The trade deadline looms and, not surprisingly, players from the Memphis Grizzlies are rumored, and more, to be on the trading block. Top say the Griz have had a bad season is like saying Steph Curry can shoot the rock. Major understatement. They are well out of the playoff race and have been for a long time and have been ravaged by injuries.
Still, while Memphis has made the playoffs in 10 straight seasons that won’t be the case this time around and maybe it is time to gut the team with the trade assets they have and build towards the future. After the year they’ve had, the future is the Grizzlies only next move.
Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace may have some not-so-tough and tough decisions to make with the trade deadline quickly approaching. Not-so-tough with leading scorer Tyreke Evans on the trading block, big time, but some tough ones with the players that have value now that may diminish for the team that is likely headed for some hard times. So, gut the Grizzlies now? First it will not be easy with some contracts they have and a management that has not been known for pulling the trigger on big deals.
Evans first and foremost
Tyreke Evans is the former 4th overall pick in the 2009 draft that has had a resurgent season for the Grizzlies averaging 19.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg as well as five assists per game. He is shooting 45.8% from the field and a legit 39.2% from beyond the 3-pt arc and many teams around the league have inquired about him, but while he is the main bait for Memphis trading for the scoring PG is not easy. Evans is on a one-year contract and will a team trading for him give a first round pick, which was the Grizzlies want, for a player that may be a rental for a few months? Evans has, not so much arguably, been the best player for a Memphis team this season. He’s certainly played for a new contract somewhere else.
There are more than few teams that would like a scoring PG that can dish the rock and hit the glass. He has been coming off the bench wanting for a trade, but how about the Marc Gasol rumors? They have actually fizzled out with the deadline approaching and it seems the Grizzlies will keep him. Why?
Gasol is no spring chicken at 33 years old and while the team says he is untouchable he should not be. Imagine LeBron with a rim protector and scorer like Gasol or him plugging up the inside for the Warriors or even Celtics? He is likely not going anywhere, but even with a healthy Conley and Parsons would Memphis be any more than a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference? At the end of the day, it’s not likely.
Injuries and bad contracts – One in the Same
One of the reasons the Grizzlies have a tough future is that the two highest paid players are injured and it will be very hard to unload their contracts. Mike Conley has been shelved for the season with a heel injury and he has four years left on a deal that pays him just north of $28.5 million a year. Parsons should be coming back from yet another knee injury soon and he is owed $23.1 million for the next three years. Conley is good, but getting $28.5 million for a player that has never made the All Star team and has career averages of 14.3 ppg and 5.7 assists per game? He did average 17.1 ppg in the 12 games before being shelved for the season, but he is not elite and his career highlight may be the 2nd team All Defensive Team honors he received and that was back in 2013.
Parsons? The injury plagued 6’10” FW played in 34 gamers last season, his first one for Memphis, averaging 6.2 ppg and in 26 games this season he has averaged 8.8 ppg. He and Conley are making over $51 million combined this season and don’t look for that to change in the near future, as it is hard to imagine many teams taking on their contracts in a trade. Still, the team has to think to rebuild and that may start with the tough decision of trading for Gasol. After a few so-so seasons he has been solid this one averaging 18 ppg and 8.6 rpg, which are both over his career averages.
The thing about the Grizzlies in terms of the trade deadline is after Evans and Gasol there may not be many other pieces for the team to move and, more importantly, improve. JaMychal Green (10.1 ppg 7.4 ppg) may be one of those pieces and is a relatively young (27) 6’9” PF that can score and hit the glass. Andrew Harrison is a very attractive young player (8.2 ppg) that has scored in double figures in five straight games and has seen his minutes increase lately. Dillon Brooks (8.9 ppg) and Wayne Seldon (8.8 ppg) are also both 23 or younger and can only improve with more playing time. That is why gutting the roster may make sense for Memphis.
This season the Grizzlies are out of the playoff race and the albatross contracts of Conley Jr. and Parsons will be tough to move.
The Grizzlies have to maximize their valued players on the market and Evans, Gasol, and Green and maybe one of the aforementioned younger players may be the pieces they can get the most for without taking a major financial hit. Memphis is one of the smaller market teams in the league, so they have to build their team through the draft and smart moves, as big-name free agents don’t flock to where Graceland is. That may be especially the case in the next few seasons with things not looking good for the Griz with their roster and payroll obligations.
Time to Move on
The Grizzlies have been a Conley and Gasol led squad for a long time and both are in their 30’s. The team did make the playoffs in 10 straight seasons and they made the Conference Finals in the 2012-2013 season, but it may be time to move on.
Gasol is 33 and can you build a team around him in what will be his golden years soon? The team was in the Conference Finals in the 2012-2013 season and have made the playoffs every season since. However, they have lost in the first round of playoffs in three of the last four seasons, now have to deal with the super teams of the Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder, and Conley and Parsons have unattractive deals. Now is the time for the Grizzlies to pull the trigger unloading players like Evans, Gasol, and maybe Green and some young guns to reload through the draft.
Gasol is the big name that the franchise has to move on from even though he has given so much. He has three years left making $22.6 million per season, but many teams would love a defensive minded center that can score and pass. His window is closing being 33 years old and Memphis needs to get what they can now for him since he is the best player they have.
Imagine if they do nothing and he starts to decline with age in the next season or two, which is probable, and the team gets nothing for him. The Griz did not have any picks in the last draft and in the last few seasons in the draft the only player of note still on the roster is PG Jordan Adams, who was taken with the 22nd pick in the first round in 2014 and is averaging 6.3 ppg this season. Memphis has not hit it big in the draft in a long time and the best way to change that is to get multiple picks. They will get a high pick this season, which is a lost one, and the team still needs to pick up more to add to the young talent the team has.
For the last decade the Grizzlies have been legit and have been one of the best teams in the league on defense while not having a dynamic offense. The same goes this season, but they only have three players averaging in double figures, besides Conley and his 12 games, in Evans, Gasol, and Green. While the franchise is handcuffed some with the contracts of Conley and Parsons they do have some pieces that are attractive to other teams. With this season one to forget in Memphis and the direction of the aging team the time to make moves to get younger and improve in the draft is right now.
There may be growing pains in the not-to-distant future for the Grizzlies, but with contract situations and how stacked the Western Conference is the Grizzlies need to make some big decisions. Those decisions may be soon with the deadline quickly approaching.