After the Free Agency and Draft dust has settled, one thing has become very clear. The NBA just became a considerably more balanced and competitive league. It’s been ages since we can say that the 2019/20 title is truly up for grabs, and predicting either Conference representative is far from a lock from a betting man’s perspective. It makes for a lot more watchable games and creates a true playoff race right out the gate in both Conferences. So many teams improved this season via the Draft, Free Agency or both.
Only a couple teams seemed to do little to nothing to improve, and one of those teams is the Memphis Grizzlies. They lost their two best players and are far down the totem pole as far as a Free Agent Destination. With only Ja Morant and Jarren Jackson to bank on, I think most would agree that this is going to certainly be one of the 5 worst teams in the NBA, with not a lot of wiggle room to change that trajectory over the next couple seasons where we are going to be getting a top 10 pick from them this season, or a likely much higher one in the summer of 2020/21.
Western Conference Potential Playoff teams (not by powering rankings): 1. Golden State 2. Lakers 3. Clippers 4. Rockets 5. Denver 6. Utah 7. Portland 8. San Antonio 9. Sacramento 10. New Orleans 11. Dallas
Only one team, OKC, devolved to the point where they are no longer in the mix, leaving only 4 teams (OKC, T-wolves, Phoenix, Memphis) who have almost no chance of sniffing the post season.
Then in the Eastern Conference, the same overall competitiveness increased for the first time in a long time.
Eastern Conference Potential Playoff teams (again not based on Power Rankings): 1. Boston 2. Philly 3. Indiana 4. Milwaukee 5. Orlando 6. Brooklyn 7. Detroit 8. Miami 9. Chicago 10. Atlanta 11. Toronto
Still not as competitive as the Western Conference in terms of talent, but the reigning champs realistically have a chance of missing the post season entirely, while teams like Atlanta improved significantly from the draft, Miami by signing Jimmy Butler, Chicago via the draft and starting the season healthy.
Only Charlotte, Washington (without John Wall), Cleveland, and the Knicks strike me as the only 4 teams who have almost no chance of a playoff birth.
My point is that with both conferences having only 4 teams apiece with arguably "no chance" at a postseason, the bottom 8 teams in the overall standings is nearly set in stone. The NBA had more of a bottom 10 or 12 for the past couple seasons, making a protected pick a lot less likely to guarantee conveying a solid return (see the Sacramento pick). By the numbers alone, with the Memphis pick being top 6 protected, with the lottery odds also flattened, it is highly unlikely that this pick ends up conveying at all this season.
I would argue that this makes the pick even more valuable, because in the current bottom 8 teams, you have Washington that will improve with Wall returning and NY wirh cap space as a "FA destination" of sorts, So that creates a highly likely "bottom 6" in the summer of 2021 that Memphis will almost certainly be a part of.
If I were Danny, I would be considering taking this pick off the table, barring a trade that nets the Celtics an allstar caliber player.
Danny Ainge pulls off another Nostradamus-like heist!