The offseason picture became much clearer last week with the trade of Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos and Jerryd Bayless picking up his '13-'14 player option. With about $61mm tied up in 10 players, the Grizzlies roster appears nearly set for the upcoming season. By all accounts, Tony Allen will be re-signed, probably for an annual salary of $5mm, for 2 - 3 years (ideally the 3rd year would be a team option/partially guarantee year). Assuming that Jon Leuer is also retained for somewhere around $1mm, that puts the Grizzlies payroll at $67mm locked into 12 players. That leaves just $3.5mm to acquire the long-needed "shooter" via Free Agency. But before looking at potential targets, 4 things bear mentioning.
1). For seemingly the 3rd year in a row, finding a secondary ballhandler is nearly as important to the Grizzlies as finding a "shooter." The perfect addition to this Grizzlies team would be able to handle the ball at least some.
2). What, exactly, is a "shooter?" There's been some confusion in Memphis on this topic. An average 3 point shooter makes 36%, on about 2.5 attemps per game. Austin Daye and Wayne Ellington were not shooters. The Grizzlies should be looking to acquire a player that makes close to or above 40% of their 3's. Of secondary importance, when that player is run off the arc, it would be nice for him to be able to get all the way to the basket, rather than pulling up for a mid-range jumper.
3). Defense is a very minor concern. Playing alongside Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Marc Gasol makes nearly every NBA player passable on defense. Ray Allen, JJ Barea and Mike Miller have all played significant minutes on championship teams. They are also among the worst defenders in the league.
4). The easiest way for the Grizzlies to improve over last year is to allocate some of Tayshaun Prince's minutes to more productive players. The Grizzlies were a better team after acquiring Tayshaun, but it would be a mistake to think that was because Prince played stellar basketball.
Finally, this list touches on a few players the Grizzlies cannot acquire. Why include them? The Grizzlies have a number of trade exceptions and sizes of contracts that make sign-and-trades a real possibility. They also have a 2014 pick they can add (I think) as a sweetener. After that lengthy intro... onto the list!
The 2013 Hrdlicka Grizzlies Free Agent Index (HGFAI 2013)
10). Roger Mason Jr. - The first name on our list is not even a poor man's shooter. He's a homeless man's shooter. To be honest, I had to google "Roger Mason retired?" to make sure he wasn't, you know, retired (hence why he gets no picture). Almost assured to get the NBA vet minimum, he is a career 38.4% 3 pt shooter. Mason was a part of some pretty good San Antonio teams, and I could see him as a lower cost replacement if management wanted to clear cap space by dealing Bayless. At the very worst, he is still better than Keyon Dooling.
9). Chris Copeland - I am highly suspicious of this player, mostly because I can't find a historical comparison for a 28 year old rookie "power forward," who hit 42.1% from 3 pt range. He took just 18.9% of his shots from mid range, which is encouraging, but... he only took 140 3 pointers. That is our entire sample size of Chris Copeland, the NBA player. How problematic is this? If he made just 8 fewer threes, he would have been merely a league average 3 point shooter. There is good reason to think that there is some noise in that sample size.
I have no feel for what type of contract he will get, but it would be hard to commit more than a year to such a player, and he will almost assuredly be offered more. And how would he fit on the Grizzlies? Would he play at the 3? Would he take minutes from Ed Davis, or Jon Leuer - a player with a more defined skill set, who will almost assuredly make less money?
8). Kyle Korver - everyone's favorite "shooter." And with good reason. He's a career 41.9% 3 point shooter. Nearly 69% of his attempts were 3 pointers last year. He shoots well from everywhere beyond the arc - a surprising rarity in the NBA. The idea of "hot spots" actually carries some weight. Most guys can't just throw them in from anywhere.
So why is Korver so low? For starters, he will likely command the full Mid-Level Exception, and I just don't think its optimal for the Grizzlies to commit that kind of money to a 31 year old player with one skill (I thought this even before Jerryd Bayless exercised his player option). Secondly, Korver contributes little else on the offensive end. His assist rate and turnover rate were identical last year. He can't handle the ball. What's worse, he never gets to the rim. Like, never ever. Just 5.5% of his attempts were at the rim. Lil Penny probably got to the rim more than 5.5% of the time. You can't guard me! Secret Service can't guard me!!!
Korver is a great mid range shooter, but even he shot just 46% from mid range last year. Conversely, Gary Neal and Marco Belinelli are terrible finishers at the rim - and they both shot better than 47% in the paint last year. In other words, a poor finisher at the rim still yields more points than a great mid-range jump shooter!
Korver is a better player in a vacuum than many of the guys above him on this list, but handing the full Mid-Level Exception to a 31 year old, one-dimensional player is bad policy for the Grizzlies.
7). Paul Millsap - Not a realistic option for the Grizzlies. Nor does he fill a need. Why include him on this list? Because Paul Millsap is a fantastic player who - only 28 - will almost definitely be underpaid this offseason. You must at least investigate the merits of signing a player like that. Paul Millsap came into this league as just a rebounder from Louisiana Tech. Then he learned to score in the paint. Then he learned to pass (going from 1.5 assists per 36 minutes to 3.0 in '12-‘13). Playing some of the time at Small Forward in super big lineups alongside Favors and Jefferson, Millsap's shooting numbers declined below 50% for the first time in his career over the last 2 seasons (to a career low of exactly 49% last year). In stark contrast, exclusively playing Power Forward Zach Randolph has shot over 50% only twice in his career, including 46% each of the last two seasons. Last year, Millsap made 56% of his shots in the paint; Zach made 52%.
Millsap will likely command $9mm -$10mm annually, perhaps less. It is unfortunate the Grizzlies don't have that kind of money. He will likely be signed by a good team - Spurs, Thunder, Rockets perhaps - and he will likely be the 3rd or 4th best player on a really good team. I will close with this: if the Grizzlies wanted to do a quick rebuild by trading ZBo, Millsap is one of only 3 Power Forwards they could realistically acquire and not miss a beat.
6). JJ Redick - Unlike others, I don't see Bayless picking up his option as a deterrent to signing Redick. I think the chances of Bayless and Wroten finishing the year with the Grizzlies is roughly 50/50. Either could be traded at any time, depending on needs or their play. JJ Redick is probably going to make more than the Mid-Level exception anyway, something closer to the $7mm - $8mm range. To acquire him, the Grizzlies would have to sign and trade some combination of Ed Davis, Bayless, a pick, or Wroten for him.
Is Redick worth it? Probably. It's very difficult to find high level shooters. It's even more difficult to find high level shooters that can actually dribble, let alone hit shots off the dribble. Redick finishes at a decent rate in the paint (58%), and gets there 22% of the time (exactly 4 times more often than Kyle Korver, for instance). I think he's slightly overrated, and playing alongside Conley would be somewhat problematic. Still, his combination of skills is too strong not to consider.
5). Marco Belinelli - The first of the realistic options to fill the shooter role for less than $3mm. His stats from last season don't tell the full story of Belinelli's season. He shot almost exactly league average from behind the arc - far below his career average of almost 39%. Belinelli was stretched in ways he had never been before - not only offensively, but especially on the defensive end. Belinelli was frank about struggling to pick up Chicago's defensive scheme, and it doesn't help that he is far from an athletic freak. But he worked. And he worked. And he ended up going from "hopeless" to merely "below average" on defense. I think, if utilized properly, Belinelli's shooting percentage will revert back close to his higher career averages. If the Grizzlies lose out on the names above, expect Belinelli to at least be talked about.
4). Carlos Delfino - Recently waived by the Rockets in their increasingly scary pursuit of the Dwightmare, Delfino is a good bet to take a one year contract on the cheap. Less a shooter than a scorer, he would bring a sometimes maddening, sometimes enjoyable, set of huevos to the Grizzlies bench. Just 13.2% of his attempts come from mid range, a great indicator.
Just a hair above an average 3 point shooter for his career, I have him rated this high because of his ball-handling and willingness to play several positions. The Rockets played him at power forward in the playoffs. A few years ago, he knocked down enormous shots for the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs. Could he be the irrational confidence guy on a playoff team? He's already done it twice. Remember the play that set basketball back a decade?
He is interchangeable with the next player on this list....
3). Gary Neal - Admittedly his performance in the Finals makes him more likely to be overpaid this year, but he has long been one of my favorite random dudes in the league. He just doesn't give a crap. Gary Neal gonna shoot. And his shots, for the most part, go in. For his career, he has hit nearly 40% of his 3's, but only 35.5% last year. Which Neal will you get next season? That is a question the answer to which is a moving target.
Only 17% of his shots were in the paint last year. In the Finals, Miami ran out to him with abandon, knowing that if he pump faked the 3 point shot, worst case scenario was that he tried a shot 5 feet closer worth 1 point less.
So why this high? He will be affordable, he will probably take a one year deal, and you can't find cost-effective players willing to do this very often:
2). Martell Webster - The top 2 players on this list are very clearly the best two options for the Grizzlies. Webster had a sneaky very good year last year for the Wizards. How do they reward him? By drafting a small forward with the number 3 pick in the draft. Admittedly Martell Webster is not a starter, but he shot 42.7% from deep. Of equal importance, he has the most optimal shot distribution of any possible Grizzlies free agent target: only 19.6% of Martell Webster's shots last year were from mid-range. He does not finish at a high level when he gets in the paint, but just his willingness to drive all the way to the rim - as demonstrated before - creates optimal shots.
Webster is only 26 years old, and he is a good bet to maintain his skills. The only reason he is affordable is because of his less than stellar injury history. That is the risk attached to Webster, but pairing him with another low cost option on this list could suddenly open the court in ways Marc Gasol has never seen before.
1). Mike Dunleavy - Long my favorite free agent, even before Bayless picked up his option, for the price tag. Reasonably, he could be had for the mini-Mid Level Exception. Or less. Pairing him with another shooter on this list, I believe, is far more valuable than simply acquiring Kyle Korver, or even JJ Redick. Floor spacing is achieved with multiple shooters, rather than just one specialist.
A career 37% 3 pt shooter, Dunleavy has shot the cover off the ball the last 2 years - posting 42.8% last year, and 39.9% the year before while playing with perhaps the most selfish backcourt in the league. What's more, his shot distribution is in line with what you want. Only 29.3% of his shots are mid-range jumpers. And when he goes to the rim, surprisingly, he is effective - finishing almost 58% of the time. That number is nearly identical to JJ Redick, and better than Corey Brewer, a notable "Layups and 3's guy." Pairing Dunleavy with Pondexter and Conley suddenly gives the Grizzlies 3 viable shooters on the court at once, while also ensuring that Conley has another ballhandler to help relieve pressure.