Riders on the Storm

It's coming. Free agency begin tonight at 12:01 a.m. The Grizzlies are commanding significant cap space this summer, though reviews are mixed as to whether the front office intends to drop major cash on a free agent or will stand pat and keep costs relatively low. Regardless of how much Heisley spends, it's almost certain that the Grizzlies will be shopping for two things, either by free agency or trade. According to the Commercial Appeal, they will be targeting a quality, young power forward and a backup point guard. Based on pure speculation, the point is almost certainly going to be a veteran.

Lets take a look at the options available to Memphis in the upcoming shop-till-you-dropathon. These players are in order not by any knowledge of Memphis's interest in them, but by overall quality. This list is roughly equatable to those released by various news sources.

Players likely to accept a backup point guard role: Jarrett Jack, Anthony Carter, Shannon Brown, CJ Watson, Bobby Jackson, Juan Dixon, Brevin Knight, Damon Jones, Sean Singletary

Clearly the point guard position isn't particularly interesting, so lets begin with assessing the prospects here: Jack is ranked 1st, and he is a very skilled scorer. Unfortunatly his passing ability is limited, and he actually performs best with someone else facilitating the offense. With that responsibility out of his hands, Jack scores well on catch-and-shoots and isolation play.

Anthony Carter is an excellent backup point, and has the knowledge of what it takes to win after playing with the Nuggets this season. He does little flashy, but also rarely makes mistakes. Still Carter is likely to remain with Denver.

Brown is similar to Jack, though less refined in his skills and perhaps a even less apt to pass. CJ Watson is also similar though far worse on defense, but with a better three point shot. Jackson and Dixon are both much older versions of the scoring guard.

Finally Knight is another aging backup, but he is still a defensive stalwart. He isn't very good, still I expect the Grizzlies will give him a long look. Jones and Singletary are both quite poor players at this point in their careers, though Singletary is young and shows promise.

Ultimately with Quentin Richardson now around to take all of the second unit's shots, and Conley also already providing scoring from the point the Grizzlies, the Grizz really need a veteran who will stay out of the way and play defense. I could see them making a run at a young player from the D-league or undrafted class, after all that's how cream-of-the-crop Anthony Carter got his job, but only because their list of options is so short.

Players capable of making an impact at power forward (note these players are not all pure power forwards, but can play at the position capably): Lamar Odom, Mehmet Okur, David Lee, Paul Milsap, Rasheed Wallace, Charlie Villanueva, Anderson Varajeo, Sean Marion, Chris "Birdman" Andersen, Antonio McDyess, Leon Powe, Drew Gooden, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Channing Frye, Joe Smith.

This list might look long, but the real list being considered by the Grizzlies has to be much shorter. Consider what owner Heisley said: "That player must fit the criteria, though, of being young, productive and reasonably priced." That means are will likely limit the list to Okur, Lee, Charlie V, Varajeo, Powe, Big Baby, Bass, and Frye. Odom is a very unlikely possibility as well, as the Lakers might be unable to retain him for a reasonable price if they sign Ariza first. I suppose the others remain possible, but they're much more likely to sign with competitors. Especially Sheed, Marion, McDyess, and Smith. Finally the Grizzlies would likely feel that Davis, Bass, Wilcox, and Frye are no better than Darrell Arthur or DeMarre Carroll. Remember they don't need depth, the Grizzlies need a singular starting talent at the 4.

UPDATE: OKUR DID NOT OPT OUT, AND IS NO LONGER AN OPTION: The #1 option Mehmet Okur is a Turkish player that plays a very European style. His defense is poor, but he has very legit NBA 3-point range. Okur can score and put up around 7-8 rpg, but is more traditionally a center than power forward. I find it very unlikely that Okur will be their choice, even though he may be a value if his contract demands are beneath 10 million. Instead of paying Okur and logjamming the position they could force Gasol into the position.

David Lee is an energy guy and was a double-double machine last year on the Knicks, but his contract will be worth way more than the sum of his talents. This guy seems like a major candidate for being overpaid, and he doesn't bring the scoring the Grizzlies covet. His offensive game is pretty limited, though he is suprisingly effective for his size when inside. Finally he can hit a spot-up jumper out to 15 feet. The Grizzlies may make a play for him, and may be the team that overpays, though its likely that they'll underbid for his services similar to Josh Smith last year to error on the side of caution. The Knicks like his sign-and-trade prospects anyhow, so they might sign him solely for that purpose.

Milsap is severely undersized, but makes up for it with his tenacity and strength. He wouldn't fit well with the Grizzlies, however, because they don't have the pure point to set him up. Some, however, consider Milsap a near All-Star talent with room to grow his already reasonable abilities. But honestly Milsap is better suited to being a backup or 30 minute per game starter, which could work nicely for the Grizzlies with their depth of acceptable PFs and with Hakim Warrick as a 6th man. It's going to be difficult to make a large investment in Milsap, who may or may not have had flukey production. They may take a look, but OKC remains interested and the Jazz seem to want to re-sign him. He will be overpaid at around 10 million a year, though it very well could be by the Grizzlies.

Charlie V is basically a less athletic, but slightly taller Rudy Gay; meaning he plays a bit better in the post, but dunks less, and still doesn't defend or rebound. He is exciting and can really fill the board, however, and has something like Rashard Lewis-esque potential. If you are willing to pay well over the MLE for him, then you will be able to steal him for the many playoff contenders interested in his abilities. Still 7 to 8 million a year wouldn't be an unfair price for Villenueva, and the Grizzlies could look to build around Thabeet similar to how the Magic built around Dwight Howard. A possibility for sure, especially since he and Rudy Gay often refer to each other as "suitemates for life" on Twitter.

Finally Andersen Varajeo seems to be an option, but he is really not what the Grizzlies are looking for at this point. He needs 4 scorers around him, and his offensive game is about as limited as Thabeets. While he is a good team defender and agitator, much like Milsap he is better suited to be a short minute starter, which won't interest the fiscally challenged Grizzlies for 7-8 million dollars a year.

Ultimately none of these options are thrilling whatsoever. I expect the Grizzlies will resign Warrick, as they consider his contributions as a 6th man a key member of their "young core." These players, however, aren't enough to take the cash and time away from their younger 4's. If anything does happen for the Grizzlies at the 4 spot, it's likely to be a trade for Amare Stoudamire in a Suns salary dump, who has the superstar abilities they covet, though that is a conversation for another thread.

The free agents at both positions of need aren't exceptional options for the Grizzlies, and in the end they will be more likely to improve via trade than via free agency. I expect them to sign someone who will see minutes at backing up Conley, but otherwise they're likely to reserve their cap space for a superstar to fall into their lap to replace the one they gave away.
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