Celtics

Here's how Grizzlies' draft pick value is taking a bad turn for Celtics

Here's how Grizzlies' draft pick value is taking a bad turn for Celtics

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.

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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.

Blakely: What if C's never drafted Smart? It was a possibility

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.

Kemba Walker sheds light on decision to sign with Celtics over Knicks

Kemba Walker sheds light on decision to sign with Celtics over Knicks

Kemba Walker was this close to becoming a New York Knick instead of a Boston Celtic last summer.

Before signing a four-year, $141 million contract with the C's, Walker considered the Knicks in free agency. The 30-year-old said last fall he believed Boston was "just a better fit" for him despite New York being his hometown team.

Walker shed more light on whether he had serious interest in joining the Knicks during this week's episode of The Ringer's "R2C2" podcast.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which begins Friday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

“To be honest, yes. Yes. Very serious, very,” Walker said ... "Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks were one of my top priorities, actually, because I was thinking they were gonna get another player. But it didn’t work out.”

Watch below:

New York was rumored to be in the running to sign Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant, but both stars chose the Brooklyn Nets instead. It was a rough offseason for the Knicks, to say the least.

In his first year as a Celtic, Walker is averaging 20.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. The four-time All-Star has dealt with a nagging knee injury over the last several months but is encouraged by the progress he's made in the Orlando bubble.

"For me to feel like myself again, it definitely feels good. Just gives me a lot of confidence heading into those games," Walker said on the "R2C2" podcast.

The C's will need a healthy Walker if they're to have a shot at Banner 18.

To listen to the full episode, go here.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Romeo Langford, Robert Williams shine vs. Raptors?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Romeo Langford, Robert Williams shine vs. Raptors?

The Boston Celtics gave their best performance of the NBA's restart in Wednesday night's blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets, and a boost from two of their most recent first-round picks played a key role in the victory.

Boston's bench scoring has been hit or miss in the seeding games so far, but the second unit didn't disappoint against the Nets. Second-year center Robert Williams scored a career-high 18 points with five rebounds and three blocks. Rookie guard Romeo Langford didn't make a huge impact offensively with only four points, but his defense was fantastic. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which begins Friday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

The Nets are one of the worst teams in the Orlando bubble, so while the performances of Williams and Langford are no doubt encouraging, the Celtics need these guys to make a similar impact versus the top teams in the Eastern Conference, too. 

On a new episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, our C's insider Chris Forsberg gives his take on Williams' and Langford's play so far, and what the future holds for them with the playoffs approaching.

"Here's what I think Brad will take away. He'll sit back and he'll say, none of these guys have really stepped up and grasped their opportunity through the scrimmage games and early seeding games, and with a chance because Kemba (Walker) was out and the starters didn't play a lot of minutes (against the Nets), (the young guys) finally sort of grasped the opportunity," Forsberg said. "But again, it's what you do from there. ... It's not like you have one good game and (Celtics coach Brad Stevens) just throws you in there. If I had to guess which rookie is still most likely to have the biggest impact, I'm starting to lean toward Langford because he has shown defensively that you can put him in there and even in small bursts of minutes be able to give you something, and to be a steady presence. I think that's important.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Rob Williams, Langford help C's carry momentum vs Raptors? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"It's nice to see Rob Williams out there, and there were still a good amount of defenses lapses -- a lot of which he makes up for because he's so athletic. But when I convene the Robert Williams fan club for our weekly meeting tonight, I'm going to tell the congregation, look, let's not get too high or too low, we have to see Rob come back and build off (Wednesday night). My hope is that Rob is the first guy in the gym, even on an off day after two games. That he's in there working, busting his butt and showing that he's ready for that opportunity. If he does that, he's got a better chance to get some minutes. If he got a DNP (against the Raptors), I wouldn't be shocked because that's how Brad operates. But Grant (Williams), Romeo -- one of those guys is going to get a chance in the playoffs and they have to be ready for that opportunity."

Robert Williams could see some action versus the Raptors for the simple fact that Toronto is a pretty big team. He would be a good matchup against Raptors center Marc Gasol or power forward Serge Ibaka. Grant Williams also has good size and a high defensive IQ, so he could match up against those Raptors big men as well. 

Coaches typically shorten their rotations in the playoffs and only give minutes to players they can trust. But there are plenty of scenarios, including foul trouble, injuries, etc., that force guys at the end of the bench to play a role. For the Celtics to make a deep playoff run, they'll need young players such as Langford and both Williams' to give them some good minutes against contending teams. 

One of the best ways to find out which players are capable of handling that burden is actually giving them minutes before the playoffs, and Friday's game against the Raptors is a good opportunity to see how these young guys respond.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast on your favorite podcast app or watch it on YouTube below.