The Memphis Grizzlies have a very consequential decision to make immediately. The trade deadline is February 7th, a potential pivot point for the team. Memphis is 7-23 in their last 30 games, and now have the 6th worst record in the league.
The Grizzlies need to decide whether or not they want to tank for the rest of the season. The issue is they owe a protected pick to Boston. It is top-8 protected this year, top-6 protected in 2020, and unprotected in 2021. If the pick doesn’t convey this season Memphis runs the risk of forfeiting a better pick in a better draft class.
The Grizzlies are a team built around two aging stars. Therefore, it is entirely possible for a future pick to be higher up the board than their pick in 2019. Conversely, however, a first half of the lottery pick in 2019 would be the best trade asset this team has to improve the roster around those two aging stars.
Thus the conundrum. Perhaps the Grizzlies can find a deal that has a short term and long term benefit. Let’s examine.
Again, this is difficult to identify because Memphis has to decide if it wants to tank or push for a late lottery pick that will go to Boston this year. These are competing principals ahead of the trade deadline. Here are the options for what Memphis could look to achieve at the deadline.
Embrace the Tank
- Trade Marc Gasol
- Trade Mike Conley
- Acquire toxic contracts to obtain future picks
- Acquire good players on overpriced contracts
- Protected first owed to Boston
- 2019 second owed to Chicago
- 2020 second owed to Chicago
- 2021 second owed to Sacramento
- Marc Gasol – 2019-2020 player option $25.6 million
- Mike Conley – 3 years, $97.5 million, 3rd year $34.5 PO
- Garrett Temple – $8 million expiring
- JaMychal Green – $7.7 million expiring
- Justin Holiday – $.44 million expiring
- Omri Casspi – $1.5 million expiring
- Shelvin Mack – $1.5 million expiring
- Dillon Brooks – $1.4 million, 2 more seasons of team control
- Ivan Rabb – $1.4 million, 2019-2020 $1.6 million team option
- Bruno Caboclo – two years away from two years away from two years away
It’s best to break this down into three buckets; Gasol trades, Conley trades, salary acquisition trades
Given Gasol’s expensive player option, declining performance, and mounting injuries, the market here is most likely barren. If the Grizzlies are able to find a trade it’s not clear what type of asset they could receive in return.
A team could be scared off of the prospect of Gasol leaving in free agency this summer. A different team could be scared off of the prospect of Gasol picking up his $25.6 million dollar option. Is there any team out there that’s really Marc Gasol away from contention?
Kings Receive: Marc Gasol
Grizzlies Receive: Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert, 2021 2nd Rounder (MEM), 2021 2nd Rounder (MIA)
Why Sacramento Does It: I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Sacramento presents an opportunity for Gasol to make the playoffs this season, whereas Memphis does not. The Kings are 1.5 games back of the 8 seed as of this writing.
While the team has a bit of a log jam at center, this is a young roster that could use Gasol’s veteran presence for a playoff push. Don’t take it from me though, Jared Dudley was happy to chime in on the situation.
Any young team that wants to win or team that’s m trying to take the next step you better go get Mike Conley.. I don’t care what his contract is. He’s a winner and great locker room guy! https://t.co/BLcajhZrZn
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 23, 2019
The Kings are 22nd in defensive rating, and can use what Gasol brings.
Why Memphis Does It: Randolph and Shumpert are both expiring deals put in to make the money work. Thanks to the Justin Holiday overpay the Grizzlies are now down two second rounders.
Someone convinces Chris Wallace to think long term for the first time ever. Both of those second rounders could be very juicy in 2021. If the Grizzlies tear it down it’s conceivable they’re the worst team in the league in two years. Miami is a cap strapped roster that could find itself in the lottery in 2021 as well.
Cavaliers Receive: Marc Gasol
Grizzlies Receive: Kevin Love
Why Cleveland Does It: The Kevin Love extension is not off to a good start and it hasn’t even started yet. Love has appeared in only 4 games this season due to injuries. After this year, Love will have four years and $120.4 million guaranteed remaining on his deal. That contract is going to turn into an albatross on the back half.
Gasol, at worst, will be on the books for one season beyond this year. Best case (read, likely case) he declines his player option to pursue opportunities outside of Cleveland.
Why Memphis Does It: It is possible Love returns as a productive player for the first two years of the extension. Swapping out Gasol for Love allows the team to move Jaren Jackson Jr. to the five full time, and maximize floor spacing.
The Grizzlies can sell their fans on the idea that they’re not rebuilding, just retooling. If Love comes back this season he can help in an attempt to send the pick to Boston this year, or at least help send it in 2020 as the ~8th pick of the draft.
Clippers Receive: Marc Gasol
Grizzlies Receive: Danilo Gallinari
Why Los Angeles Does It: The Grizzlies would have to agree to look the other way on some tampering. This deal only happens if Gasol has a wink and nod agreement with the Clippers ahead of time that he will decline his player option in the summer.
The Clippers want to open up two max slots in July, and in order to do that they will have to dump Gallinari’s contract. This will make the team worse, but L.A. should be able to hang around in the playoff picture for the rest of the season.
Why Memphis Does It: Gallo is killing it this year. He has a fair case to be an All-Star. I mean, just look at this:
Similar to a Love acquisition, shipping out Gasol for Gallinari would allow Jackson to play the five with a floor spacing four next to him. Gallo would actually be a roster upgrade for this season, helping Memphis in their effort to send their pick to Boston this year.
In the process of writing this article, we had a WojBomb drop on Twitter
For first time, Memphis will begin listening to trade offers on franchise stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, league sources tell ESPN. Memphis has reached a crossroads and is preparing to weigh deals involving one or both of its cornerstone veterans. Story soon on ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2019
Suns Receive: Mike Conley
Grizzlies Receive: T.J. Warren, Ryan Anderson, The Protected Milwaukee First Rounder
Why Phoenix Does It: This team desperately needs a point guard. We all know this. They also could use a veteran like Conley on a very young roster.
Despite Warren’s quality season, the Suns drafted the future of the 3 position in Mikal Bridges, and took a flier on Kelly Oubre who they may want to retain in the offseason.
The Suns get off the toxic Ryan Anderson contract and surrender a pick that seems likely to big in the late 20’s in 2020.
Why Memphis Does It: This might be the best return they can get. Conley is 31 years old and owed $65.1 million over the next two seasons if he exercises his player option. He is still good and can help a team, but that contract doesn’t figure to age well. The Grizzlies might even feel to guilty sending Conley to a non-competitor to do this. But Memphis can really use what Warren offers.
The Grizzlies desperately need perimeter shooting, basket creation, and better finishing. The Milwaukee pick the Suns have from the Bledsoe trade is protected 4-16 this year, 8-30 in 2020, and unprotected in 2021. Memphis adds a pick in the late 20’s to take on the $15.6 million guaranteed on the Anderson contract in 2019-2020.
Magic Receive: Mike Conley
Grizzlies Receive: Timofey Mozgov, Terrence Ross, 2019 Second Rounder (Most favorable of ORL, CLE, HOU, and POR), Top 20 Protected 2020 OKC First Rounder
Why Orlando Does It: Orlando is another team that desperately needs a point guard. Should they resign Nikola Vucevic in free agency, the Magic won’t have ample cap space to pursue a starting level lead guard.
Orlando also figures to be picking a bit too high in the draft to land the point guard they need. This is their best avenue to a huge upgrade at the position.
They also rid themselves of the Mozgov contract.
Why Memphis Does It: Terrence Ross is an expiring contract so if they let him leave they will have lowered their expenses for next year on a team that figures to be worse without Conley.
The main draw here is clearly the draft picks. Cleveland may finish with the worst record in the league meaning that second rounder is practically a first rounder. The OKC pick converts to two second rounders in 2022 and 2023 should it not convey in 2020.
Pistons Receive: Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks
Grizzlies Receive: Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer, Top 7 Protected 2019 First Rounder
Why Detroit Does It: The Pistons don’t really have a pathway to get better. They’re capped out and too good to hit the lottery. This offense has suffered from poor point guard play, as too much of the shot creation burden is falling on Blake Griffin
Enter Conley, an upgrade from Jackson. Detroit will be locked into this group for awhile, but they knew that when they gave up the farm to get Griffin. They’re just doubling down. They also get off the Leuer contract and acquire a potentially good young player in Dillon Brooks.
Why Memphis Does It: The pick. Phoenix, Memphis, Cleveland, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago are all essentially locks to finish with a worse record than Detroit. That means the Pistons just need to beat out one of Orlando and Washington in order for this pick to convey (and not jump up in the lottery). Adding Conley increases the odds of that happening.
Pacers Receive: Mike Conley, Omri Casspi
Grizzlies Receive: Thaddeus Young, Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, 2019 Unprotected First Rounder
Why Indiana Does It: Hoo-boy. The Pacers would have to think to themselves that the upgrade from Collison to Conley this season and beyond is worth shipping out Young. Young has been arguably the second best player on the team this year. Losing him would hurt.
But the Pacers are not a free agent destination. While their books are clean and they will have cap room in 2019, this move would signal they don’t think (read; they know) no one is coming. Both Evans and Collison are unlikely to be retained next summer, so they’re here for money matching purposes. Casspi provides some shooting
Why Memphis Does It: All three incoming players could contribute to winning basketball this season and help the Grizzlies send their pick to Boston. The team could also be interested in retaining any of them at the right cost, options that wouldn’t be available without this trade due to the current state of the team’s cap sheet.
The Pacers have the 5th best record in the league right now, so the pick figures to land in the mid-to-late 20’s.
Salary Acquisition Trades
To set a foundation, it should be noted that both Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green can help a team trying to win as much as possible this year, while also not adding long term money to a cap sheet. Behold:
Regarding Temple, his C- perimeter shooting grade is significantly below his career grade of a B-. Over time, this should even out. In the last two seasons he has posted a grade of A- and B+ in the category. Even still, he is hitting 35.8% of his threes this season. An A- perimeter defender (his career grade is a B for full disclosure) and a ~B perimeter shooter is a valuable player.
Green is balling out this year, and his perimeter shooting allows him to play along side any other big without sacrificing floor spacing for an offense.
Nets Receive: Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green
Grizzlies Receive: Allen Crabbe, The Protected Denver First Rounder
Why Brooklyn Does It: The Nets want to be major players in free agency this summer. Allen Crabbe has an $18.5 million player option for the 2019-2020 season. There is a 100% chance Crabbe exercises that option. Getting off his deal will help Brooklyn in its quest to open up two max slots.
Why Memphis Does It: The Nets received a top-12 protected first rounder, and a 2020 second round pick from Denver in the summer of 2018 to take on the $21 million in contracts of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Aruther. The Nuggets have the 4th best record in the league right now and that pick figures to be in the mid-to-late 20’s.
The Grizzlies also might not be scared off by Crabbe picking up his option. Memphis needs more shooting and Crabbe would provide that. He is a career 39.5% shooter from distance, with a career A- grade in perimeter shooting.
Blazers Receive: Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green
Grizzlies Receive: Evan Turner, Lottery Protected 2019 First Rounder
Why Portland Does It: Turner is slated to make $18.6 million next season. That’s quite the hit for a team with a bad cap situation. Getting off the Turner contract will help the Blazers clear breathing room below the luxury tax line.
Why Memphis Does It: The pick.
Hornets Receive: Garrett Temple, JaMychal Green
Grizzlies Receive: Bismack Biyombo, Top-12 Protected 2019 First Rounder
Why Charlotte Does It: Biyombo, Marvin Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all have a player option this summer for a combined $45 million dollars. If all three exercise their options (they will) then the Hornets will be right up against the tax after maxing out Kemba Walker.
Why Memphis Does It: The pick.
Bulls Receive: Garrett Temple
Grizzlies Receive: Cristiano Felicio, 2019 Second Rounder (MEM)
Why Chicago Does It: The Bulls want to be players in 2019 free agency, and the contract of Felicio is taking up $8.2 million on the cap sheet next season.
Why Memphis Does It: To get their pick back.
You can mix and match some of this stuff. The Grizzlies could take on a bad contract such as Ryan Anderson or Timofey Mozgov for the expiring deals they own to collect future assets. But this is the type of action we should all be looking for ahead of the deadline.