NBA @ 2: Memphis Grizzlies Trading Rudy Gay?
For the longest time, the Memphis Grizzlies were in kind of the same boat as the Los Angeles Clippers. Saddled with a penny-pinching owner, they seemed relegated to take part in the NBA draft lottery every year. Last year’s taste of postseason success, however, seems to have caused a paradigm shift in Memphis. The Grizzlies barely snuck into the playoffs, but then upset the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs and took the Oklahoma City Thunder to the absolute limit before falling just short of the Western Conference Finals.
In response to that performance, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said he would keep the core of the team together, and was as good as his word in re-signing center Marc Gasol to a long-term deal.
Now Heisley has two more hurdles to overcome, and it will be interesting to see how he handles them.
First and foremost, prized shooting guard OJ Mayo is very likely to become a restricted free agent in July, and while the Grizzlies have come close to trading him a couple of times, they have had a hard time actually parting with their force off the bench. The word out of Memphis is that the Grizzlies will likely match offers for Mayo, and if their recent track record is any indication, they may, indeed do that.
The second order of business is Rudy Gay, the team’s leader, who became the heart of the franchise when Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Trade speculation started around Gay when the team advanced as far as they did last season while he was out nursing a shoulder injury, and that talk continues because sources close to his camp insist he is unhappy and would welcome a trade.
Once again, Heisley has gone on the offensive, saying he is not entertaining offers for Gay, but the offers are coming, anyway.
The Golden State Warriors are desperately looking for some star power, and if they can’t land Dwight Howard they would love to have Rudy Gay. The Warriors also want to unload at least one and perhaps more of their four 2012 draft picks, and would happily package them with a combination of players – including David Lee – to make a trade happen.
The Toronto Raptors are also aggressively shopping for a star-caliber small forward, and have been tied to talks surrounding Tyreke Evans and Andre Iguodala. They have now also reportedly added Gay to their wishlist.
The Charlotte Bobcats are interested in moving the second overall pick in this summer’s draft, and they, too, would like to add Gay to the mix. The Bobcats are looking to develop a winning culture after one of the worst seasons in NBA history, and they believe Gay could help them do that. Of course, that’s a stretch. If Gay is unhappy in Memphis he would likely be miserable in Charlotte.
The Brooklyn Nets have reportedly joined the fray, seeing the addition of Gay as a way of keeping Deron Williams in town long-term.
Two teams that are not yet circulating the rumor mills are the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, both of which have reason to pursue Gay is their situations play out a certain way. The Mavs, too, would like to bring in Deron Williams, and need some pieces around Dirk Nowitzki to convince Williams that Dallas is a good destination. Meanwhile, the Rockets have been after a star-caliber upgrade at the three for some time, having made overtures to the Philadelphia 76ers regarding Andre Iguodala and to the Indiana Pacers regarding Danny Granger. It makes sense that they would pursue Gay, and it seems the Grizzlies owe them one after Houston took Hasheem Thabeet off their hands.
Again, the Grizzlies are saying they won’t deal Gay, and there’s every reason to believe that Memphis could be a home court team in the West if the team is kept in tact and everyone stays healthy. Still, it’s a lot of money to spend and a small market to spend it in . . .and old habits die hard. It will be interesting to see if Heisley sticks to his new plan of attack.
NBA Draft: Perry Jones
There are a number of players in the 2012 NBA draft class who have a lot to prove over the next few days leading up to the draft, among them Perry Jones III. After two seasons at Baylor, the book on PJ3 is still very much unwritten. HOOPSWORLD’s own Mock Draft team has him going as high as 12 to the Milwaukee Bucks and as low as 23 to the Atlanta Hawks (see HOOPSWORLD’s latest Mock Draft here).
The issue is not ability for Jones, who measured up at 6’11″ in shoes and weighed in at 234 pounds. What teams are trying to find out is whether or not he has the motor to become an elite NBA athlete, and that’s something he’s going to have to prove if he wants to be selected closer to 12 than to 23.
Jones was in Chicago at the 2012 NBA Draft Combine, and had this to say about his process and what he has to prove:
Time For Hawks To Amnesty Joe Johnson?
When the NBA and its players agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in December, part of the agreement included an amnesty provision for NBA teams. The provision allows each NBA team to amnesty one player over the ten-year period that that the new CBA encompasses, with the caveat that the contract being amnestied must have been signed before the new CBA went into effect.
It didn’t take long for Atlanta Hawks fans to jump all over the concept of an amnesty, seeing it as a way to unload one of the worst contracts in the modern NBA. Not that Johnson isn’t a great player, but the idea of paying him $24 million at the end of his current contract is a little bit difficult to stomach given that the Hawks’ ceiling with Johnson seems to be the second round of the playoffs.
As tempting as it might sound to the casual fan, however, it just doesn’t make sense for the Hawks to pay Joe Johnson to go away. Keep in mind that using the amnesty provision does not excuse a team from paying the player’s salary. Atlanta would be on the hook for 100% of Johnson’s salary, meaning they would be paying him to play against them, very likely on a team that stands between them and postseason success. Johnson could sign a minimum deal to play for the Miami HEAT, Chicago Bulls, or Indiana Pacers, for example, adding insult to injury as he becomes an obstacle for the Hawks to get through.
The bottom line is, while Johnson is overpaid and his contract limits the Hawks’ flexibility, amnestying him is not the way to deal with the situation. We’re talking about a player who consistently gives his team 20 points per game and is among the best shooters in the game. It makes a lot more sense to use the amnesty provision on Marvin Williams, sign a starting center, move Al Horford to the four, and perhaps trade Josh Smith for the upgrade at starting small forward the Hawks need.
With the right pieces around him, Johnson could be a championship-caliber shooting guard; it’s just that the Hawks have been waiting for him to lead the team in that direction and he’s never going to do that . . .regardless of how many zeroes appear on his paycheck.
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