The Memphis Grizzlies did their best to win games this season, and in return, managed to slide into the No. 2 spot for the 2019 NBA Draft. How will this change the NBA moving forward?
May 14th was filled with excitement for the Memphis Grizzlies organization, but for other NBA teams that were seemingly trying their best to lose games in order to gain better luck at the NBA Draft Lottery, it was littered with disappointment.
The Grizzlies ended the 2018-19 NBA season with a poor 33-49 record, which after the official tiebreaker showdown hosted by the league, Memphis landed in the eighth-worst spot of 30 total teams. In front of them in seventh were the New Orleans Pelicans. Also important to note were the 11th-place Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA Draft Lottery is a very unique event within professional sports. While teams can “tank” all they want in order to enhance their odds of landing a top Draft pick, it all comes down to how the ping pong balls fall. This year, madness ensued.
It is actually not a rare sight to see an NBA team with marginal odds to land a top pick become extremely lucky on Lottery Night and hit the jackpot. Most notable are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have become accustomed to receiving the coveted No. 1 overall pick, in addition to the Chicago Bulls when they leaped from the ninth position to No. 1 to select Derrick Rose in 2008.
2019’s results not only moved the Los Angeles Lakers from 11th to fourth overall, but the Memphis Grizzlies moved from eighth to second overall, and the New Orleans Pelicans will jump-start their franchise by moving from the seventh position to first overall. The Pelicans will likely welcome Duke’s Zion Williamson to NOLA, while the Grizzlies will be able to begin the next era of Memphis hoops with a star talent in Murray State’s Ja Morant.
During the season, the Memphis Grizzlies’ Front Office publicly stated that they preferred to win as many games as possible in an attempt to convey their first-round NBA Draft pick to the Boston Celtics. That plan backfired, but in a the most spectacular way possible (aside from getting the No. 1 pick instead of No. 2, of course). The same can be said for the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers.
Not just one team jumped to the top of the Draft Board. Three teams did. The New York Knicks — the owners of the 2018-19 season’s worst record — were the favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick, but they manged to fall into the No. 3 overall spot. Talk about a gut punch for them. Still, this further proves that it is not worth losing games almost intentionally, such as sitting key (healthy) veteran players in order to have a lesser chance of victory.
In essence, the Memphis Grizzlies in particular became highly rewarded because they did as the NBA would want all teams to do, and that is to give it their best effort and strive to win as many games as possible regardless of opponent strength. With the Grizzlies becoming oh so lucky on May 14th at the NBA Draft Lottery, it appears as if major change is on the way to encourage other “tanking” teams to consider Memphis’ approach in the future.
According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the NBA’s Commissioner, Adam Silver, is strongly considering the implementation of other incentives for teams to truly give it their all during the 82-game regular season.
While the specific details are still mere rumors rather than anything set in stone, this is a very intriguing and interesting approach the NBA could take. It would affect “tanking” tactics, the level of seriousness during NBA All-Star events, and the clinching of a playoff berth for NBA teams. This is one way in which the association could continuously improve and actually become better than it already is, believe it or not.
The NBA has warned and disciplined franchises in the past for purposely tanking in the season’s second-half. They also punish teams for sitting/resting star players, and rightfully so considering fans pay to watch the game’s biggest stars on the court and not on the sidelines in street clothes. This is the step in the right direction in order to correct some gray areas and flaws.
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It seems inevitable that the NBA will make a change, and do not be surprised if it happens sooner rather than later. Being as large-market teams such as the Knicks are continuing to reside at the bottom of the league’s ladder, it adds more incentive for Silver & company to find ways to boost these more popular teams.
Let’s face it, even if you loathe the Knicks, NBA basketball is better when they are competitive. Right now, they are not, and they were unable to land the first and second overall picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. New York is stuck in the rut of mediocrity.
For the Memphis Grizzlies, this new movement would not change much. If anything, it may help them and some of these other teams that are currently falling within the middle of the pack.
Alternatively, if Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant (assuming Ja is the result of the No. 2 pick) fulfill their potential, Memphis may not have much to worry about regardless. This tandem could boost them to the top of the league standings, somewhere that is not even concerned about NBA Draft position.