Finally, it is finished.
As was widely expected (darn those 97.6% likelihoods), the Memphis Grizzlies have paid their draft debt to the Boston Celtics dating back to the 2015 trade involving Jeff Green thanks to the bouncing of the balls in the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery. This pick was protected 1-6 this season, so one of two things was going to happen. Memphis was (most likely) going to send the #14 pick in this draft to Boston, or in the unlikely event that the Grizzlies jumped all the way up to the top-4 in the draft they would keep it for this year and add a top-4 player in a draft for a 3rd straight season.
What does all of this mean? Some quick takeaways.
- We no longer have to use the words “convey” or “Jeff Green” in a GBB post. It truly is a great day.
- The Grizzlies have missed out on a lottery talent. Sorry, James Wiseman/Anthony Edwards/LaMelo Ball fans. While there are talented young men at the top of this draft, they boast plenty of flaws as well. This draft is widely considered weak, especially at the top in terms of a consensus #1 selection. So while the draft is not an exact science and an Anthony Edwards or James Wiseman could wind up being superstars, perhaps the Grizzlies missing out on the top-4 pick in general is good this year if you trust those prognostications. The trade still stings in terms of not having a #14 pick in this draft. That could have been RJ Hampton, Aaron Nesmith, Issac Okoro, or any number of potential role playing three-and-D wings.
- The Grizzlies have complete and total asset freedom. Now that this pick has officially been “traded”, Memphis (beginning with the 2021 NBA Draft) have complete control of the rights of every pick in their control. They owe nothing to no one. That means a lot, considering the fact that the Grizzlies could very well miss the playoffs (again, kind of) next season. The Golden State Warriors will likely be back in the postseason. None of the eight teams currently in the playoffs out West figure to drop off that dramatically. And teams like Phoenix and New Orleans remain young and talented. It is no lock that Memphis makes the playoffs...and a 2021 lottery pick could be freely cheered for without a fear of sending it elsewhere.
- Memphis as of now will only have their 2nd round pick (from Phoenix) to add talent in this draft. The 40th overall pick, acquired from the Suns in the De’Anthony Melton/Josh Jackson trade, is obviously not as good as the 14th overall pick, or a selection in the top-4. But considering how outside of Melton (restricted free agent), Jackson (fell out of rotation in the Bubble), and Anthony Tolliver (player due to injury, free agent) are the only “key” Grizzlies that may not be back next year, the roster is essentially set. Not having a 1st in this draft isn’t the end of the world - in a way, Brandon Clarke serves as that selection. Memphis added three players from last year’s draft class (Ja Morant/Clarke/John Konchar). Just one this year should be fine, and with possibilities like Grant Riller, Mason Jones, Xavier Tillman, Malachi Flynn, Cassius Winston, and Desmond Bane possibly being in the mix there to add depth in key spots (3rd point guard, future 4th big, extra shooting on the wing)? There’s value at #40.
- Memphis now will be more able to explore the trade market. With teams like the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings bringing in new front office leadership, there may be opportunity with their talented-but-flawed scoring wings - Zach LaVine and Buddy Hield, respectively - to be available via trade. Now, with the debt to Boston paid, the full arsenal of Grizzlies picks can be utilized. A 2022 Grizzlies 1st round pick (Lottery protected), two future second rounders, the expiring contract of Gorgui Dieng, and a player like Grayson Allen may be enough to at least get the attention of Sacramento and Chicago and begin negotiations. It could possibly take more to get these players, but with the (likely) 2022 Utah Jazz pick and 2024 Golden State Warriors pick already in hand, along with multiple seconds, the Grizzlies have the draft capital to pull off such a move if they so choose. And that’s a lot easier to do without any current draft debts owed.
It’s very possible Zach Kleiman and the Grizzlies front office chooses to hold those picks to use in 2021, or even beyond. Building a consistent winner in a small market means being smart with the assets you have, and not rushing in to something because of one year of unexpected winning. Between a hopefully healthy Justise Winslow and internal development, it is more likely than not that no major moves occur. But the possibility exists even more now, which would’ve been harder to achieve if the 2020 1st rounder had stayed in Memphis.
It was always the most likely outcome, given the success Memphis had this season. The race to convey is over. The Grizzlies can now look firmly to the future, and continuing to build up their culture and standard of play that the organization hopes can lead to sustained success down the road.