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(updated from original version…Lee to Memphis?…Interest in Big Baby?…A PF bonanza!!!)

Free agency is set to begin in less than 5 hours and the Grizzlies currently have the most cap space in the NBA (!!). The Griz also have a big hole at PF, with just Darrell Arthur as the only natural 4 that is certain to be on the roster come November 1st. Can we expect to see the Griz use free agency to solidify the starting PF spot? I think it is a reasonable assumption, even considering that Hollins seemed to indicate backup PG and PF depth (?!?!) was the biggest team need going forward.

Chris Herrington has done a great job of analyzing the PF options, and with his latest post has narrowed it down to just 3…….Zach Randolph (not a FA), David Lee (RFA), and Charlie Villanueva (now UFA). Just to be concise, many Griz fans are also thinking alot about Paul Milsap (who is rumored to be a target of the Thunder) and were thinking alot about Carlos Boozer until he decided not to opt out. So, what will the Griz do? Show up at someones doorstep at 12:01 like they did with Andres Nocioni 2 years ago (aren’t we glad he didn’t sign now!)? Sign one of the restricted free agents like they did last year with Josh Smith (this possibility seems to be driving conversation among Griz fans right now)? Or maybe not sign anyone significant and instead use the cap space to trade for a PF from a team needing some cap and lux tax relief? Or even further, maybe save most of the cap room for next year since this years free agent class is looking weaker than normal?

(As an aside, isn’t it just the Grizzlies luck that our “make or break” offseason comes when the draft class and free agent class seem to be the weakest in years…..AND the Griz landed the #2 pick….AND have the most cap space in the league…..ugh!)

Follow me after the jump for more on the Grizzlies and free agency.

If I had to bet on what the Griz would do tonight, I’d bet on ‘nothing’. But that could be my pessimistic side coming out. I don’t see anyone out there that the Griz are so interested in that someone will need to show up at their door at 12:01. I’d guess the Griz will wait out the market and see what happens after the initial flurry of activity.

I envision the Griz seeing if David Lee (who appears to be an upgrade over Arthur) finds a thin market for his services and would eventually sign a 3 year deal with us. Particularly since the Knicks seem to be headed in a direction away from Lee, all in the hopes of maximizing cap space during the Summer of LeBron. However, I’d be inclined to believe Lee and his agent will hold out for a 5 year contract. Why does that matter? Why wouldn’t we want to offer him a 5 year contract? Because I don’t think Lee is our long-term answer at PF. And I don’t believe (or at least I hope) the front office doesn’t either. If he isn’t a long-term answer at PF (meaning he isn’t a starting PF for a top 4 playoff team), signing him to a 5 year deal is probably not the smartest move for the long-term health of the franchise. The Darko contract shows us that the front office likes those 3 year type of deals that lets the player get paid, but doesn’t strap the Griz to that contract for the long term in case the signing was a mistake (and also in case Heisley sells the team). It worked good for Darko, as he was a mistake and he is already gone with no long term cap damage. Will the Griz regret signing Lee to a 5 year deal, possible similar in scope to Josh Smith’s deal last year? Surely Lee isn’t worth that much, right? I also think the Griz need to take into consideration why D’Antoni doesn’t like Lee.

But maybe David Lee is different and the front office really does think Lee is good enough now and later to invest a 5 year contract in him (presumably with 8 to 10% yearly salary increase, making his final years likely 10 Million plus). I was sure that Josh Smith was worth a long-term contract. I’m just not that sold that Lee is. There were rumors of the Griz offering the #5 pick last year for Lee (or was it the other way around? I’m not sure). So, maybe the Griz really do like him. Of course Lee was reported at that time to have no interest in playing in Memphis. Maybe the Griz won’t be looking to low-ball Lee and they have such an interest in him to offer him a 5 year contract, to which I think he accepts almost immediately considering the market. The irony if the Griz do think Lee is good enough now and later to tie him up for 5 years is that he could have been drafted by the Griz, had Jerry West not stormed out of the war room after Gerald Green was taken, leaving Tom Penn to make the pick unexpectedly.

[EDIT #1] Ken Berger is reporting that Lee is indeed done with NY and will sign with either the Griz or Thunder. Combine this with the rumor of Milsap to the Thunder, Okur and Boozer staying in Utah, and you get a sense one of Milsap or Lee will end up in OKC and the other in Memphis.[/EDIT #1]

[EDIT #2]If Lee does sign with Memphis, please give Hooba a hat tip for this. I’m seriously impressed.[/EDIT #2]

So, what about Milsap? He can rebound and play defense, but can he score enough in the Griz offense? Scoring is needed from the PF spot if Thabeet is at center. I’m not sure if Lee provides enough offense, and I think he has more offense than Milsap. I’m afraid Milsap is a product of Sloan’s system and won’t look nearly as good in another uniform. And despite Boozer and Okur not opting out, I think the Jazz match anything reasonable. In general, I say stay away from marginal RFA’s like Milsap. It will cost more than they are worth to get their current team from simply matching instantly.

Charlie V seems to be the one player that the Griz might need to make a quick push for if he is the top target. Charlie V is now a UFA after the Bucks decided not to offer him the Qualifying Offer. I suspect many teams around the league will be targeting Charlie with their MLE, and since the Griz can offer more than the MLE, it would make sense to call him immediately if the Griz are indeed interested in signing him and becoming the Memphis Huskies. I’m not particularly against becoming the UCONN Grizzlies with Charlie V in the lineup at the 4, but I’m not exactly for it either. I think he would be better than Arthur, but is he our long term answer? Or in one year from now will there just bet one more backup quality PF as the chase is on for that next top flight PF coming from the 2010 lottery?

One name that I’m afraid to mention is Big Baby Glen Davis. He is also an RFA, but with CW’s ties to Boston it could make sense. He knows all about Big Baby and combine that with Baby’s strong postseason, and it could be the perfect storm for a bad signing. If the Griz sign Davis, I think it would be a mistake on the order of Jerome James. Although I can see the merit in adding a PF that has a nice mid range jumper, I just don’t want to see it be for an undersized PF who benefited from playing alongside so many great players and doesn’t seem to have much more upside than he showed in the playoffs this year.

[EDIT #3]The Boston Herald is reporting the Griz have interest in Big Baby and “are expected to court Davis over the next month”. I don’t like the sound of courting Big Baby, but it does fit with my wait it out approach that I figure the team takes.[/EDIT #3]

I almost forgot about Anderson Varejao. Could we make a play for Sideshow Bob? After drafting Thabeet, I just can’t see the Griz wanting to have no offense from the 4 and 5. As much as I like Bob’s hustle and heart, the team needs more offense.

Is there a chance the Griz don’t go immediately for a PF in free agency? I think there is, but if it is truly to simply sign a scrub backup PG who isn’t interested in competing for the starting PG spot (as was stated in the CA), then a large portion of the Griz community are going to puke. Nothing says “we want to win” like the team with the most cap space signing the likes of Flip Murray. sigh….

And all of this is why tonight (or tomorrow morning) is of much interest to me, but just doesn’t get me that excited. There isn’t a particular direction or player I want the team to go immediately at the sound of “go”. The free agent class is weak. And I have a sense the Griz would prefer to wait out the market. Which seems natural for anyone in Tennessee that is a Titans fan. Free agency in Titan-land starts three weeks after the rest of the league.

One name that I think we should keep our eyes on is Marquis Daniels. I’ve heard some rumblings behind the scenes that Wallace sees him as a good SG/SF backup prospect. Does that change with QRich added to the mix? I’m not sure, but I doubt it. We are so thin at the 1, 2, and 3, there is probably room for both.

Speaking of the starting PF spot, is Z-Bo still a real possibility? I think so. Where there is smoke there is a fire. The Griz have been chasing trading for Z-Bo on the cheap for a while now and I have to believe that Sterling will eventually give in and trade him for next to nothing if Z-Bo takes some sparkle off of Griffin’s shine. Hopefully that next to nothing in return equals Marko Jaric, otherwise known as the worst player in the NBA.

Could the Griz make a surprise signing like Ben Gordon? I doubt it, but it is fun to think about, isn’t? Right now the Griz have only Conley and Mayo at PG and SG. Really, that’s virtually it. Jaric doesn’t count. QRich was acquired in the Darko trade, but I’m not sure about him yet. Judging by history, he will be bought out. I suspect QRich tries to do his best Jaric impression this year and suck. The Griz do actually desperately need guard depth (but this no competition stuff is ridiculous), despite my jokes about it. Would Ben Gordon come to the Memphis Huskies to play with his alumni pals? He probably wants to be a starter, but with only 2 capable guards, there is a lot of minutes available and we know Gordon is a great 6th man. And getting Gordon might signal a move to have Mayo play the point more when Conley needs a breather (although I’m not sure Hollins is ever going to sub Conley out since he is so in love with him). Gordon is the one player that I think, despite not being a PF, could really energize a fan base looking for more signs of the a commitment to winning.

Keeping our cap space free until next year and being in the lottery again is probably a smart basketball move, to be honest, but with three sub-25 win seasons in a row and pathetic attendance, one has to believe it would be a PR nightmare. The Griz will get killed in the press if they don’t spend something and have that something spent on a quality player, not some scrub who is told not to try to play good enough to take Conley’s minutes.

And finally, what about Hakim? Will someone sign him to an offer sheet? This seems to be the one subject that I haven’t heard enough chatter about in the press. Will someone sign Hak, presumably with part or all of their MLE? I don’t think it is out of the question. Hak has proven he is a good, if inefficient, scoring PF. He can’t play much defense nor rebound particularly well, but he can score. In fact, he loves to score so much, he’s never met a pass he didn’t seem allergic to. When Hak touches the ball, Hak shoots the ball. And for some team that is going to be a need off the bench. I suspect Hak might get some interest, but for the Griz not to match it will have to be more than he is worth and nobody is going to pay Hak that much. Wait…..Beno and Cardinal have got the full MLE in the past. Maybe Hak has a chance!!!! And now that I think about it, I might be more interested to see what happens with Hak than seeing who we chase after in free agency. I’m just curious to see if the front office sees a place for Hak in the long term or if the qualifying offer was more about getting Hak on another contract year than it was about being able to match a contract offer sheet.

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