With the news of last night’s trade with Boston that saw Jerryd Bayless shipped to the East Coast, bringing back long-coveted Courtney Lee and a 2016 second round pick, trade season has officially begun. Add to that yesterday’s blowout win over then Pistons and the reports from today’s Grizzlies’ practice that Marc Gasol is doing light workouts with a knee brace on, and fans are starting to get excited about this season’s possibilities once again.
Bringing in Lee and his longer-term contract signals that the front office is indeed committed to making the playoffs this year, and not relegating this season as “lost” just yet. More importantly, it should make fans and basketball insiders realize that the Grizzlies are not done making moves.
The NBA trade deadline is on February 20, which is both a lifetime away and just around the corner at the same time. While everyone else holds their breath and eyes Cleveland and Los Angeles while waiting on the probably-not-gonna-happen Pau Gasol for Andrew Bynum trade, other teams are gearing up to make smaller, but not insignificant moves of their own. Since this is still a Grizzlies blog, we’ll confine our speculations to the hometown team.
So, Bayless is out and Lee is in. Let’s address that first so that we can see how it affects the rest of the roster. Courtney Lee is a shooter. To illustrate that, here is his shot chart for this season:
I don’t think this warrants further discussion. However, it is worth noting that Lee is a superior defender as well, making him one of those “3-and-D” guys that Matt Noe and I continue to drool over on Twitter far too often. The addition of Lee gives the Grizzlies a bench player who provides solid spot-up shooting all over the court while not being a defensive sieve.
Lee’s ability and contract means that he’s probably going to be in Memphis for the next couple of seasons. So…what does that mean for their rotations? Right now, it means he will back up Tony Allen, which typically results in getting to play 20+ minutes per night, depending on how well The Grindfather is faring. What about when Quincy Pondexter returns? That, my fine, feathered friends, is where it gets interesting.
Through various conversations via text and Twitter last night with Matt, Anthony, Jonathan, and other intelligent people, the notion of the Grizzlies trading Quincy Pondexter and/or Tony Allen was broached. Needless to say, we all agreed that it would be unpopular to trade either fan favorite (especially Employee #9), but with the amount of money committed to all three, it was more likely to happen than fans want to believe. The three SGs account for $13,427,529 in 2014-15 and $14,225,562 in 2015-16. That’s a lot of money to pay for one position considering the redundancy level of Lee and Pondexter.
Of course, TA hasn’t been playing to his previous level of intensity and tenacity this year either, which is why there is a distinct possibility of him being shipped out before his value starts to drop (see: Tayshaun Prince). So, with both of them potentially on the trade block, who else should we be keeping an eye on?
Everyone in the frontcourt not named Marc Gasol, please take a step forward.
That’s right, even you, ZBo.
With Marc Gasol’s return drawing ever-closer, there is about to be a logjam in the frontcourt. That means someone will have to see their minutes get cut, and it potentially means that it makes sense to use the high trade value of one of the bench guys before they slide off of everyone’s radar. Jon Leuer, Ed Davis, and Kosta Koufos have all played well in Gasol’s absence, which makes them valuable trade chips in a league that prizes big men.
Furthermore, the front office of a small market team must always keep an eye on the bottom line. I could regale you with the details, but Peter Edmiston broke it down on Twitter this morning better than I can, so go check out his timeline. Sparknotes version: If no other trades are made, they just offer Ed Davis the qualifying offer next year, and ZBo picks up his $16.9 million option, that gives them 11 players at around $72 million with an expected luxury tax line of $75-76 million. Granted, two end of the bench guys won’t cost much, but that’s awfully tight for a team that has to watch their pennies. That’s without a signed James Johnson for next year, and one of the players they’ll lose is Mike Miller, by the way.
So, they can roll the dice with ZBo, hoping that he’ll take a hometown discount to stick around for another 2-3 years, try to work out an extension with Boss Davis, and continue to use Leuer as an occasional Stretch-4…or they can be pro-active and make a deal that leaves them in the driver’s seat instead of relying on the uncertainty of hopes and dreams. (Ask Cleveland fans how a player “promising” to take a discount works out. #CarlosBoozerScrewedOverABlindGuy #BusinessFirst)
That isn’t to say that ZBo isn’t a loyal guy who is a man of his word. But…at the end of the day, it’s all about…
So, Mike Conley is safe, Marc Gasol is safe, and Nick Calathes is safe (because his contract isn’t even worth being thrown in to a deal at this point). Jamaal Franklin and James Johnson are probably safe, too. Anyone else is fair game in the right deal that results in this team moving closer to a championship.
Later today, I’ll have some trade scenarios for y’all to take a look at, mock, ridicule, and then steal and call your own.