For years, despite not being there themselves, the NBA Draft Lottery has held a lot of intrigue for the Boston Celtics. First, it was the collection of picks from the Brooklyn Nets. Last year, it was the pick Danny Ainge acquired from the Sacramento Kings via the Philadelphia 76ers.
Now? Boston’s down to one final future pick from the Memphis Grizzlies. Because Memphis was far better than expected this season, that pick hangs in the balance more than hoped for. Either the Grizzlies convey the pick to the Celtics for the 2020 NBA Draft, or it rolls over one last time to unprotected for the 2021 NBA Draft.
The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery is tonight at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN. Here’s what you need to know as a Celtics fan:
· The pick is top-six protected, but Memphis can only land at one of five spots in the lottery: 1-4 or 14. The lottery only decides the first four picks. So, it’s Grizzlies at 1-4 or the pick goes to the Celtics at #14.
· Memphis has the 14th best (or worst) odds of moving up in the lottery.
· The odds of the Grizzlies staying at #14 and thus convey the pick to Boston are 97.6%.
· The cumulative odds of Memphis moving up to a pick that falls between #1 and #4 are 2.4%.
What should you root for as a Celtics fan? You want the Grizzlies to get lucky and to move up. That may seem backwards. It would add another young, talented player to an already better-than-expected Memphis team. That would seem to make it more likely that if Boston gets a pick in 2021, it might not even be as good as #14.
Here’s the challenge with that line of thinking. #14 in this draft isn’t as valuable as it might seems. This is a down year for the draft. Next year’s class projects to be better and a year where you want an extra pick.
The other challenge with the reasoning of wanting the pick this year is that there is no guarantee Memphis will be better next year. The Western Conference is ridiculously deep and teams like the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers are bound to be playoff teams. The Grizzlies could be a better team and have a worse record, just by virtue of circumstance.
Lastly, Boston’s roster is already crowded. The Celtics only have three for-sure free agents this offseason. They are Brad Wanamaker and Two-Way players Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters, and all three have the potential to be restricted free agents as well.
Ainge added seven rookies last year, as he drafted Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards and Waters, signed the undrafted Fall to a Two-Way and brought Javonte Green and Vincent Poirier in from overseas.
To put it simply: Boston doesn’t have room for four more rookies. The 14th pick (from Memphis), 26th pick (Boston’s own), 30th pick (from Milwaukee) and 47th pick could be packaged together via trade, but they aren’t moving you up the draft board all that far.
Ainge could also trade one, or more, of those picks for a pick in a future draft and roll over the asset. Or, if he keeps all of them, he’ll likely draft and stash a player or two, as he did with Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic in 2016.
That’s a lot of “could” and “likely”. It’s better for the Celtics to simply have the unknown and the potential allure of an unprotected pick from the Grizzlies in 2021. For that reason, you’re hoping you don’t see a Memphis/Boston logo come up first when the draft order is announced tonight.