A while back, the Memphis Grizzlies traded away a pick for a player they thought could be the missing piece. Now, that pick can make things gray in Memphis.
A long time ago, in a land right on Beale Street, a basketball team arose to potential glory. As the league became faster, they stuck to the status quo and were one of the best teams in the league. Two All-Star big men led the charge as they received help from a rising point guard, an elite defender and numerous role players. These Memphis Grizzlies needed just one more piece to complete the championship puzzle. This piece was going to help finally bring a championship parade on Beale Street.
This one piece wasn’t among the NBA’s elite. In fact, he may fall in infamy. This piece was Jeff Green.
The West was a battle as the Warriors, Grizzlies, Blazers, Mavericks, Rockets, Thunder, Clippers and Spurs were all gunning for top spots. It was wide open.
The Warriors unlocked MVP Steph Curry. Portland was hot behind a stellar starting 5 of Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, Lamarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez. James Harden was playing at an MVP-level for Houston. The Spurs were the Spurs, except they still had Tim Duncan. Dallas had just traded for Rajon Rondo to lead a league’s best offense (tidbit: this offense had a healthy Chandler Parsons). Oklahoma City had two top-5 players in the prime of their careers. The Clippers still had Chris Paul — one of the greatest point guards of all time.
The Memphis Grizzlies needed to make a move, and they did. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and now they face the repercussions.
In this three-team trade:
The Pelicans received: Quincy Pondexter, a 2015 second-round pick (from MEM) and a trade exception.
Celtics received: Tayshaun Prince, Austin Rivers, a protected 2019 first-round pick (from MEM)
Grizzlies received: Jeff Green and Russ Smith.
How this trade affects things
As we all know, Jeff Green wasn’t the piece that led the Memphis Grizzlies to playoff glory. He might go down as one of the most frustrating players in franchise history.
However, the real blow from the trade is the first-round pick Boston possesses in Danny Ainge’s bank of assets. This first-round pick is protected from picks 1-8 in 2019 — meaning if it falls in that range, the Grizzlies keep it. In 2020, it’s protected from picks 1-6. However, in 2021, it’ll go to Boston no matter where it falls.
To all those that are pleading for a rebuild, this traded pick makes it difficult to do such a thing.
Hypothetically, let’s say the Memphis Grizzlies miss this year and get a pick between 10 and 14. Great! There’s a potential future building block.
Now, here’s where it gets sticky.
Let’s say after next summer’s draft, the Grizzlies hit kaboom and clean the house. No more Parsons, Gasol and Conley.
Aw, yeah rebuild time!
In 2019 and 2020, they receive two top-5 picks — which could be a big deal for Memphis. They’d have a shot at a combination of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, LaMelo Ball or James Wiseman. However, that lost pick for the Grizzlies in 2021 will hurt their rebuild. If they’re still one of the league’s worst, they’ll miss out on another potential star.
They really only have two scenarios with this ordeal. One is way more likely than the other:
- Trade Marc Gasol to Boston for a package that includes the pick. This scenario isn’t impossible, but don’t count on it. Gasol and Boston have been tied together in trade rumors all summer. If it doesn’t the additions of Hayward and Kyrie are enough, they could eye Gasol as the missing piece. However, don’t count on it.
- Hold off on the rebuild. Here’s the more likely one. The Memphis Grizzlies have the talent to make the playoffs again. If everything breaks right, you’re looking at a potential contender for the fifth seed. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are still All-Star players coming off career years. Then, healthy versions of Chandler Parsons and Tyreke Evans are perfect compliments. If they hold off on the rebuild until some contracts expire, the Grizzlies could be giving up their pick in 2019 — before it goes unprotected.
Because of this trade, the Memphis Grizzlies endured the “Jeff Green Experience,” and it may cost them a high draft pick.
How the 2017-18 season goes will determine the direction of this franchise and the impact of this lost pick.