This Wednesday is Marcus Smart Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Smart throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Spurs-Celtics.
The Memphis Grizzlies have won six of their last 10 games and enter Wednesday just a half-game out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
This is bad news for the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics own the Grizzlies' first-round draft pick in the 2020 NBA Draft if the selection is outside the top six. If it lands inside the top six, the pick goes to Boston with no protections in 2021.
The Grizzlies are in a rebuild after trading veteran cornerstones Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol over the last year or so, and the expectation was they would be bad enough to send a top 10 pick to the Celtics either in 2020 or 2021. Unfortunately for the C's, the chances of them receiving a top 10 pick from Memphis seem to be decreasing by the day.
The Grizzlies are ahead of schedule in rebuilding primarily because of their superb drafting.
Memphis drafted horribly (perhaps the worst in the league) for most of the 2010s, but in an unlucky turn for Boston, the Grizzlies appear to have hit a pair of home runs over their last two drafts. The Grizzlies took Jaren Jackson Jr. with the No. 4 pick in 2018 and Ja Morant at No. 2 overall in 2019. Jackson is averaging 17.8 points per game and has improved in most statistical categories from his rookie campaign. Morant is the early favorite for 2019-20 Rookie of the Year with averages of 17.8 points and 6.6 assists per game. Memphis also traded for Brandon Clarke on draft night last year and he has shown exciting potential.
The Grizzlies currently sit 17th among the 30 teams, and if the Celtics beat the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, Memphis will move into a tie for the eighth playoff seed in the West. Memphis reaching the playoffs would be the worst-case scenario for Boston because the pick would land outside the lottery and go to Celtics in June.
The best-case scenario for the C's is the pick rolls over to next season, becomes unprotected and lands in the lottery. The new lottery odds format makes it a little easier for teams to jump up into the top three. The Los Angeles Lakers had the fourth-worst odds of winning the lottery last season and jumped into the top three. The New Orleans Pelicans won the 2019 lottery despite having the seventh-best odds.
The Celtics also had bad luck last season when they owned the Sacramento Kings' first-round pick. Sacramento was expected to be one of the five or six worst teams but actually competed for a postseason berth for most of the year. Boston wound up with the last pick in the lottery at No. 14.
This season's draft pick watch could end with similarly disappointing results for the Celtics. Things could change, and they often do with young teams like Memphis, but right now the Grizzlies' pick no longer looks like a prime trade asset for Boston.
Don't miss Marcus Smart Day and NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Spurs, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.