Last night was an insane night for the NBA. After adjusting the NBA Lottery odds and adding an additional lotto spot (4th spot), the NBA saw the results. Three non-tanking teams, the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers, and New Orleans Pelicans, all jumped into the top four. Meanwhile, only one tank commanded special, the New York Knicks, were in the top three but failed to be in the top two. It was a crazy evening. Even though the Utah Jazz were not in it, the effects of this night will reverberate throughout the Utah Jazz’s offseason.
The Memphis Grizzlies have a young point guard successor to Mike Conley. Let the Mike Conley trade machining begin!
This is the most obvious ripple effect from last night’s lottery. With the Memphis Grizzlies winning the second pick, they have the inside road in selecting Ja Morant out of Murray State. Unless something crazy happens, Morant is headed to Memphis. This means that the Grizzlies can move Mike Conley without requiring a young point guard coming back. The return for Mike Conley can be more diversified. It also may mean that Conley’s value may have dropped a bit as Memphis isn’t in dire straights with their rebuild. Part of Conley’s increased price was due to Memphis’ future pick protections that would go to Boston as a Top 6 protected in 2020. Now that Memphis has a guaranteed top two pick, they could be looking for a young asset and possibly more of a veteran presence as they build around Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Utah had been in heavy trade talks with Memphis at the trade deadline, but the Grizzlies wanted two first round picks as they could be replacing a high lottery pick moving forward. Now that the Grizzlies already won the lottery, their desperation could be different. Joe Mullinax of Grizzly Bear Blues had this possible trade package for Utah to build around.
Memphis receives: Royce O’Neale, Grayson Allen, 2020 1st round pick (protected 1-4 and 15-30 in 2020, protected 1-4 and 23-30 in 2021, unprotected in 2022), 2023 2nd round pick
Utah receives: Mike Conley
Why Utah does the deal: I mean...isn’t it obvious?
The Jazz give up none of their “core” pieces. None of them. Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell...even their beloved Joe Ingles remains in Utah. Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Dante Exum (which, by the way, dodged a bullet there)...they are all still Jazz core players. You are adding to that core a star point guard, someone whose contract expires when you are going to have to offer a max deal to Mitchell, and whose skill set is a hand in glove fit with coach Quin Snyder and company. As long as everyone is healthy, the doomsday scenario of an unprotected 2022 1st round pick (more on that in a moment) won’t happen.
This would allow Utah to avoid free agency and not be the odd team out doling out big contracts to B-Tier players as they miss out on big time free agents. Grizzlies winning the lottery keeps the Conley window open.
The New Orleans Pelicans winning the lottery affects Jrue Holiday’s availability. The Jrue Holiday pipe dream is dead.
With Zion Williamson headed to the New Orleans Pelicans, I doubt Pelicans GM David Griffin wants to jettison not one, but two stars in one offseason. He could pour gasoline to the rebuild around Zion Williamson by moving Holiday and Anthony Davis, but something tells me that he’s about to go full court press with the “Stay in New Orleans” game plan. For those who don’t think it’s possible, the Lakers did this with Kobe Bryant. They were able to salvage an almost dead in the water situation and keep him in Los Angeles by getting Pau Gasol from Memphis. Now New Orleans has added one of the best prospects to enter the NBA in some time in Zion Williamson.
Even if Anthony Davis still forces his way out of New Orleans, that possibly couldn’t happen until the trade deadline of 2020. By that point, Griffin is going to be showing Anthony Davis that he can not only be lucky, but he can add amazing free agent talent around a core of Holiday, Zion, and AD. For anyone holding their breath for Holiday hitting the trade market, that pipe dream most likely has hit its end.
The Knicks misfortune may have once again become the Utah Jazz’s fortune.
Years ago in 2011, the New York Knicks conveyed their pick to the Utah Jazz. That pick would become Gordon Hayward. Now eight years later, the Utah Jazz don’t own a pick from New York, but New York dropping to 3rd and not having as valuable a pick for trade negotiations could pay off for Utah. The Knicks had hastily leaked before the draft that if they landed the top pick they would package it in a trade for Anthony Davis. Well ... that didn’t end up well.
Now the Knicks can still package the 3rd pick and other assets for Anthony Davis as they look to build the foundation for nabbing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the offseason, but it’s not as tantalizing an offer. The Pelicans hold all the leverage with having the first chance in the draft to select the once in a generation player Zion Williamson. So how does this all help Utah?
Marc Stein on Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving: "They might be a package deal but they're gonna look at the Nets just as hard as the Knicks." pic.twitter.com/FiB3SFZ05X— Chris Montano (@gswchris) May 14, 2019
Enter the Brooklyn Nets. They already have amazing depth and all they’d have to do to get both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is pass on D’Angelo Russell. Any team would make that choice in a heartbeat. Utah would definitely have an inside road to D’Angelo Russell. For one, they share NBA agents. You best believe that their agent talks about how much Donovan Mitchell loves Utah. The other thing is they’re actually good friends off the court.
Utah would easily throw a max contract at D’Angelo Russell. This would give them the backcourt of the future and allow them to compete for years to come. More importantly, the Knicks failing at the Draft Lottery could possibly throw a wrench into their plans of putting together a “Big 3” with Anthony Davis, especially if the Pelicans can talk AD into staying in New Orleans. His possible trade is not a done deal.
IT’S THE END OF TANKING AS WE KNOW IT. IT’S ... THE ... END OF TANKING AS WE KNOW IT. AND I FEEL FINE.
Rudy Gobert proudly declared it last night.
We just witnessed the end of tanking . And we should be happy about it.— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) May 15, 2019
While there’ll inevitably be bad teams due to lack of talent, the practice of purposefully putting together a crap team because the chances of landing a top 3 pick are in your favor is over. The worst three teams—Knicks, Suns, Cavaliers—all saw themselves bumped significantly down. The Knicks finished 3rd, Cavaliers finished 5th, and the Suns finished 6th.
With such low odds of adding significant talent, we should see more well run organizations focusing on developing talent and being better rather than throwing in the towel at the end of every NBA season. While the future will inevitably bring us the league’s worst team getting the top pick even with depressed odds, banking your team’s future on it is not going to be a smart business strategy. Hinkie’s strategy with the Sixers is now a VERY dicey road to follow with scattered odds.
This helps small market teams who can’t afford to be bad for multiple years in a row without losing profits—or worse, their franchise. If the Jazz were to barely miss the playoffs in the future, there’s an increased chance of rising into the top 4. Well-run franchises that work to compete now are more incentivized to do so even if they barely miss out. I’m sure Adam Silver wants to make this parity in the lottery even more flattened, but in the meantime, his team is on the right track.