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Grizzlies Draft Day: Doncic/Bamba bidding war, Chandler Parsons’ contract, and Eight Potential Scenarios

Note: For anyone who’s happened upon these draft posts this week and doesn’t otherwise know (but somehow cares, I guess), this is not where my basketball writing (or most other writing) normally exists. I’m stuck between stations this summer but will re-emerge at a “real” space (which I’m excited about) sometime before next season begins. (Stay tuned.)

Hey, it’s draft day! Whether the ultimate outcome is a good one for the Grizzlies will essentially remain a mystery long after the dust clears tomorrow morning, but having the #4 pick in a strong but unsettled draft has at least yielded plenty of intrigue. Before we break down eight scenarios for what could happen with the Grizzlies in tonight’s lottery portion of the draft, let’s take a look at a couple of related news (read: scuttle) items from yesterday:

The Roar of the Masses Could Be Trade Chatter

With the Kings still expected to take Marvin Bagley at #2, there appears to be enough interest in both Luka Doncic and Mohamed Bamba to create a wealth of suitors for both Atlanta’s pick at #3 and the Grizzlies’ pick at #4. Seven different teams — Dallas, Orlando, Chicago, New York, L.A. Clippers, Denver, and Boston — have been mentioned as trade-up candidates in pursuit of one or the other. Bidding war!

Here’s a question: What if the Kings take Doncic? Is there the same level of trade-up interest in Bagley? Another: If the Grizzlies want a shot at Doncic, should they play extremely coy in hopes that a Bamba pursuer becomes more motivated to move up to #3?  

Whatever happens, I’d expect the chatter to be strong throughout the day, even if the result could be everyone staying put and generally taking who they were projected to take a month ago.

About That Parsons Contract

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been responding (mostly on social media and daily radio hits) to suggestions about the Grizzlies “getting off the Parsons’ contract” with leading questions about what exactly people think this means. It’s become a mantra without a follow-up explanation, like “getting off Parsons’ contract” is some kind of magical fairy dust that would transform the Grizzlies’ fortunes.

So, I was glad to see a report on the notion that considers the actual impact. From Jonathan Givony last night:

Knee soreness has led to Parsons playing in only 70 games since joining the Grizzlies in 2016. For Memphis, trading Parsons would potentially create significant salary-cap space in the summer of 2019, and only point guard Mike Conley is under a guaranteed contract for the 2020-21 season.

Still, due to NBA rules requiring matching salaries for teams over the salary cap, any trade Memphis makes on Thursday will need to bring back a contract or several contracts of significant size, at least for the 2018-19 season.

Theoretically, there are scenarios where the Grizzlies could move Parsons contract for close to full immediate savings, but this isn’t going to happen. The reality of “getting off Parsons’ contract” is as Givony describes it: You might save a few million this summer, which could have some use for next season. But that won’t really impact 2019 free agency, which is almost certainly going to be restricted to the mid-level exception even with a Parsons deal.

Rather, the best case scenario is removing the final year of Parsons’ contract (2019-2020) and creating some meaningful cap space in the summer of 2019. Personally, I’m skeptical about whether the Grizzlies should or even would be able to use significant space that summer.

If you trade down in the draft, you get paid for doing so in the form of additional value beyond the lower pick you obtain. If you attach Parsons’ onerous deal to the pick you’re trading, that lessons the additional value. It acts as a kind of anchor. There are complicated reasons why the Grizzlies should try to be competitive this season, but it should not be at the expense of long-term value, at the expense of the next post-Conley/post-Gasol Grizzlies team. If the Grizzlies trade down, the extra value they should most want should be tangible (not cap space) and with some form of long-term control: Additional picks or desired youngish players on multi-year deals.

I certainly wouldn’t mind moving Parsons if I’m the Grizzlies, but I’m not interested in deals where this is the primary goal.

With that in mind …

Eight Grizzlies Scenarios at #4

Here are the eight most likely ways tonight could go down for the Grizzlies in regard to the #4 pick, ranked in my own order of preference:

1. Luka Doncic: I don’t think Doncic is a sure-thing star, but I do think he’s the second-best overall prospect in the draft, whose size/skill/position profile is the most valuable in the modern NBA and who would give the team both an opening night starter and a new long-term cornerstone. How does this happen? The mostly likely path would be Marvin Bagley going #2 to Sacramento and Atlanta either taking Jaren Jackson at #3 or trading with a team that’s moving up to get Mo Bamba. It’s not likely, but it’s quite a longshot either.

2. A “Good” Trade Down: I’m not quite as sold on Marvin Bagley’s certain stardom as a lot of Grizzlies fans seem to be. I think it’s a close call between him and the less electric but much more well-rounded Jaren Jackson or even Wendell Carter. If the Grizzlies can trade down in a way that would guarantee them either Jackson or Carter as well as secure a meaningful piece of value beyond this season — another first-round pick now (such as Chicago’s #22, as a starting point), a not heavily protected future first-round pick, or a quality still-youngish player with more than one year left on his contract (such as Orlando’s Evan Fournier) —  I’d probably do that even over taking Bagley, though it would not be popular. The problem with the 4 for 7/22 scenario here is that I don’t think you could agree to it with certainty of getting Jackson or Carter at 7. If Bamba goes 4, then it’s quite possible that Jackson goes 5 and Carter goes 6. I’d take Bagley over taking that risk.

3. Marvin Bagley III: I would however set aside my doubts and take Bagley straight up over Jackson or Carter due to the relative safety his rare combination of athleticism, pedigree, and production suggests, his instant fit on the current roster, and the excitement he would generate. How does this happen? The Kings take Doncic at #2 and the Hawks either take Jackson at #3 or trade with a team moving up for Bamba. Probably the least likely scenario on the board, but still very possible.

4. A “Decent” Trade Down: With Doncic and Bagley off the board, I’d take Jackson or Carter at #4, and since I think it’s a relatively close call between the two, I’m willing to trade down as long as I can secure one of them. Any trade down is going to net at least some measure of additional value, even if it’s just the kind of likely middling value that would come from slicing away some of the burden of Parsons’ contract.

5. Jaren Jackson Jr.: If trade-down scenarios can’t guarantee me still getting Jackson or Carter, I’d just stay put and take Jackson, whose upside potential is on the same level (at least) as Doncic and Bagley and whose health, pedigree, and defensive fundamentals suggest more safety than the Bamba/Trae Young/Michael Porter class of potential stars.

6. Wendell Carter Jr.: If the Grizzlies choose Carter over Jackson, I won’t fully approve, but I won’t hate it either. Jackson has more upside and more foot speed, the latter not unrelated to the former and offering him an easier short-term fit alongside Marc Gasol. But I think Carter is rock-solid, the kind of tough, skilled big man for which I tend to fall.

7. A “Bad” Trade Down: I’m less enthusiastic about trade-down scenarios that can’t bring back Jackson or Carter and/or which bring back relatively minimal future value. Deals with the Clippers or Knicks that put you more into the Mikal Bridges/Kevin Knox/Miles Bridges range and pair that with middling rotation players such as Courtney Lee or Patrick Beverly aren’t worth moving down.

8. Michael Porter: I’m assuming this is now a non-starter given some of the bleak recent suggestions about Porter’s prognosis for next season. But maybe those not-quite-reports are smokescreen. Maybe the Grizzlies, totally mum on this front, are more comfortable with Porter than we have reason to expect. I don’t know. But based on what I know — the only thing I have to go on — I couldn’t go into the draft with the 4th pick and come out with a guy with this health profile.  

Hey, There’s a Pick at #32 Too

There’s so much speculative action at #4 that the Grizzlies pick at #32 hasn’t gotten much attention. But I think this is a pretty deep draft and the team has a good chance to add a nice piece here. The only indication from Chris Wallace has been an admission that roster balance and the pick at #4 might influence this pick. Translation: If the Grizzlies end up getting a big with whatever they do at #4, they’re not taking a big at #32. I don’t think they’re taking a big here regardless. Best perimeter prospect available.

There’s been some suggestion that the Grizzlies are high on Khyri Thomas and Melvin Frazier if either is available. Since I’ve got those long-limbed defense-first wings ranked 14th and 18th, respectively, on my own draft board, I’m going to take this as an indication that the Grizzlies front office has been taking my published consultations with the proper gravity.

However it shakes out, I expect there will be several players still on the board at #32 I’d find intriguing (other candidates: Jacob Evans, Jalen Brunson, Landry Shamet). I’m prepared for the Grizzlies to instead take someone totally different. Regardless, it will be a nice draft-night dessert for Grizzlies fans after the heavy action earlier in the night.

Mock Draft Roundup

A final look at mock draft predictions for the Grizzlies picks as of early this morning:

  • ESPN: Jaren Jackson Jr./Melvin Frazier
  • The Athletic (Sam Vecenie): Jaren Jackson Jr./Jevon Carter
  • Sports Illustrated: Luka Doncic/Moritz Wagner
  • CBS (Gary Parrish): Jaren Jackson Jr./
  • Bleacher Report: Jaren Jackson Jr./Khyri Thomas
  • Tankathon: Jaren Jackson Jr./Josh Okogie
  • NBADraft.net: Jaren Jackson Jr./Josh Okogie

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