It's well known in and around the NBA circle that there are multiple teams interested in acquiring the services of Marc Gasol in this summers free agency period. It's also well known that the chances are Marc will end up staying in Memphis, his adopted home. This hasn't stopped the Spurs, Knicks, Lakers, and more recently the Mavericks from declaring their intentions of snapping him up to become their franchise cornerstone.
It remains highly unlikely that Gasol will wind up playing in New York or Los Angeles as he doesn't seem interested in a rebuilding job which could take numerous years before either the Knicks or Lakers could make a real run at the title. Marc is 30 years of age now and needs to make a run at that title as soon as possible. Let's count the Lakers and Knicks out.
The Dallas Mavericks have been making noise that they're prepared to offer Gasol a max contract. This is all well and good, but I don't feel that Marc is interested in only making big bucks, he wants the title. Can Dallas realistically offer him that chance? I'm not so sure. Dirk, despite being a fantastic player cannot carry a team on his back anymore, Monta Ellis could be set to leave, Rajon Rondo has already left, and the Mavs bench seems pretty weak to me. To me this doesn't look like a good move for Gasol. He may well listen to what they have to offer, but ultimately he will turn them down.
By now you've probably read multiple articles on the Spurs interest in Gasol. San Antonio are the Grizzlies main threat when it comes to keeping hold of him. If Marc decides the Spurs will be the best fit for him then he would have a great shot of winning his first title in his first season in Texas. But what happens after that first season? Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili possibly retire, San Antonio enter rebuild mode and it could well be that Marc has to wait a few more years for another shot at the title.
If, as expected Gasol resigns in Memphis do the Grizzlies have a shot a winning the title any time soon? First of all the Grizzlies, as we know, can offer Marc the longest contract and the highest paid contract. But would he be willing to take a little hit on his annual wage to give him the best chance of a title? It may be in his best interest to do so.
Moving on to next season the Grizzlies roster will look pretty much the same as it did this season if, as expected Marc resigns and if, as expected Jeff Green takes up his player option. This won't leave Memphis too much cap room to make wholesale changes. A shooter will probably be added at a small value. A backup center will also be required if, as expected Kosta Koufos moves on to pastures new. Will the Grizzlies be genuine title contenders with a roster pretty much the same as this seasons roster? They'll have an outside chance and will need a lot of luck for things to go their way. You can't count them out, but they may come up short yet again.
Now we move on to the fun and interesting part, the 2016/17 season. In the summer of 2016 the NBA's new T.V. deal comes into play, the salary cap is projected to jump from a projected $63.4 million next season to a projected $89 million the following year. Max contracts are set to go through the roof and new super teams are likely to be formed.
As I said before, if Marc is willing to take a small hit on his annual salary this summer then the Grizzlies could potentially form their own super team in 2016, which would give Gasol his best chance of winning the NBA title.
How can the Grizzlies do this?
Marc is eligible for a 5 year contract extension this summer. Many superstars have been willing to give up a portion of their salary for a chance to bring in high quality players. Let's say Gasol does the Grizzlies a good turn and decides to accept a 5 year contract at a starting salary of $16 million per year. Does Marc deserve more? Probably yes, but I'm going with the theory that he'd rather win a title than have money in his pocket. This would mean that in the second year of his contract Marc would earn just shy of $17 million. This is the year the new $89 million salary cap would hit the NBA.
In the summer of 2016 the Grizzlies would have, including Gasol, just 7 players under contract. They are Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Vince Carter (providing he hasn't retired), Jordan Adams (providing the Grizzlies take up his team option), Jarnell Stokes and Russ Smith. Without Gasol's salary the Grizzlies will have just $23.556 million on the books. Including Gasol's ($17 million salary if he accepts my terms) contract they will have $40.556 million on the books.
Mike Conley's contract ends in the summer of 2016 so the Grizzlies will look to extend Mike during that summer as it remains extremely unlikely that he will extend beforehand as it wouldn't be in his best interests. If Conley decides to stay in Memphis he would be eligible for a max contract of a projected $145 million over 5 years. For what it's worth I don't think Mike will receive a max contract, but he will still receive a very generous starting salary of $20 million in the first year of his contract (a max contract for Mike would be worth a projected $25.238 million in the first year).
With Gasol on the books for $17 million and Conley for $20 million the Grizzlies would have a total of $60.556 million on the books for the 2016/17 season. You can add a couple of new rookie contracts on to that payroll and the Grizzlies would still be around $25 million under the cap with a roster of 10 players.
What can Memphis do with $25 million cap space?
Kevin Durant will be the highest profile player to hit the open market in 2016, and the Grizzlies will have zero chance of landing him. Some more realistic names they could go after include Chandler Parsons, Harrison Barnes, Nicolas Batum, Bradley Beal, Wilson Chandler and Joe Johnson.
Parsons could well leave the Mavericks if they aren't challenging for the title, the Warriors may not be able to keep Barnes if they max Draymond Green this summer, Batum may be allowed to leave the Blazers if they choose to go in a different direction, Washington may not be able to afford to keep Beal if they make a successful run at Kevin Durant, Wilson Chandler could come to Memphis and become the glue guy, whilst Joe Johnson has the ability to put up big numbers on any given night and likely won't command a big salary on his next contract.
If the Grizzlies were to sign any of these players it would leave them with the same Core Four they have today, plus a great signing if any of the above were to end up in Memphis. Jordan Adams may well have done enough to force himself into the rotation by the time 2016 rolls around. Courtney Lee could well resign on a favourable deal. A couple more rotation players would need to be added as well. There wouldn't be too much cap room left to sign these rotation players. But I have great confidence in the front office's ability to put a team together with a lot of depth. Who knows, the Grizzlies could well unearth a gem in this years draft who could be ready to play meaningful minutes by 2016. There may be a lot of wishful thinking on my behalf here, but this has the makings of a roster which looks to me as if it would have a fantastic chance of winning the NBA title. Only time will tell, but I honestly believe that Marc's greatest chance of multiple title challenges would come if he stayed with the Grizzlies.
This is also the same season in which Tony Allen and Zach Randolph's contracts will end in Memphis. What better way for them to go out than to win that elusive title for Memphis?
Do whatever it is you need to do Marc, but please stay in Memphis and finish off what yourself and the rest of the Core Four started and bring that title home.