Part 2: The Free Agents
We are looking at the way the Grizzlies have developed their franchise over the last ten years. Part 1 was about the Grizzlies draft picks, so if you have not read it yet, go read that first.
Free agency in the NBA has a lot of problems with the way it’s currently constructed. From restricted free agency to the moratorium, there are things problems that need to be fixed. Unfortunately we don't have the time and space here to fix the problems with the NBA free agency so instead, we are going to look at the most notable free agents coming to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies inherently have a disadvantage in the free agency market by just being the Memphis Grizzlies. There isn't anything the front office, the coaching staff, or the players can do about that. Memphis is second to last media market in the entire NBA. This measure how many homes there are that have TVs in them. Memphis usually hovers around 48-50 in the country for a media market. It doesn't ever matter what the Grizzlies offer a free agent on the open market, the contract could be the same as another team, but big free agent players are rarely taking that one thing into consideration when making a decision.
Big time free agent players are looking at other factors when choosing a new team, the contract is number one, but they are also looking at the community, the culture, are all factors. Even more importantly players are looking at market size. The biggest stars in the NBA are looking to see what media deals or outside contracts are available in that city before they sign with the team. For many players at the top of the NBA those type of contracts are worth more than their actual NBA contracts. Even for mid tier to lower level players those deals still exist. Tony Allen is the spokesperson for airport, I mean c’mon where else does that happen other than Memphis. These are all factors that the Grizzlies are trying to battle before they even START to negotiate with a player.
All that being said, there are still players that want to come to Memphis. How does Memphis get to them say yes? There are a couple of reasons that players choose small markets, generally it is one of four things. Players get to start over, they’ve either had trouble with coaches, the league, other players, or it just hasn’t worked before. They are coming off an injury and need a team to take a flier on them or the most important, they get overpaid. They are at the end of their career and are looking for one last contract. Now that last one is a big one. That’s usually how any small market teams (or bad teams) get good players. They pay more than anyone one on the open market is willing to or should pay them.
Now that we know how the Grizzlies get free agents. Let’s take a look at a few of the most notable free agents that have signed with Memphis (don’t worry, the list isn’t very long). For some clarification on this list, these are players that were not brought here via trade or drafted and then re-signed to a multi year contract. These are players that had not played for the Memphis Grizzlies the previous season and were signed during a free agency period.
Jerryd Bayless - Jerryd Bayless signed with the Grizzlies in 2012, he had never averaged more than 11 points a game and was coming off his best season with Toronto. I would say this was a decent acquisition. The Grizzlies were trying to find the ever elusive backup point guard for Mike Conley and Bayless was serviceable. He wasn't great while in Memphis but was an upgrade from what they had before. Ultimately, Bayless was traded to Boston.
Mike Miller - Mike Miller was a acquisition in 2013 coming off a title run with the heat, he was signed with the intention of being a role player off the bench that would provide some extra three point shooting. Miller was great in his time with the Grizzlies before he was traded, and this signing always felt like it was trying to rekindle some type of lost relationship. Needles to say, it didn't work for either party and Mike was gone the next year.
Vince Carter - This signing looked great on the surface when it happened three years ago, but, the first two years looked rough. Vince Carter was hurt most of those first two years and never really looked right. That being said, in the third year of his contract Vince looked like everyone thought he was going to be the first two, this signing would be considered a success if it weren’t for those first two years he spent injured.
Brandan Wright - see Carter, Vince.
Tony Allen - Tony was in a odd spot in Boston, he wasn’t playing that many minutes per game, he definitely wasn’t starting, but Chris Wallace had a relationship with him. The Grizzlies thought he was being underutilized in his role with the Celtics and in the off season with the promise of an expanded role, he signed with the Grizzlies. He started only 10 games in his last two years with the Celtics and had only 113 steals in those two years. In his first year with the Grizzlies, he started 31 games and had 129 steals cementing himself as one of the best specialists in the league.
Troy Daniels - Troy Daniels was signed this past off-season to be an offensive weapon off the bench. There were concerns of his defense coming in (rightly so) but overall, Troy has done a pretty good job this year. He has been a role player that has impacted multiple games with his shooting and that is exactly what he was signed to do.
Chandler Parsons - I won’t really go in to Chandler Parsons here because you can browse GBB for all the Parsons info that you want, other than to say he was overpaid to get here, and he was coming off an injury (reasons 2 and 4 people come to Memphis).
You look at the list above and most of the have the same things in common, none of them made an impact on the Memphis Grizzlies as a whole. The free agents that have been here the longest in Wright and Carter have been hurt most of the time that been in a Grizzlies uniform. Free agency has been a problem for the Grizzlies for a decade, the fact that the list of notable players players include Jerryd Bayless and Troy Daniels should tell you need to know. The Grizzlies have been not nearly good enough on the open free agent market to steadily improve their team. Sure, there are players that just don’t want to play in Memphis and no matter how much you offer them, they will never step foot in this city.
Every summer, there are great articles from this site on who the Grizzlies should pursue or who might be left on the open market. Everyone knows that Grizzlies are not going to get the big free agents, but why are they not going after the mid tier players or better role players? For every LeBron James, there are five JR Smith’s. These are players that make an impact long term for the Grizzlies. These are the type of players you pair with franchise players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. For some reason the Grizzlies have never hit on one role player that has made a difference. For a decade, the Grizzlies have not signed one free agent that has played here longer than three years.
Maybe there isn’t one single player in the NBA that has the skills to be a bench player for the Grizzlies that also wants to come here. Maybe every single player the Grizzlies offer a contract to, has decided not to play for the city of Memphis. I don’t know for sure, and none of us will know who exactly they have offered contracts to in the past that have simply said no to the Grizzlies. I would like to think that the Grizzlies would have found one player in a decade that could have an impactful contribution to the team.
Coming up next, we will take a look at the most notable trades the Grizzlies have completed over the last decade. Stay tuned.