Core Four No More? What's the Trade Value of the Key Memphis Grizzlies

Kevin C. Cox

When the untouchable becomes touchable!

The last four seasons have been a beautiful  bliss for the Memphis Grizzlies. Behind the core of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen, the Grizzlies have danced with success, enough to where it has become the norm, but the future guarantees nothing, causing questions to arise in regard to this core being the one to get it done for this team in the next few years.

So myself (Trisity Miller to be exact) and Joe Mullinax spoke via e-mail on the possibility on trading a member of the big 4 and what exactly it'd take for us to move on from those we've grown attached to these last few years.

Trisity Miller: Ya know Mullinax, we may be public enemy number one throughout Memphis for our consistent attempts to trade pieces of Memphis' 'Big 4' (Allen, ZBo, Gasol, Conley).

Joe Mullinax: You may be right about that Trisity, but at the end of the day it isn't about hating players or thinking they weren't important to the roster or organization. It's just that in the case of these guys sometimes it is in your best interest to move on before you hold on to them one or two years too long. In the case of Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, two of the most beloved Grizzlies of all time, that time may be closer than any Beale Street Blue-Blooded fan would care to admit. Especially in the case of Tony Allen, whose trade value will undoubtedly never be higher.

Miller: Agreed. The sentimental need to hold on to these guys, particularly Zbo and Allen as those two have been involved in the bulk of the trade rumors, because without them, these last four years probably don't happen. No TA? No grit-and-grind. No Zbo? Maybe the Grizzlies never win their first playoff series; but at some point you have to know when to let go which brings me to ask you this question: is it time to move away from this core group, Mike and Marc included?

Mullinax: I tend to think that Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are the two key pieces moving forward. They play so well off of each other, and every great team has dynamic duos. Gasol and Conley could be the next generation of tandem that takes Memphis through the glass ceiling, but they can't do it alone. Between Zach if he opts in for $16.5 million and TA's $4.8 or so, that is over $21 million tied up in players who may well be on their last year or so of production. It is better to get out too early than too late.

That being said, if the right deal came along, no one is bigger than the team. The question is, where exactly is that line in the proverbial sand when it comes to each member of the "core four?"

Miller: I think that line differs depending on what you think this team can accomplish with different assortments of the core.

For instance, if you think the 4 can win a title between next season you run with it darn near until the breaks fall off. And on the far side of that spectrum, if you think their window is closed and they're just trudging along with a middling group (it's crazy to think that middling in the West could mean first round exit) then moving a fan favorite isn't an issue. I find myself leaning closer to the latter rather the former, with no one being off-limits anymore.

Let's play GM. Let's overlook TA and Zach for a second. Through GBB you could probably find nearly 30+ hypothetical trade packages involving those two. What would it take for you to move on from Marc (1-year, $15.8 million left) and Mike (2 year, ~$19 million left)?

Mullinax: To move Marc Gasol I would need a top 3 pick in this draft. To me, he is the cornerstone of everything the Grizzlies do, and it reflects in the various schemes both offensively and defensively that Memphis utilizes. If you move on from Gasol, you give up all of that and basically say this era in Grizzlies basketball is over, time to reload. For Cleveland's #1 Varejao, Gee and the 1st overall for Gasol and 22 overall would do it for me personally; that's $12 million coming off the books in 2015 plus the chance to take a potentially generational talent. For The Buck's #2 pick, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and the pick for Gasol and #22 works in the eyes of the ArmChair GM. Finally, for the 76ers 3rd overall pick I would want Thaddeus Young and the pick for Gasol straight, no 22nd involved there.

Lofty prices, but Gasol is that valuable, especially to a team like Cleveland who feels they are a 2nd star away from an Eastern Conference playoff push.

For Conley, you need a pick and a lesser point guard who can keep the ship from sinking, preferably an expiring deal. Jameer Nelson and the #4 overall pick from the Magic for Conley and 22 would work nicely, with Memphis taking Dante Exum or Marcus Smart at 4 overall or perhaps an Aaron Gordon. What about you?

Miller: I like some of those deals, or at least the overall principle of them. The players obtained are a but questionable, for example, if try and get Waiters from Cleveland instead of Gee or something like that, but gist of it all, I agree with.

The Conley situation is interesting because at this point he'd be the guy I'd want to keep if forced to trade 3 and keep 1. He's only 26 and has gotten better every year since signing that extension. While Gasol isn't easier to replace than Conley--the market would jump on an all-star center deal before an all-star point guard deal--he'd fetch the best package and Koufos could step into the center position. Conley then improves, turns into our own little Tony Parker and we go from there.

But I do love the Orlando trade. I'm not really sure what Exum can be, but if he's a franchise-changing player I'd do that in a heartbeat.

Now with Memphis' favorite players in TA/Zbo. I'd like to think that nobody would move a pick for either, so what do you look for when looking to trade those two?

Mullinax: I agree on Waiters; perhaps you try to snag him first but would settle for Gee.

I see either Tony Allen or Courtney Lee as "get rid of Tayshaun" bait. You have Quincy Pondexter returning and in theory the idea of Jamaal Franklin is possible, so either of those guys could be expendable. However, if you look at the offensive struggles of the Grizzlies dealing away one of their better offensive players (Lee) doesn't make a ton of sense. So, TA it is in this scenario. I think revisiting the JJ Barea/Chase Budinger for TA and Prince trade is possible, but only if flipping first round picks is involved. Get Minnesota's 13 in exchange for 22, take Rodney Hood or Doug McDermott, move along.

Another possibility in terms of getting in to the late lottery is Denver. Perhaps the Nuggets are concerned about Danilo Gallinari moving forward and he can be had to get his big contract off the books. TA, Tay and 22 overall for Gallinari and the 11th pick? Possible if a player Denver is in love with is gone by 11.

With Z-Bo, you take the best offer available. There are teams who could use toughness and a guy who can score in the post. Memphis, if Zach were traded to be traded, would likely re-sign Ed Davis and look for wing help in free agency. The $10 million or so they save with no Z-Bo on the roster could possibly net a Gordon Hayward/Chandler Parsons type, so perhaps an Eastern Conference contender could be a destination for Randolph. Z-Bo and 22 overall for Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap makes sense for a Hawks team always searching for picks and future cap space, while giving Memphis shooting off the bench and rebounding.

What possibilities do you see for Zach and Tony on the trade market?

Miller: It's hard to get a grasp on Zach Randolph in regards to how management feels about him going forward, but if need be you sell low with Zach and high on Allen.

Randolph isn't the guy he used to be, falling out of the top-10 power forwards and his style of play doesn't fit where the league is headed. Serge Ibaka is the prototype modern-day role playing small forward. He can spread the floor, knocking down the 20 footer with ease and defend the paint as well as anyone in the NBA. Randolph's shooting has regressed, he can't defend the rim, and isn't spreading the floor like he was two or three years ago. Basically Memphis missed their opportunity to pull in nearly equal value on Z-Bo. What's he worth nowadays? A mid-level role player, for Memphis, a shooter or shot-creator, because the real goal is to save salary for the future.

For Allen you attempt to sell high. The Barea/Budinger deal isn't one I'd do despite one longing for the removal of Tayshaun Prince from my favorite basketball franchise, but it's the type of deal that'd peak my interest. Allen's coming off his best postseason ever. He showed why Allen is the best perimeter defender in the NBA, still, and that's a point you could sell high on during initial package negotiations. Of course, his salary is damning enough to where if you're dead set on moving TA, you lower your demands, but you have to begin at a confident point to show leverage is in your hand. What type of player should Memphis get for TA? A 3-and-D player that can create his own shot when needed.

Mullinax: You make good points here Trisity. I have always agreed with our good friend/former Managing Editor Kevin Lipe in that a hyper-athletic PF (Ed Davis, Thaddeus Young) would be perfect to pair alongside Marc Gasol. Z-Bo has certainly been a big part of the Grizzlies' past successes, but I just can't shake the feeling Memphis could go to another level with a player who is a part of scheme and ball movement and is not such a isolation heavy player. I feel Zach's value is still high due to the unique skill set he provides, but the fact that his ceiling is limited is concerning. It is, however, likely that Zach is back, unless he A. wants too much money ($13 million plus) or B. Opts in and there's a trade that can't be turned down.

Tony Allen is just so damn different than any basketball player in the league, it is hard to quantify his worth. It leads one to question everything; is he overpaid? Can he start next to a scoring wing? How valuable is his unique defensive skill set? You can go into a trade involving TA and make a rational argument it is bad and/or good for either team, depending on your views. Allen is more valuable to the Grizzlies than he would be to any other team, so at this point I would keep him. He can start, come off the bench, his role is malleable enough that he does not negatively effect the team so long as he is always surrounded by at least 2 shooters on the perimeter.

It's possible that both of these guys are more valuable in Memphis for a variety of reasons than they would be anywhere else. That likely skews their worth in the eyes of writers, bloggers and fans alike, in both good and bad ways.

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