The NBA has announced preliminary plans to return on July 31st and is strongly considering a play-in tournament involving teams on the edge of the playoff race.
Currently, the Memphis Grizzlies hold a 3.5 game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Under normal circumstances, it would be somewhat difficult for Portland, or any team, to catch Memphis before the end of the regular season. However, if the NBA does decide to implement a play-in tournament for the 8th seed, it would make the Grizzlies missing the playoffs far more feasible.
The Celtics own the Grizzlies’ first round pick this season, so if Memphis is eliminated by a team like the Pelicans or Trail Blazers, the Celtics should end up with significantly better draft position. The pick is currently slotted in at 17th, but could jump up to 14th or higher depending on how the NBA decides to dictate the final standings under their temporary format. This is mostly speculative, however, as the NBA hasn’t announced how their potential play-in tournament would impact draft position.
Even if the Grizzlies do end up in the lottery, there isn’t any hope of the Celtics ending up with a top selection. The pick is top-6 protected, so if Memphis does get lucky and jump up in the draft, they’ll get to keep it. However, the pick is unprotected in 2021, so Memphis jumping up and keeping their pick this year might ultimately benefit the Celtics since this year’s draft is said to be much weaker than the 2021 class. Even if the Grizzlies do get a talented player at the top of the draft and aren’t bad enough to end up back in the lottery next year, the Celtics would still likely be happier with a middling selection in 2021 than one in 2020.
Photo: (Bob DeChiara- USA Today Sports)