Memphis Grizzlies fall to No. 4 in draft, which isn’t (really) the end of the world


Benji Ballin brought his lucky dog, Jewel.

Jason Rosselot brought a lucky wrist band he had been given by James Posey.

Carolyn Flaherty wore a lucky shirt that you could tell was a lucky shirt because it said, in large lettering, “THIS IS MY LUCKY SHIRT.”

Not lucky enough, as it turns out.

Neither dog, nor wrist band, nor shirt, nor any of the other allegedly lucky charms that fans brought along to the Memphis Grizzlies watch party at Railgarten Tuesday night could save the Grizzlies from slipping in the draft lottery for the fifth time in eight appearances, this time from third to fourth.

“The first word out of my mouth was (bleep),” said Seth Porter, after watching the event unfold.

 How about the first word that could run in the newspaper?

“I don’t think I’ve said any of those words yet,” he said.

Here, then, are some of those words:  Jaren Jackson; Michael Porter Jr; Mohamed Bomba. Those are the names of three players who should be available at No. 4.

“I’m happy,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, on the phone from Chicago. “My first objective was not to fall to No. 5 because it could be a different group of players at that point. I”m confident we’re still in the top group.”

Wallace has to say that, of course. It doesn’t do the Grizzlies any good to sound bitter about the lottery results, although that never stopped Jerry West.

After finishing with the second-worst record in the NBA this year, the Grizzlies had a slightly better than 50-percent chance of getting a top three pick, but their single most likely landing spot — at 31.9 percent — was No. 4.

So it was a cautiously pessimistic group that gathered at the Grizzlies watch party, because cautious optimism had been beaten out of everyone by the Chandler Parsons contract, the Ben McLemore signing and too many failed drafts.

“I don’t know how to feel, you don’t want to get your hopes up,” said Cullen Morgan.

Said Ballin, who brought along his dog: “What am I expecting? The worst possible outcome.”

So at least the Grizzlies did better than that!

The lottery countdown was going along just fine until Chicago was revealed as having the seventh pick, instead of Sacramento. That meant Sacramento had jumped up into the top three. Then Dallas was revealed as having the fifth pick, instead of Atlanta. That meant Atlanta had popped up into the top three, as well.

Then Memphis showed up at No. 4.

“What a buzz kill,” someone yelled.

The Grizzlies didn’t even stay alive until the final commercial break. The first three picks will go to Phoenix, Sacramento and Atlanta.

Beyond that, this isn’t a draft like 2003 or 2012, when LeBron James and Anthony Davis were clear No. 1 picks. This draft is a jumble, with two players (Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic) most experts believe will go believe will go at the top, a third player (Marvin Bagley) most seem to believe will go third, and then a cluster of players (Jackson, Porter Jr., Bomba and others) who could go in any order after that. But even at the top, there’s no unanimity. Jay Bilas didn’t have Doncic listed in his top three during the lottery telecast. There are already mock drafts up that have the Bagley dropping to the Grizzlies at four.

Yes, back surgery. Terrifying right? But if he checks out medically — words that give Grizzlies fans PTSD — he might well be the most gifted player in the draft.

So now it will be a month of workouts and speculation. Maybe draft night will turn out better than lottery night did. Indeed, Seth Porter, the guy who was struggling to come up with a single word that could appear in the newspaper, sought me out after some time had passed.

“I’m happy,” he said.

Really? Why?

“I just remembered. Mike Conley went No. 4.”