Celtics

Projecting whether the Celtics receive the Grizzlies pick in 2019

(Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics already essentially know their first-round opponent (over 95 percent chance it is Indiana). Still, that doesn't mean there won't be plenty of drama down the stretch of the regular season when it comes to the future of this franchise. The surging Grizzlies (winners of six of their last 10 games) keep making gains in the lottery standings, pushing them closer towards the fateful No. 9 slot in the lottery, at which point Boston would receive the first round pick this year, instead of having it roll over.

The Memphis pick is one selection the Celtics would prefer to land later than 2019, according to team sources, due to the potential higher upside down the line. Here’s a reminder 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 (or whatever team acquires this selection from them this offseason) would love this pick to arrive in 2021 given the lack of young building block-type players on the Grizzlies roster under contract for the future. Memphis has the potential to be a bottom-5 team for a couple of years going forward with limited young prospects and no major cap room.

Here's a look at the current lottery standings with five teams with plenty of tanking motivation squeezed between the 6-10 seeds.

So where exactly can we expect Memphis to land in this race? And how will that impact the odds of the C's landing a fourth first round pick for 2019? Let's breakdown the schedules and motivation (tanking incentive) of the teams remaining in this race to figure out what lies ahead.

6. Mavericks (28-44)
Games remaining: 10 (Home: 5 Away: 5)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 5
Games against .500+ teams: 5
Remaining key tank games: vs. MEM, @ MEM, @ PHX
Injuries of note: Tim Hardaway Jr. ruled out for season
Analysis: It’s been quite the tank job by Rick Carlisle and company, winning just three of 19 games since the All-Star Break to plummet down to the NBA’s sixth-worst record after hanging around the West playoff picture in the first half of the year. Dallas does have a lot of incentive to tank here since they can keep their pick if they manage to stay in the top-4 of this draft (37.2 percent chance). Barring a late surprise surge, they look likely to be locked into No. 6 spot. C’s fans should be rooting hard for them in two head-to-head matchups with Memphis next month, since that could swing the Memphis pick towards in 2020 if the Grizz lose both, flip-flopping the teams in the standings.
Tank Motivation Meter: 9
Projected record: 30-52

7. Memphis (29-42)
Games remaining: 11 (Home: 5 Away: 6)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 7
Games against .500+ teams: 6
Remaining key games: vs. MIN, @ PHX, @ DAL, vs. DAL
Injuries of note: Kyle Anderson (shoulder), Avery Bradley (wrist, out for a week at least), Mike Conley (doubtful for weekend)
Analysis: The hottest team in the lottery continues to make the Celtics front office sweat with their surprisingly strong play. Another impressive home victory over a playoff team (Houston) on Wednesday gave them six wins in their last ten games, inching them closer towards conveying the No. 9 pick, which is a goal for the franchise (to get rid of the pick obligation now). The schedule is not easy the rest of the way, but there are several chances to take games against tanking teams that could leave the C’s with four first-round picks in 2019, a less than ideal scenario for Boston. A couple of big swing games loom this weekend against the Magic and Wolves. If Memphis takes both of those, it’s hard to see the C’s getting to wait on this pick one more year without some lottery luck. The Grizzlies are motivated and are playing well so they won’t be taking any nights off down the stretch, unlike their opponents. However, with some injuries starting to crop up in the backcourt (Bradley, Conley) their momentum could be stopped.
Tank Motivation Meter: 0
Projected record: 33-49

8. Washington (30-43)
Games remaining: 9 (Home: 4 Away: 5)
Games vs. teams “fighting” for playoff spots or positioning: 5
Games against .500+ teams: 4
Injuries of note: Trevor Ariza (strained left groin)
Remaining key tank swing games: @ LAL, @ PHX, @ NYK, vs. BOS
Analysis: