NBA Notebook: Why the Celtics may be receiving a draft pick sooner than they want it

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The Celtics could have up to four first-round picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want all of them arriving simultaneously next spring. While the better of the Kings/Sixers pick (top-1 protected) is coming their way no matter what, the same can’t be said for the potential picks from Los Angeles and Memphis.

The top-14 protected Clippers pick is certainly one Boston wants whenever they can get their hands on it. The protections on that selection aren’t reduced year-to-year and said pick will end up turning into a second-round pick for 2022 if it doesn’t convey by the 2020 draft. The sooner the Clippers make the playoffs, the sooner the Celtics get a first-round pick.

The Memphis pick is one selection that the Celtics would probably prefer to land later than 2019, due to the potential higher upside. Here’s a look at the protections on that pick.

2019: Top-8 protected
2020: Top-6 protected
2021: No protection

Needless to say, a case can be made that the Celtics would love this pick to arrive in 2021. With Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. aging well into their 30s at that stage of their careers, it’s far more likely that Memphis will be rebuilding in 2021 rather than rising up the NBA standings, making the prospect of an unprotected pick very appealing to Boston.

The problem for the Celtics?

The Grizzlies are fully aware of this possible timeline and are managing their team this offseason with the full intention of conveying that first-round pick to Boston as soon as possible.