Will Celtics land Grizzlies' 2020 first-round draft pick? Scenarios explained


Do the Boston Celtics really want to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night?

Here's why that's a question worth asking: The Celtics own the rights to the Grizzlies' first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, unless Memphis' pick lands in the top six. If the Grizzlies earn a top-six pick, they'll send an unprotected 2021 first-round pick to Boston instead.

Basically, whether the Celtics land Memphis' pick in 2020 comes down to whether the Grizzlies make the playoffs.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

It doesn't enter the draft lottery, guaranteeing its picks is outside the top 14. Boston gets the Grizzlies' 2020 pick.

The Grizzlies would be guaranteed the No. 14 spot in the lottery, regardless of how far they slide in the NBA bubble standings.

The lottery order for teams that miss the playoffs is based on teams' records when the season shut down on March 11, and Memphis had a better record than Portland, San Antonio than Phoenix at that time.

Here's a look at the current Western Conference standings:

8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-38)
9. Portland Trail Blazers (33-39) 0.5 games back
10. San Antonio Spurs (31-38) 1 GB
11. Phoenix Suns (31-39) 1.5 GB

The final Western Conference playoff spot is decided by a play-in series between the No. 8 and No. 9 seed, and Memphis is among four teams still in contention for that spot.

If the Grizzlies finish eighth or ninth and lose the play-in series, they'll enter the draft lottery at No. 14 and have a 2.4 percent chance of moving up to a top-five pick, which would delay the pick going to Boston until 2021.

Put another way: The Celtics, at worst, have a 97.6 percent chance of getting Memphis' draft pick this year.

In all likelihood, then, Boston will have three first-round selections in the 2020 NBA Draft:

-- Grizzlies' pick (top-6 protected)
-- Celtics' own pick
-- Milwaukee Bucks' pick (top-7 protected)

Earning the Grizzlies' pick this year probably is the best-case scenario for the Celtics. Ja Morant leads a talented young Memphis squad that should be better in 2020-21, which would mean a worse pick for the C's in the 2021 draft.

So, back to the original question: Do the Celtics really want to beat the Grizzlies? In short, yes: It's all but guaranteed the C's get Memphis' pick this year, so the lower the Grizzlies are in the standings, the better for Boston.

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Editor's Note: This article was updated with a correction to the scenario of Memphis missing the playoffs.

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