Coming into tonight’s action, the Grizzlies were in second-to-last place in the Western Conference standings, but only four games back of the eighth seed and a playoff berth. And while the playoffs are certainly always a goal for a team not in rebuilding mode, Memphis has another important reason for not embracing the tank.
Per Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian, a secondary but equally important goal for the Grizzlies this season is to ensure that their 2019 first-round pick is conveyed to the Celtics. As we relayed yesterday, the 2019 draft class is viewed as fairly average, and if the Grizzlies keep this year’s pick (protected 1-8), they’ll just owe Boston a future first-rounder with fewer protections (1-6 in 2020 and unprotected in 2021).
If the Grizzlies do keep their pick this summer, they could certainly get lucky, move up in the lottery, and draft one of the consensus top picks such as Duke teammates Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, or Cam Reddish. But the odds of this are low. For instance, the eighth-worst team (i.e. the best the Grizzlies could finish and not have their pick convey) only has a 21.1% chance of getting a top-3 pick.
And even if the Grizzlies were to embrace the tank, the worst three teams (which the Grizzlies would be hard-pressed to become given the Cavs, Bulls, Suns, and Knicks’ issues) each still only have a 40.1% chance at a top-3 pick. So either way (finishing worst to eighth-worst), it’s more likely than not that Memphis wouldn’t get a difference maker in this year’s draft, explaining why the front office would rather the pick convey this summer and ensure the team has its 2020 first-round pick.