NBA PM: What’s Next For The Grizzlies?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The Memphis Grizzlies have been bracing for a trade with core players like Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph’s names constantly involved in rumors as new ownership and management tried to get the team out of the luxury tax.
Today the trade to get them out of the luxury tax came and both Gay and Randolph are still Grizzlies.
Josh Selby, Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights (and a 2015 first-round pick) are no longer with the team, though. They are now Cleveland Cavaliers, with Jon Leuer coming to Memphis in exchange.
Now the Grizzlies are $2.2 million under the luxury tax threshold, so the big question is what’s next?
Their first order of business has to be filling out their roster a little bit. They only have 11 players under contract and have to sign at least one before their game tomorrow against the Los Angeles Lakers. They could sign as many as four new players if they wanted to.
Several names including Delonte West, Bill Walker, Sasha Vujacic, Micah Downs, Eddie House, Joe Ingles and Chris Johnson have surfaced as possibilities to fill those vacant spots. The Grizzlies are currently exploring all options. They were in attendance for the entire 2013 NBA Development League Showcase in Reno, Nevada last week, so they are pretty familiar with what the D-League has to offer. The top prospects in the D-League who were not mentioned above are DaJuan Summers (Forward – Maine Red Claws), Jerome Jordan (Center – Reno Bighorns), Courtney Fortson (Point Guard – Los Angeles Defenders), Chris Wright (Point Guard – Iowa Energy) and Arinze Onuaku (Forward – Canton Charge).
Those decisions will be made sometime in the immediate future. However, the Grizzlies still have just about a month to decide whether or not they want to do something even bigger than they did today and move one of their top guys like Gay or Randolph.
Previously the Grizzlies were receiving offers for them that mainly helped them get under the luxury tax, not improve as a team. That should change now that their salary is under the $70 million luxury tax threshold. If teams are seriously interested in acquiring either Gay or Randolph, they are going to have to come with a legitimate offer that helps the Grizzlies improve.
As a result of the trade they made today, though, the Grizzlies really don’t have to do anything outside of fill out their roster with a couple of contracts for the league minimum. And, that may not be a bad thing at all. Head coach Lionel Hollins and point guard Mike Conley Jr. have strongly campaigned for the decision makers to keep this group together and now they just might get their wish.
Credit To The Cavaliers: After an impressive career at Wisconsin, Jon Leuer went on to be a second-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He played sparingly for the Milwaukee Bucks as a rookie and was traded this past summer to the Houston Rockets as a part of the deal for Samuel Dalembert and a lottery pick. The Rockets, overloaded with big men, opted to waive Leuer.
The Cavaliers, in need of depth up front, picked him up. He spent more time in the D-League than on the court for them, but today they were able to swap him and trade exceptions for Josh Selby, Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights and a 2015 first-round pick. The pick is top-5 and 15-30 protected in 2015 and 2016, top-5 protected through 2018, and unprotected in 2019.
Even if Leuer blows up with the Grizzlies, that’s great value.
Of course, let’s not misconstrue the Grizzlies’ intentions here. They do like Leuer and will give him an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation, but this trade was not made for him. The Grizzlies were recently taken over by new ownership and the front office has nearly been overhauled as well. Getting out of the luxury tax was their first order of business.
Prior to the trade, they were $4 million over the luxury tax threshold. Now with this move they are roughly $2.2 million under it with four open roster spots and a trade exception somewhere in the $5 million range that they can use anytime in the next year.
By being under the salary cap and having flexibility, the Cavaliers were able to capitalize on the Grizzlies’ stance and get far more than max value for Leuer. Selby and Ellington will provide some valuable firepower on the wing, a necessity when Kyrie Irving is your point guard. Ellington can be a restricted free agent at the end of the year and Selby’s contract has a team option for next season.
Speights will be able to step in and handle a good portion of the minutes left by the absence of Anderson Varejao, who will be out for the remainder of the year due to developing a blood clot in his lung after surgery. Speights is only 25 years old. He has an option on his contract for next year, if he decides to pick it up the Cavaliers will owe him a reasonable $4.5 million.
At 10-32, the Cavaliers are not where they want to be record wise. However, they should be very pleased with the assets they were able to acquire today. Speights, Ellington and Selby are good prospects who they will be able to thoroughly evaluate in the second half of the season and determine whether or not they want to make them a part of their already stout young core. If not, they still have a future first-round pick to show for Leuer and no long-term salary cap implications to worry about.
Bazemore Loving It In G.S.: The 2012 NBA Draft came and went this June without former Old Dominion guard Kent Bazemore hearing his name called. That didn’t stop him from achieving his goal of making it to the NBA, though. While it takes some guys years to earn their spot after going undrafted, Bazemore was able to catch on with the Golden State Warriors during the summer and has remained on the team to this day. In this video interview, Bazemore talks about the pains of going undrafted and the joys he has now from living his dream day in and day out.