The Memphis Grizzlies finished the season as one of the NBA’s surprise stories, but now they have to capitalize on that success.
The Grizzlies have two first-round picks (22nd and 29th overall) and one second-round pick (47th) in Thursday night’s NBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN). Memphis is in a unique position where it can build on its success by trading up, down or staying put.
General manager Zach Kleiman has a high success rate on recent first-round picks. Here’s a look at potential draft scenarios for the Grizzlies:
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The Grizzlies drafted Desmond Bane 30th two seasons ago and Brandon Clarke 21st overall in 2019. Both players have outplayed their draft position.
Kleiman and the front office have demonstrated an ability to find older college players who have clear strengths. The Grizzlies needed players who could come in and play right away, but the situation is different after a franchise-record 56-win season. Yes Morant, Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. are all but penciled in as starters, while other starters from last season, Dillon Brooks and Steven Adams, are also under contract. Memphis can afford to stay put and take more risks on younger prospects with higher ceilings while depending on their developmental system.
Going up the draft boards is usually an indication that a team has its eye on someone and isn’t going to let that player get away. If the Grizzlies trade up, they are likely doing so to add another member to their core. Morant and Jackson have already been described as cornerstone players by Kleiman, and Bane’s most recent season suggests he’s entering that tier, too. If Memphis is to move up, that leaves another wing position and center, the starting spots occupied by Brooks and Adams, as the likely two for a selection. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins and Morant are among those high on the upside of Grizzlies wing Ziaire Williams, so center will be the likely target.
The Charlotte Hornets have the 13th and 15th picks and are rumored to be interested in shopping one of the choices. Center is also a big need for Charlotte, but trading up for a player like Jalen Duren or Mark Williams seems like the clearest scenario for Memphis.
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Trading down (or out)
If the Grizzlies trade down in the draft, it’s likely they will use the pick to acquire another veteran asset. While starting lineup changes aren’t much of a certainty, Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones’ pending free agencies could leave holes in bench depth. One way Memphis can make sure it gets the guy it wants is to trade for current players under contract for first-round picks. If you remove cap holds up the projected Grizzlies free agents, Memphis is expected to have around $24 million in cap space, according to the professional sports salaries database Spotrac. Kleiman stated that he wouldn’t put too much into the projected cap space during his end of season press conference, but he also mentioned the three draft picks as a reason why. If Memphis moves off of its picks, $24 million is more than enough to acquire potential depth pieces. Last year’s 29th overall pick was used for this same example, when the Phoenix Suns acquired reserve shooting guard Landry Shamet.
Contact Damichael Cole at email@example.com and on Twitter @damichaelc