018, nobody thought the Grizzlies would be a 60-loss team, but they lost Mike Conley for all but 12 games and landed the 4th pick. You don’t want another scenario like that to play out then reward the Celtics with either Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, or Evan Mobley.

While it may sting to lose a draft pick this season, the moves Zach Kleiman made offset it. Brandon Clarke could honestly be seen as this year’s “draft pick,” and that’s better value than you’re likely getting from the 14th pick this season. In addition, they acquired a treasure chest of picks last offseason — an additional protected pick from the Utah Jazz, a 2024 loosely protected pick from Golden State, two second-round picks from the Delon Wright sign-and-trade, and two second’s in the De’Anthony Melton deal.

Losing a chance on cheap talent stings, but it’s not this administration’s fault. They’re just paying off the debt from the past front office. At the time, they saw Jeff Green as the missing piece to win a title, and it did not work. Now they’re paying the price.

The Grizzlies are way better off in this situation than they were 18 months ago. For starters, they’re already contenders for the playoffs, an unexpected development for any team entering year 1 of a rebuild. They found two franchise cornerstones in Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., and that’s rare to find in two straight drafts. They also have a collection of young role players that fit around them in Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones, and Grayson Allen. In addition, the front office has dug this team out of the trenches to accumulate the right assets to set them up for a successful, sustainable future.

Hopefully, Thursday’s lottery serves as a sigh of the relief for Grizzly fans, as this debt will finally be paid off.

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