Grizzlies Rumors

NBA Suspends Giannis For Final Seeding Game

After head-butting Wizards big man Moritz Wagner yesterday, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been suspended by the NBA for the team’s regular season finale tomorrow against the Grizzlies, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Antetokounmpo, the likely 2019/20 NBA MVP, head-butted Wagner with 8:50 left to play in the game’s second quarter. He was immediately ejected, with a suspension for his conduct seemingly inevitable. The Bucks would go on to tally a win anyway. Milwaukee’s 126-113 victory marked the Wizards’ seventh consecutive loss in Orlando. Washington is currently winless during the NBA restart.

The 56-16 Bucks have the best record in the NBA, and have clinched the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But the result of Thursday’s game could have significant implications for other teams.

The 33-39 Grizzlies will almost certainly need to win their bout against the Bucks to qualify for this weekend’s play-in tournament between the West’s eighth and ninth seeds, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN notes (Twitter link). Memphis could also clinch a play-in tournament appearance if both the 33-39 Suns and 32-38 Spurs lose their final seeding games, as Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Given how hot those teams have been though, the Grizzlies can’t afford to count on that.

If the 34-39 Trail Blazers lose their final seeding game tomorrow against the Nets, the Grizzlies would secure the eighth seed with a win, and would need to win just one of the two play-in games to qualify for a first-round playoff matchup against the top-seeded Lakers. The Grizzlies would be the ninth seed if they and the Blazers win, but as the ninth seed they would need to win both play-in games to advance.

A Grizzlies loss tomorrow to an Antetokounmpo-free Bucks squad would likely eliminate Memphis from the playoffs. This could have interesting draft implications for the Celtics, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe reminds us (Twitter link). Boston owns the Grizzlies’ first-round draft pick if it falls outside the top six picks this season, before becoming completely unprotected in 2021.

Were Memphis to fall into the draft lottery for 2020, the team would have a slim chance at a pick within the top six. If the Grizzlies get lucky in the lottery, the Celtics would instead receive the team’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick. A play-in series loss would also theoretically keep the Grizzlies’ chances at retaining their own 2020 pick alive.

Grizzles, Blazers, Spurs, Suns Vying For Play-In Spots

As a result of this past weekend’s games, we’re now assured of having our first-ever “play-in tournament” in the Western Conference, since there’s no way that the Grizzlies – or any other team that can finish at No. 8 – will finish more than four games ahead of the West’s No. 9 seed.

That won’t be the case in the East, where the Nets are locked into No. 7 and the Magic into No. 8, with the Wizards too far out of contention to force a play-in. But two teams out of the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Suns are set to participate in a play-in tournament in the West. The Kings and Pelicans have officially been eliminated from play-in contention.

That play-in tournament will essentially be a best-of-three series, with the No. 8 team being staked to a 1-0 advantage in the “series.” In other words, the No. 9 seed will need to win twice to earn the conference’s final playoff spot, while the No. 8 seed will only need to win once in two tries to make it through.

Here are the current standings in the West:

Seed Team
Games back Games left
8 Grizzlies 33-38 BOS, MIL
9 Blazers 33-39 0.5 DAL, BKN
10 Spurs 31-38 1 HOU, UTA
11 Suns 31-39 1.5 OKC, PHI, DAL

The Grizzlies are the only team that fully controls its own destiny when it comes to claiming the No. 8 seed. Wins over Boston and Milwaukee would ensure that Memphis holds that spot, and a win in either one of those games would guarantee that the Grizzlies at least participate in the play-in tournament.

Those games – against two of the East’s top three teams – won’t be easy though, and if the Grizzlies lose both of them, the race will be wide open, with any of the three teams chasing them technically still in play for the No. 8 seed.

The Blazers, with the softest remaining schedule, still look like a good bet to participate in a play-in tournament, but they’ll need to finish strong — losing one of their two games would leave them vulnerable to being passed in the standings by the Spurs and Suns if those teams win out. If Phoenix and San Antonio both win out, the Suns would finish slightly ahead of the Spurs.

All four teams still alive for the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds play their final seeding games on Thursday, so we’ll know by the end of that day which teams will take part in the play-in. The most important game to watch on today’s schedule is Suns vs. Thunder. Phoenix won’t be eliminated from play-in contention with a loss, but it would make their path a whole lot more difficult.

What do you think? Which two teams do you expect to participate in the play-in tournament, and which club still do you expect to ultimately claim the No. 8 spot in the West?

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Popovich, Doncic, Zion

Brandon Ingram had planned to be a Lakers star for a long time, but that changed when Anthony Davis became available last summer. Ingram was part of a package of young talent that was sent to the Pelicans for the star big man, but he has fond memories of his three seasons in Los Angeles, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register.

“I think it’s love from each end, because if it was a bad remark or a negative remark, maybe go back, re-tune something and get better at it,” he said of his relationship with Lakers fans. “If it was a good remark, then I thank them for knowing the game of basketball and the person that I am, and that I was gonna get better. So it’s all love from each side. I still got love for the Laker fans, I still got love for the Duke fans.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Gregg Popovich continues to stress player development even though his Spurs are in the middle of the battle for the eighth and ninth seeds in the Western Conference, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Veteran guard Patty Mills sat out Friday’s win over the Jazz to give time to Keldon Johnson, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Drew Eubanks, none of whom have playoff experience. “This is all about development, I’ve said that from the beginning,” Popovich said. “The young guys, they get evaluated, we see them playing together and we get to determine how valuable they are in terms of the guys we want to move forward with.”
  • The Grizzlies used a lineup change Friday to pick up their first win since arriving in Orlando, Vardon adds in the same story. Brandon Clarke had been replacing injured big man Jaren Jackson Jr., but coach Taylor Jenkins opted to go with Anthony Tolliver. Memphis outscored Oklahoma City by 21 points while Tolliver was on the court.
  • Three ESPN writers look at what to expect from Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as he gets ready for his first NBA playoff series.
  • Zion Williamson is expected to be ready to face the Spurs tomorrow in a crucial game in the playoff race, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Williamson missed Friday’s game, but the Pelicans didn’t list anyone on today’s injury report.

NBA Announces Finalists For 2019/20 Awards

The NBA has announced the finalists for several awards as the seeding games on the Orlando campus move forward and the postseason nears. It was announced in July that all awards for the 2019/20 season would be based on games up until March 11, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered play. Media members made their votes before the seeding games began on July 30.

NBA Most Valuable Player Finalists:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Billy Donovan (Thunder)
  • Nick Nurse (Raptors)

The winners for the awards will be announced during the NBA playoffs after the seeding games period concludes on August 14.

2020 NBA Draft Lottery Update

The 2020 NBA draft lottery, originally scheduled for May 19, will now take place on August 20, two weeks from today. Besides happening three months later than usual, this year’s lottery also figures to look a little different, since the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will almost certainly make it impossible for the NBA to bring representatives from the bottom 14 teams to a single location.

As we wait to see what the league has in mind for this year’s event, here are a few updates and reminders on the 2020 NBA draft lottery:

The bottom eight teams are already locked into their lottery spots

Much has been made in the last 24 hours about the Wizards (24-44), who are participating in the NBA’s summer restart, slipping below the inactive Hornets (23-42) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Fortunately for Hornets fans – and unfortunately for Wizards backers – the lottery odds for those two teams won’t hinge on which team finishes with the better overall record. For the NBA’s bottom eight teams, one silver lining of not getting an invite to Orlando this summer for the restart is that their spot in the top eight of the lottery has been locked in, based on the league standings as of March 11.

The Hornets will have the eighth-best odds and the Bulls will have the seventh-best odds even if the Wizards go 0-8 this summer and fall below both teams in the standings.

The race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference could impact the lottery odds

With the non-Orlando teams frozen in the top eight lottery positions, the other six spots will be determined by two factors:

  • Which six teams in Orlando don’t make the playoffs.
  • What their records were as of March 11.

This is great news for a team like Phoenix. Having won their first three games in Orlando – as the Grizzlies lost their first four – the Suns are very much alive in the race for the No. 8 seed in the West. It will still take a strong finish and some luck for the Suns to qualify for a play-in tournament, but let’s suppose they do.

In that scenario, if the Suns win the play-in tournament and earn a postseason spot, their first-round pick would be 15th overall, best among the playoff teams, since they entered the hiatus with a 26-39 record, worse than Orlando or Brooklyn.

If they were to lose a play-in tournament, Phoenix would end up with the 10th-best lottery odds, ahead of the rest of Orlando’s non-playoff teams besides the Wizards, who were the only one of the 22 invited teams with a worse record than the Suns as of March 11.

Essentially, if you want to determine the back half of the lottery standings, you just have to sort the 22 teams in Orlando by their March 11 records, from worst to first, then remove the 16 teams that end up in the playoffs.

The Grizzlies could theoretically still keep their first-round pick

The Grizzlies owe their 2020 first-round pick to the Celtics, but it includes top-six protection.

As long as Memphis makes the playoffs, that protection doesn’t really matter — Boston would receive the pick. However, with the Grizzlies’ hold on the No. 8 seed slipping, there’s still an outside chance that they could keep the pick.

Let’s say Memphis falls out of the No. 8 spot and either loses a play-in tournament or altogether misses out on qualifying for a play-in. In that scenario, the Grizzlies would enter the lottery with the 14th-best odds, since they had a better record on March 11 than any of their fellow lottery teams. That would give them a 2.4% chance at moving into the top four, where their pick would be protected.

Those aren’t good odds. In all likelihood, missing the playoffs would just mean the Grizzlies sent the Celtics the No. 14 pick instead of a selection in the 15-17 range. Still, the outside chance at another top pick would at least be a small silver lining if Memphis can’t grab that No. 8 spot. If the Grizzlies do hang onto this year’s pick, they’d owe Boston an unprotected first-rounder in 2021.

Over in the East, the Nets owe a lottery-protected pick to the Timberwolves and would keep it if they fall out of the postseason. However, the Wizards’ struggles have essentially ruled out that possibility. One more Brooklyn win or Washington loss will ensure that the Nets make the playoffs and send their pick to Minnesota.

Current lottery odds

Listed here are the odds for the teams not invited to Orlando, who will hold the top eight spots in the lottery standings.

The numbers in the chart indicate percentages, so the Warriors, for example, have a 14% chance of landing the No. 1 pick and a 47.9% chance of ending up at No. 5. If a team’s odds are listed as >0, that percentage is below 0.1%.

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
GSW 14 13.4 12.7 12 47.9
CLE 14 13.4 12.7 12 27.8 20
MIN 14 13.4 12.7 12 14.8 26 7.1
ATL 12.5 12.2 11.9 11.5 7.2 25.7 16.8 2.2
DET 10.5 10.5 10.6 10.5 2.2 19.6 26.7 8.8 0.6
NYK 9 9.2 9.4 9.6 8.6 29.6 20.6 3.8 0.2
CHI 7.5 7.8 8.1 8.5 19.7 34.1 12.9 1.3 >0
CHA 6 6.3 6.7 7.2 34.5 32.1 6.7 0.4 >0

The tentative odds for the bottom six spots, assuming the Grizzlies hang onto the No. 8 seed, can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jaren Jackson Jr.

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explores the impact that losing Jaren Jackson Jr. will have on the Grizzlies‘ push to secure a playoff spot. As O’Connor writes, Memphis is well ahead of schedule in its rebuild and should be pleased with the season as a whole, but there’s a chance it will end on a “decidedly sour note.”
  • Speaking of Jackson, he’s staying at the Walt Disney World campus for now, according to Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins (Twitter link via ESPN’s Malika Andrews). However, Jackson may need to leave at some point for treatment and/or rehab work related to his meniscus tear, Jenkins acknowledged.

Community Shootaround: Western Conference Playoff Race

When the NBA’s restart got underway last Thursday, the Grizzlies were in the driver’s seat for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, with at least a 3.5-game cushion on each of their five potential challengers. However, a slow start from the Grizzlies – who have lost three consecutive games to teams chasing them – has created a fascinating, wide-open race for that final playoff spot in the West.

After an 0-3 start, Memphis’ lead for that No. 8 spot is down to 1.5 games, and all five of their challengers are now within 3.5 games. To make matters worse, the Grizzlies will be without key big man Jaren Jackson Jr. for the rest of the season due to a meniscus tear, and the team’s schedule isn’t getting any easier. Contests against Utah, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee are on tap for the Grizzlies, who will have to hope that some of those Eastern teams are locked into their seeds by the last week of the season and decide to rest some starters.

The Trail Blazers, who currently hold the No. 9 spot, have looked like the biggest threat to Memphis so far in Orlando. With Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins healthy again, Portland is nearly at full strength and has recorded impressive wins over the Grizzlies and Rockets, sandwiching a tough loss to Boston. The Blazers are only a year removed from appearing in the Western Conference Finals. After struggling for much of the season, they’ve recently played more like the 2018/19 squad than the team that went 29-37 before the hiatus.

The Spurs and Suns have also looked rejuvenated since the season resumed. They own a combined 5-1 record so far, with the only blemish coming on Monday, when San Antonio lost a 132-130 heart-breaker to Philadelphia. The Spurs were four games out of the playoffs when the restart began, and the Suns were six games back, but they’re now within just two games and three games, respectively.

The Pelicans got off to a slow start last week, but their schedule is so forgiving that they’re still in a pretty good position to push for the No. 8 or 9 seed. After beating the Grizzlies on Monday, the Pelicans will play their final five seeding games against teams with losing records — Washington, San Antonio, Orlando, and Sacramento (twice). With Zion Williamson rounding into form, New Orleans has the most favorable schedule of any Western playoff contender.

Of course, those two games against the Kings loom large. Sacramento has been one of the summer’s most disappointing teams so far, having lost winnable games to San Antonio, Orlando, and Dallas. But the Kings are still just 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies and aren’t dead yet — those two games against the Pelicans will be massive, and Friday’s matchup against Brooklyn is certainly favorable.

No matter what happens over the next week-and-a-half, it looks like a near certainty at this point that we’ll get a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed. The No. 8 team can only avoid a play-in tournament by finishing more than four games ahead of the No. 9 team, and right now even the 13th-seeded Kings are withing four games of Memphis.

Positioning will be crucial though. Only two teams can participate in that play-in tournament, so finishing 10th means little. Conversely, finishing in eighth place is massive, since it means only having to win once in the play-in tournament, rather than twice. At this point, there’s no guarantee the Grizzlies hang onto the No. 8 spot entering a play-in tournament — there’s even a chance they could slip to 10th or lower.

We want to know where you stand on the Western Conference playoff race. Has your opinion changed at all through the first six days of summer games? Which two teams do you think we’ll see in a play-in tournament? Which club do you expect to ultimately claim the No. 8 seed and face the Lakers in the first round of the postseason?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Jaren Jackson Jr. Out For Season With Meniscus Tear

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his left knee, the team announced today in a press release. The injury, which Jackson sustained during Monday’s loss to the Pelicans, will cause him to miss the rest of the 2019/20 season, according to the club.

Jackson, who will turn 21 in September, is one of Memphis’ most important young building blocks, along with Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke. In his second NBA season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.6 BPG on .469/.394/.747 shooting in 57 games (28.5 MPG). He missed some time in February and March with a sprain to the same left knee that is now injured again.

Although Jackson is expected to make a full recovery, the injury is an unfortunate development for both him and the Grizzlies, who are clinging to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Having lost their first three games since play resumed this summer, the Grizzlies are now just two games ahead of the Trail Blazers and Spurs and 2.5 games up on New Orleans. Hanging onto that No. 8 spot – in the eight seeding games and possibly in a play-in tournament – will become an even greater challenge now that Memphis is missing its second-leading scorer.

With Jackson unavailable, the Grizzlies figure to lean more heavily on frontcourt rotation players like Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas, and Anthony Tolliver. Josh Jackson and Gorgui Dieng are among the bench players who should move up on the depth chart.

Jackson, meanwhile, will shift his focus to next season, when he’s under contract for $7.26MM. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2021 offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mike Budenholzer, Billy Donovan Win Coaches Association Award

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.

The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.

As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.

Tyus Jones To Miss Some Seeding Games With Knee Soreness

Grizzlies backup point guard Tyus Jones is battling knee soreness and will miss at least a week of action before being reassessed, per an official team announcement (Twitter link).

The 32-33 Grizzlies, the West’s current No. 8 seed, will play their fourth seeding game a week from today, on August 5, against the 28-36 Pelicans, the current tenth seed. There are currently six teams in the West scheduled to compete for the conference’s eighth seed. The loss to the club’s depth in these crucial pre-playoff games could be an impediment.

Though Jones is a bench player averaging just 19.5 MPG, he is a consistent rotation piece who has logged time in every single game for the Grizzlies this season.  The 6’3″ guard out of Duke signed a three-year, $24MM offer sheet with Memphis as a restricted free agent last summer — his former team, the Timberwolves, declined to match.

Jones is enjoying his best scoring year as a pro during his inaugural Grizzlies season, averaging a career-best 7.4 PPG on a career-high 45.9% field goal shooting. He’s also making a career-best 37.9% of his three-point attempts on 6.6 tries per night to go along with 4.4 APG and 1.6 RPG.

Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian tweets that the loss of Jones will necessitate more time running the point for second-year guard De’Anthony Melton and that little-used Grizzlies backup Grayson Allen figures to receive rotation minutes during Jones’s absence.