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Trade Deadline Primer Part 2: Memphis Grizzlies Trade Targets

To trade or not to trade? As the deadline approaches, what might the Grizzlies do? Fake trades abound!

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Check out Part 1 of Hrdlicka’s Trade Deadline Primer here.

I’ve had the trade machine open as a tab for the past month. It sighs every time I click “Start Over.” We both need a break.

Small Moves that won’t/shouldn’t happen

Ben McLemore – I’m officially off the McLemore trade bandwagon, except as a pure bargain. SAC isn’t getting a 1st for him, and probably isn’t getting a good 2nd. I prefer keeping Vince Carter for the rest of the year, if that tells you anything.

Nik Stauskas – I don’t think Memphis has the right combination of assets, but I’d at least gauge where the 76ers are on him (ditto on Timothe Luwawu). Stauskas has largely disappointed on his rookie deal, but he is eligible for an extension as early as next summer, and you can sometimes lock in better value by gambling on players who are showing signs of being productive at the end of the rookie contracts.

Randy Foye – a likely buyout candidate signed on a one year deal. Randy Foye is the worst player I can think of that might be an upgrade over Toney Douglas.

Dion Waiters – Man, I just don’t know.

Tyreke Evans – I said I just don’t know.

Tim Hardaway Jr. – In the last year of his deal, and I really worry about his next contract.

Jameer Nelson – Don’t see the Nuggets moving any vet when they’re pushing for the playoffs.

Shelvin Mack - I don't see the Jazz helping a relative peer.

Small moves that I’d do

Seth Curry – one year rental who might come at a cheap price. Can’t play with Conley.

Omri Casspi – if the price is a 2nd round pick, or Jarell Martin.

Mario Hezonja – But only if ORL paid a small asset for us to take him.

NBA: Miami Heat at Minnesota Timberwolves Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Tyus Jones – Jones is two years younger than rookie Kris Dunn, and yet he might actually be better than the number five pick. Still, MIN’s organization has committed to Dunn in a way that makes Jones or Rubio expendable. It’s tough to cobble together the right value, but maybe taking on Nikola Pekovic’s salary for next season could be part of the price tag. Swapping Wright, Vince Carter, Jarell Martin, and Andrew Harrison for Jones and Pekovic only adds about $5mm to the Grizzlies cap next year.

Meanwhile, MIN clears that $5mm in space, which gets them north of $20mm in space after accounting for their draft pick. Wright is different than MIN’s other bigs, but might make moving Aldrich or Dieng more palatable to clear space. Next summer is the last summer MIN has before extensions for Wiggins (in 2018) and Towns (2019) kick in, and their cap space is nuked for the long term. They’ll be executing a salary dump of some type, and waiting until the summer might come a higher price tag.

In the end, the idea of using Tyus Jones to clear Pekovic’s salary is a good one for MIN, but Memphis is probably not the best trade partner. Even though I’m sure the Grizzlies would love to have Jones, adding Pek’s salary probably pushes Memphis into the luxury tax (unless they stretch him).

Big moves that probably wont happen but are not totally insane –

I guess we should talk about Jones’s teammate.

NBA: Miami Heat at Minnesota Timberwolves Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Rubio – I think Rubio is gettable. I doubt MIN can get a lottery pick for Rubio, and if they can’t get a lottery pick, then the price isn’t that far from what the Grizzlies could offer. Is Rubio a perfect fit? No. But if you imagine Rubio as a Tony Allen replacement that sacrifices a little rebounding and defense, but adds ball movement and shot creation, the fit becomes a little more natural. Under team control for two seasons beyond this one, Rubio could take a ton of pressure off of Conley. All Spanish Rubio/Gasol pick & rolls with Conley, Parsons, and Jamychal spotting up around them would be tough to stop, and Rubio could guard twos on the other end.

It’s tough to find a workable trade, but Memphis would, in effect, empty the coffers. For Rubio and Adriean Payne’s expiring zombie contract (included to make salaries work), I’d offer Brandan Wright, Tony Allen, Jarell Martin, the MIA 2nd round pick, a future 2nd round pick, and a 1st round pick swap next year. This move gets MIN a young PF in their biggest position of need, clears $9mm from their cap next summer, and if they spends their money right (Paul Millsap anybody?), the pick swap becomes a sneaky asset.

Ultimately, I think having a non-scoring guard like Rubio on your team puts a ceiling on what you can be. But that is what people have been saying about Tony Allen and Zach Randolph for years. And those years have been fun, right?

E’Twaun Moore - Moore is a utility guard, capable and willing to do a bit of everything in a very “meh” fashion. Signed for three more years beyond this one at about $8mm/year, the 27 year old is locked up for the rest of his prime. Over the past two years, on 250 attempts, Moore is above 40% from three point range. He’s too small to play the three, but would be a stabilizing combo guard for the backcourt. Unfortunately, he would also block Wade Baldwin for the rest of his rookie deal. That’s why Baldwin would probably be in this deal.

I’d offer Baldwin, and give the Pels the option of Daniels, Vince, or Wright (in this deal I’d probably prefer sending out Daniels). We could even expand the deal to include two of those three, and take back Alexis Ajinca zombie contract (for, say, Brandan Wright), if they’d include PHI’s 2017 2nd round pick and a future 2nd round pick swap of some type.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Maurice Harkless – If I could trade for any reasonably gettable long-term forward, it would be Mo Harkless. He can play either forward spot, and is a perfect fit next to Parsons. Just 23 years old, he is an elite finisher at the rim, and is approaching league average from three point range. Again, elite finisher, near league average from distance. That is a tough combination to find.

His rebounding is below average for a power forward, but Harkless still finds himself at small forward more often than not. Mo, Parsons, and Ennis would be a fantastic combo-forward rotation, and playing even Ennis and Mo together would be tenable as long as you had Conley and Gasol on the court, too.

Harkless would only be available if Portland wants to dodge some luxury tax while gaining assets (instead of paying a team to take a player like Meyers Leonard).

I’d offer almost the same Rubio package to Portland. Brandan Wright, Vince Carter, and a bevy of 2nd round picks. Maybe POR would prefer Deyonta Davis or Wade Baldwin in there. We can certainly talk about that. Wright offers a cheaper alternative to either Festus Ezeli or whichever of the Plumlees they have to re-sign (another luxury tax savings). This deal gets Portland within a few million of dodging the luxury tax altogether.

We’d probably need to include either Davis or Baldwin to get this done. And you know what? I’d do it. I believe in Mo Harkless.

The Best Deals

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lou Williams – To me, trading for Lou Williams is the best and most likely short-term upgrade. Lou provides desperately needed ball handling and shooting. He’s capable of running the Grizzlies’ bench unit. Signed both this year and next for just $7mm, Lou Will offers value beyond this season and clarifies the Grizzlies offseason.

There are several iterations of this deal that might work, but I’d push for a Vince/Jarell Martin/MIA’s 2nd round pick for LouWill/Thomas Robinson.

The Heat pick isn’t as enticing as it once was, but it still has some value. Copy and paste the last sentence for an accurate description of Jarell Martin. The hope is that combining both of those assets together gets you close to the value of a 1st round pick. The Lakers would clear $7mm in space, vital for a team that wants to use cap space, bringing them within spitting distance of the $35mm necessary to offer a super-max.

Williams seems like a perfect fit for the Grizzlies, and the team might feel good enough about acquiring him that they let Toney Douglas go to re-sign Troy Williams. But there are questions with this acquisition. LouWill, Parsons, and ZBo is probably one too many aging poor defenders (certainly Troy Daniels would no longer play), and the defense would take a pretty decent hit. But JaM’s skill set now fits perfectly.

This is what makes deals so hard. The Grizzlies veterans are balancing on a knife’s edge. Trading for any significant piece probably requires a second trade that offloads a significant piece that no longer fits.

Acquiring a scorer like Lou Will probably means saying goodbye to Z-Bo. Acquiring a non-shooter like Ricky Rubio probably means trading Tony Allen. That’s why these types of deals are unlikely, even if someone like Lou Williams seems as if he’d slot in perfectly.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Kilpatrick – In my never-ending quest to be as niche as humanly possible, I humbly submit a guard from the worst team in the league. Here’s a little thing about living in the Eastern Time Zone: You end up watching one team with early games waaaay more than you should. Last year it was Orlando. This year it’s Brooklyn.

Kilpatrick’s defense is unspectacular but he fights through screens and generally knows where to be. I think his offense would benefit from having a smaller role surrounded by better players. He moves the ball, attacks space, and moves well without the ball. A good approximation for Kilpatrick would be if James Ennis had a little more ballhandling and passing, and a little less rebounding and defense.

The best part is cost control. Signed for the minimum both this season and next, then a restricted free agent, the 27 year old comes with team control for the rest of his prime.

I’d offer Brandan Wright and either Andrew Harrison or the Heat 2017 2nd pick for Kilpatrick. Seems like a lot to give up, but this deal also probably allows you to keep JaM, ZBo, and TA without going into the luxury tax. There is a clock attached to Wright’s health, and if they wait until the offseason, there is no guarantee that the “healthy” designation is still in the Grizzlies favor.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Thabo Sefolosha – I really like Thabo’s fit on a Grizzlies team, which would be suddenly deep at the leagues shallowest position. In the last year of his contract, I don’t know if Thabo would be anything more than a rental. Would you re-sign after coming off the bench (presumably the “Thabo Sefoloshas of the world” would not start over the man who coined the phrase)?

In fact, the Thabo Sefoloshas of the world would provide some leverage against overpaying/losing Tony this summer, and might be had for a decent number this offseason. I’m somewhat optimistic that Thabo’s length, shooting, and relative skill will age well on a 2 or 3 year deal.

Think about how filthy a wing rotation of Thabo, Tony, and Ennis would be on defense. Think about how that rotation plays against Golden State. The Grizzlies defense would still have an outstanding perimeter defender when Tony goes to the bench.

Atlanta has a history of prioritizing valued contracts, and they might see some value in Brandan Wright’s deal extending into next year. There are several iterations of this deal that would work. Brandan Wright, Jarell, and a good 2nd round pick for Thabo and Kris Humphries expiring deal works. A bigger deal swapping in Tiago Splitter’s expiring or Mike Dunleavy (just $1mm guaranteed next year) could loop in combos of Harrison, Vince, or Troy Daniels. It really depends on whether Atlanta wants to dump salary or add valued contracts. The Grizzlies have both to offer, and the degree to which they are confident in re-signing Thabo could affect how much they are willing to give up.

The chances of any deal happening aren’t great, but this at least gives you some idea of where the Grizzlies are, and the types of deals they’ll be entertaining.

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