The Grizzlies are without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke, but they’d still be a playoff team if the 2019-20 season were to end before their matchup against the Nets on Wednesday.
The Pelicans had a recent surge with Zion Williamson finally getting involved in the action. But they’re now four games behind Memphis in the Western Conference standings.
San Antonio and Portland continue to hang around, but another team has entered the fray and passed the Pelicans, Spurs and Blazers. The Kings — who have largely been a disappointment, given their young talent.
Either way, Sacramento is the No. 9 team in the West entering play on Wednesday after going 7-4 in February. And the Kings knocked off the Grizzlies twice last month, and they had wins over the Clippers and Heat.
De’Aaron Fox was a nominee for Western Conference Player of the Month after he averaged 20.9 points and six assists throughout February, and he’s had a strong start to March. Buddy Hield has been outstanding for the Kings, too. Since the start of February, he’s shooting 44.7% from deep and is averaging 18.3 points per game.
Still, the Memphis pick becoming a lottery selection only does so much for the Celtics. If, somehow, the Grizzlies became a lottery team by the end of the season and the ping pong balls allowed them to move up into their current protected area (picks 1-6), the Celtics would get the pick for the 2021 NBA Draft without any protections. The pick dropping back to 2021 would give it more value, but the ascension of this Memphis team will continue to negatively impact the value of this asset.
But again, that scenario is a big “if,” right now. The most likely outcome remains the Celtics get the pick in 2020.