Did the Memphis Grizzlies' NBA Draft Lottery result impact the Boston Celtics in more ways than one?
The Grizzlies shot up to the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, ensuring that selection won't convey to Boston this year. But as The New York Times' Marc Stein reported Tuesday, it also might ensure veteran guard Mike Conley's ticket out of town.
The Grizzlies are widely expected to use the No. 2 pick on Murray State’s Ja Morant and trade the ever-reliable Mike Conley in their last big move to fully leave the Grit ‘n Grind era behind.
It appears Conley is on the trading block, and if Kyrie Irving departs in free agency (and/or restricted free agent Terry Rozier seeks greener pastures), the Celtics would be in the market for a point guard.
So, would a Boston trade for Conley be feasible? The 31-year-old has two years left on a massive deal that will pay him $32.5 million in 2019-20. But as the Boston Sports Journal's Brian Robb laid out recently, there are a couple avenues for the C's to explore landing Conley if they're interested.
If the Celtics execute a sign-and-trade with Irving's preferred team instead of letting him walk in free agency, they'll create a trade exception of about $20 million due to the "Base Year Compensation" rule under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement for which Irving qualifies. Boston could then complete a multi-team trade, likely sending a draft pick and Irving to his preferred destination while that team sends assets to Memphis. The C's would use that $20 million exception to take on part of Conley's contract.
Of course, Irving is under no obligation to do a sign-and-trade, so this scenario falls apart if he simply becomes a free agent July 1.
But there's another option for Boston:
TRADE AL HORFORD OR GORDON HAYWARD
Horford and Hayward, the Celtics' two maximum-contract players, both could match Conley's contract in a trade. Horford, who also can opt out of his contract and become a free agent, probably wouldn't want to go to the rebuilding Grizzlies at age 32.
But Hayward's contract ($32.7 million next season) is nearly identical to Conley's, so the C's in theory could do a one-for-one swap while tossing in a draft pick as a sweetener for Memphis.
The Celtics have other fish to fry. Their first priority is convincing Irving to re-sign, and even if they fail, they'll likely be in heavy pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. It's also hard to imagine Boston parting ways with either Horford or Hayward in a deal that doesn't involve Davis.
It sounds like Conley will be moved either way, though, so he's an intriguing "Plan B" for Danny Ainge and Co. to have on their radar.
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