The Boston Celtics could still end up with a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and it all depends on the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies will send their 2020 first-round pick to the Celtics if it lands outside the top six. If it lands inside the top six, then Memphis would send its 2021 pick to Boston unprotected.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Celtics news and analysis
The popular opinion is it would benefit the Celtics to get the pick this year because the Grizzlies are a team on the rise with a roster of young stars such as Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. While it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the Grizzlies continued their improvement into next season, it’s far from a guarantee. The Western Conference is loaded, and there are three or four teams behind the Grizzlies that also could take major leaps next season. One of them is the New Orleans Pelicans, who are hoping No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson is able to play most of his sophomore campaign after missing the majority of his rookie season.
Another reason why the C’s might prefer to get the Grizzlies pick next year instead of this season is the quality of the 2020 draft class. This year’s draft isn’t rich with franchise cornerstone-type players, unlike the last two classes. The 2020 class has pretty good depth, but it lacks the type of superstar talent we’ve seen in recent years.
Let’s look at the scenarios at play for the Celtics.
The most likely one is the Grizzlies hold on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference and make the playoffs. This result would place them outside the lottery and send their pick to the C’s this year. The Grizzlies have two paths to the playoffs – keep the No. 8 seed or win a play-in tournament. Memphis has a 3.5-game lead for the final postseason berth, and under the league’s 22-team return plan, if the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in either conference are within four games of each other when the eight additional regular season games conclude, those clubs would compete in a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed. The play-in tournament is single elimination for the No. 9 seed and double elimination for the No. 8 seed.
There are five teams in the Western Conference chasing the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the restart, and all of them are within six games of Memphis. The Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings and Pelicans all are 3.5 games behind Memphis.
If the Grizzlies collapse and fail to reach the playoffs, their lottery position is already determined. The league announced Thursday that all lottery odds will be based on teams’ records through March 11. So, even if the Grizzlies went 0-8 in the restart and finished with a worse record than teams not included in the restart, they still would be slotted 14th in the lottery odds. The 2020 Draft Lottery is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 25.
The Grizzlies’ chances of jumping into the top four in the lottery as the 14th team are extremely slim. Here’s a breakdown of the odds:
NBA spells out lottery scenarios in restart release. If Grizzlies fall out of playoffs, they will have the worst lottery odds (only 2.4% chance to vault to top 4) and would likely convey 14th pick to BOS. If Grizzlies make playoffs, pick 17 if they stay in front of ORL and BKN. pic.twitter.com/HfP7xpVnDd— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) June 4, 2020
So, even if the Grizzlies were in the lottery, it would be a huge upset if the Celtics didn’t get their first-round pick this year.
The smart money is on the Grizzlies winning the No. 8 seed and the Celtics getting their pick, which would be the No. 17 pick right now. Boston also has its own 2020 first-round pick and the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-rounder. The Celtics don’t need three more rookies on their roster, especially after they made two first-round selections in 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see how team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge uses these picks leading up to October’s draft.