Nothing happens in a vacuum in the NBA. Every time a team makes a major move, the ripple effects can be felt across the league. Take the Memphis Grizzlies, for example. Earlier this week, reports emerged that they were listening to offers for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. That news could be significant to the Boston Celtics, but not because they’re in a position to trade for either player.
Why aren’t the Celtics likely to make a move for them? Well, it’s partly because they don’t appear to be inclined to make any blockbuster in-season moves, but mostly because it wouldn’t make much sense considering the salaries involved. Gasol is making $24.1 million this season and has a $25.6 player option for next. Conley is currently making $30.5 million and has two more years left on his contract for $67 million. Boston couldn’t fit either of them onto their roster easily, just matching the salaries would be a nightmare, plus they’re veteran players who have already logged a lot of playing time. Considering how hard Memphis rides its players, one has to believe that both players, although certainly valuable, have already peaked.
Here’s where things get interesting though: the Celtics have a protected first round pick from the Grizzlies. Right now, the Celtics would get a first rounder from Memphis in the upcoming NBA Draft if it’s not in the top eight. That is unlikely to happen, as the 19-29 Grizzlies are currently second-to-last in the Western Conference standings. Next season, though, it would top-six protected and it would be completely unprotected in 2021. With the news that they’re willing to trade Conley and Gasol, it stands to reason that the Grizzlies are looking to rebuild over the next few years, which could make that pick extremely valuable come two years from now.
The Celtics wouldn’t exactly be devastated to lose out on the Memphis pick this year, as they are set to have plenty of picks: two first-rounders from the Los Angeles Clippers (top-14 protected) and the Sacramento Kings (top-1 protected) as well as their own. Considering how crowded the Celtics roster will likely be next season, the Celtics might not even want to draft that many players at the same time. The Memphis pick is, in some ways, expendable.
This is when Anthony Davis comes into the picture. It’s no secret that Boston, like pretty much every other team, has had its eyes on the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. As discussed before, the Celtics aren’t going to trade for him in-season, they literally can’t have both Kyrie Irving and Davis on the roster right now. (It’s also not ideal that Davis is currently dealing with a finger injury.)
This offseason is a different story. Should Davis make his intentions clear that he isn’t staying with the Pelicans this offseason, a growing likelihood, the Grizzlies pick could end up being a key part of a package for a potential trade. Obviously, it’s going to take far more than that for Boston to land one of the best players in the league, they will almost certainly have to give up the likes of Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown in the deal as well, but this could give them something more to offer.
Now, “the Celtics’ draft pick might become more appealing” isn’t exactly the sexiest trade deadline news, but it might be all we get. It’s not impossible that the Celtics will pull the trigger on a major deal before the deadline, but all signs point to them keeping the same core moving forward. There’s virtue in being patient, however, things that happen in the next few weeks could very much set up major developments in the near future.