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NBA Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum makes an announcement during the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery at the Palmer House Hotel on May 15, 2018 in Chicago, IL.
NBA Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum makes an announcement during the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery at the Palmer House Hotel on May 15, 2018 in Chicago, IL.
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

MikeCheck: 5 Things to Know as Grizzlies Enter Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery

by Michael Wallace | Grind City Media

CHICAGO – The fate of the Grizzlies franchise rests on the lucky bounces of a set of ping pong balls.

Well, not entirely.

Zion Williamson

But the next seismic step the Grizzlies take in what is already shaping up as a major offseason makeover will come Tuesday night in a Chicago Hilton ballroom. That’s where the NBA Draft Lottery will determine the fate of 14 teams that hope to hit on longshot odds to land the top pick.

Count Memphis among those teams likely having Zion Williamson dreams, with the dynamic freshman forward from Duke emerging as the consensus No. 1 prospect entering the June 20 draft. As the countdown closes in on ESPN’s 7:30 p.m. announcement of lottery results in the network’s pregame show for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, here are Grind City Media’s ‘Five Things To Know’ about the Grizzlies.

1. Who's in charge

A month after being promoted to Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, 30-year-old Zach Kleiman returns to his hometown for his biggest day on the job yet. Kleiman will represent the Grizzlies among a group of executives from each lottery team and a panel of 11 national and veteran NBA reporters sequestered in a separate Hilton ballroom. That’s where the actual drawing for the first four picks will be determined about an hour before the national broadcast.

It’s been a busy month for Kleiman, who is working with team president Jason Wexler in the midst of a coaching search that – for at least a few hours – will be put on hold as the front-office shifts its focus to the Windy City. Kleiman will be joined in Chicago for this week’s lottery and NBA Combine by other Grizzlies front-office executives, including Tayshaun Prince, Rich Cho and Chris Makris.

“It’s understood completely out of the gate that I’m not going to get any credit, any respect, or anything until we work through and prove what we’re capable of,” Kleiman said last month of assuming the day-to-day role of running basketball operations. “It’s absolutely different when you’re empowered, put in that position and you actually have the ability to shape things and do them the right way.”

2. The Grizzlies' Odds

Slotted eighth entering the random-but-weighted lottery, the Grizzlies have a 6-percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick, a 6.3-percent shot at No. 2 and a 26.2-percent shot to land somewhere in the top four. Williamson, Murray State point guard Ja Morant, Duke swingman R.J. Barrett and Texas Tech’s guard Jarrett Culver are considered the top four prospects should they remain in the draft as expected.  

The Grizzlies are one of five NBA teams to never land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Memphis is unable to finish fifth, sixth or seventh in Tuesday’s lottery. From there, the Grizzlies have a 31.2-percent chance to maintain their standing in the eighth spot in the order and a 42.6-percent shot to land ninth, 10th or 11th in the order. Should the Grizzlies fall to ninth, 10th or 11th, their first-round pick will be conveyed to Boston to complete a 2015 trade in which Memphis acquired Jeff Green from the Celtics.

The Grizzlies also currently do not possess a second-round pick in this year’s draft after trading it as part of a deal with Chicago in January to acquire Justin Holliday, who will be a free-agent in July.

Elliot Perry

Minority Owner and Director of Player Support, Elliot Perry represents the Memphis Grizzlies during the NBA Draft Lottery on May 15, 2018 at The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, IL. Photo by Gary Dineen via Getty Images.

3. Who's On Stage?

For the second straight year, Grizzlies minority owner Elliot Perry will represent the franchise on the Draft Lottery set for the nationally televised portion of the event.

A Memphis native, Perry starred for the Memphis Tigers and spent time near the end of his decade-long NBA playing career with the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies entered last year’s lottery slotted second, but came away with the fourth pick, which was used a month later on Jaren Jackson Jr., a first team All-Rookie candidate.

Perry will be one of six current or former NBA players representing teams on the stage at Tuesday’s lottery, along with Patrick Ewing (Knicks), Alonzo Mourning (Heat), Kyle Kuzma (Lakers), Deandre Ayton (Suns) and Horace Grant (Bulls). Two current coaches will also be on stage, with Alvin Gentry representing the Pelicans and James Borrego sitting in for the Hornets.

4. Recent Lottery Results

Last year, the first three times numbers were drawn to determine which team landed the No. 1 pick, Phoenix’s combinations came up each time. So it seemed the Suns were destined for the top pick in the draft after entering with the highest odds – then 25-percent – to win the lottery and draft Ayton.

But this year, a new rules change takes effect that flattened out the odds among the three teams that finished with the worst regular-season records. The Suns, Knicks and Cavaliers each has a 14-percent chance at the No. 1 pick on Tuesday. As mentioned previously, the Grizzlies are currently slotted eighth.

Over the past five years, no team slotted eighth entering the lottery emerged with a higher (better) position than what they had going into the proceedings. Three teams in the last four lotteries maintained their spot in eighth. Cleveland entered and exited at No. 8 at last year’s lottery and went on to draft point guard Collin Sexton a month later.

5. What's Next For Memphis?

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, at least part of the Grizzlies’ front-office contingent is likely to remain in Chicago to conduct player interviews and monitor the NBA Draft Combine, which starts Wednesday and includes public workouts Thursday and Friday.

With the majority of the Grizzlies roster comprised of players either set to enter free agency this summer or entering the final year on their contracts, Memphis could be active in the trade market. The Grizzlies could either deal their way back into the June draft, or set up moves that could land the team young players in exchange for veterans moving forward.

The outcome of Tuesday’s lottery could also have at least some impact on the Grizzlies’ coaching search as well as looming decisions on potential dealings with veterans Mike Conley and Jonas Valanciunas. Memphis fielded trade offers for Conley at the February deadline, but opted to keep the franchise’s career leading scorer. Conley has two seasons remaining on his contract, while Valanciunas is facing a mid-June decision to either opt into the final year of his deal or opt out to test free agency this summer.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.


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