Grizzles leap from No. 8 to No. 2; Morant could be target

Ja Morant of Murray State could be the target of the Grizzlies with the second pick in the draft.

The Memphis Grizzlies came out ahead at the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night in Chicago.

The Grizzlies jumped from eight to two for the June 20 NBA Draft and in the process, delayed an obligation to send a first-round draft pick owed to the Boston Celtics for at least one more season. That pick was top-eight protected this year is top-six protected in 2020 and 2021.

With the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, most expect the Grizzlies to select Murray State point guard Ja Morant. Duke forward R.J. Barrett is also speculated to be in the mix at two, behind Barrett’s collegiate teammate, Zion Williamson, the consensus projected No. 1 overall pick.

“It’s a great outcome for the organization,” said Grizzlies team president Jason Wexler about moving up in the lottery for only the third time since the franchise moved to Memphis. “We’re super excited. In the bigger picture, that plays out over time. But in the moment it’s a terrific piece of information for us. It’s a great (asset) to be able to work with.”

The 6-foot-3 Morant averaged 25 points, six rebounds and 10 assists as a 19-year-old at Murray State. The 6-7 Barrett averaged 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists as an 18-year-old at Duke.

By moving up in the draft order, Memphis will have an opportunity to add another promising young player to play alongside 19-year-old forward Jaren Jackson Jr. If that player is Morant, he could be mentored by veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. The Grizzlies have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.

The jump from the eighth pick to the second pick is the biggest in franchise history for Memphis, the previous biggest lottery leaps were in 2003 and 2009 when the Grizzlies went from No. 6 to No. 2.

The New Orleans Pelicans won the draft lottery and will select first in the draft. Rounding out the top five are the New York Knicks (No. 3), the Los Angeles Lakers (No. 4) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 5).