The small market Memphis Grizzlies had the league’s 6th highest payroll in 2016-2017 thanks in large part to the contracts of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Chandler Parsons. Though the contracts were initially met with excitement and enthusiasm, Grizzlies fans soon soured to the spending spree when Chandler Parsons disappointed in a big way. As much as it hurt to watch Parsons and his $22 million in salary hobble around this year, the future's still bright in the Bluff City. With a few tweaks and shuffles, the Grizzlies may yet have some spending power once Free Agency opens up on July 1st.
The most important number to know when discussing the off-season is $102 million. That is the salary cap that each team must work under whilst trying to build a roster. As it stands at this very moment, the Grizzlies have $92,188,766 committed for next year. For all you math majors out there, that leaves Memphis just under $10 million in unused cap space to chase down prospective free agents. This number could jump up closer to $16 million if the Grizzlies can manage to move Brandon Wright without taking back a contract. Toss in a player like Troy Daniels or (god forbid) James Ennis III and the Grizzlies could be looking at $20 million to spend on the free agent market.
At first glance $10-20 million seems like a workable number. Under closer scrutiny, the sadness starts to creep in. With Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, JaMychal Green, and Vince Carter all hitting the free agent market, the Grizzlies are going to have to say goodbye to some important players. So the looming question becomes : Who stays and who goes?
Zach Randolph and Tony Allen: Ride off into the sunset...
Memphians will always have a soft spot in their hearts for Allen and Randolph. They are the true creators of the Grit ‘n Grind era. The professionalism with with they carried themselves, the toughness they exhibited, and the love from the city they demanded could never be quantified. The problem becomes that both can still be major contributors on contending teams. If Tony Allen wanted to, he could demand a 3 year, $20 million type of contract and get it. If Zach Randolph so desires, he could sign a 3 year, $25 million dollar contract with any number of teams in the league. The Memphis Grizzlies simply cannot afford to throw that kind of money around.
Now I know what all of you soft hearted readers are thinking. Trust me when I say that I feel your pain. These two guys are the legitimate backbone of what the Grizzlies have built since 2009. The NBA is business. Chris Wallace and John Hollinger have to look at this in a big picture type of way. No way in hell can you throw crazy money at a 36 year old power forward with no lift and a 35 year old offensive liability. If either is willing to take a crazy paycut, by all means. But those guys have earned the right to go chase their championship, and no matter where the chips fall they will always be loved in Memphis. Odds are great that both have their jerseys hanging in the rafters the second they retire.
Disclaimer: It hurts me down to my soul to imagine either of these guys wearing any jersey other than that of the Memphis Grizzlies, just trying to be a realist.
Jamychal Green: Let the market decide on this one...
Jamychal Green produced a career year heading into free agency. This couldn’t have worked out any better for him. Unfortunately, it is quite possibly the worst scenario the Memphis Grizzlies could have ever imagined. J-Mike is 27 years old and has (more than likely) hit his ceiling as a player. His statline this year was surprising. His ability to shoot out to the 3pt line at near 40% was astounding. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it only takes one team to offer him something crazy and the Grizzlies lose him for nothing. It’s completely plausible to see a team like the Nets come in and offer him a 4 year, $48 million dollar deal and there’s nothing Memphis can do but wave goodbye.
If Memphis is able to keep him, the ceiling of what the Grizzlies will be able to offer him should be somewhere in the 4 year, $30 million dollar range. That seems like a lot for a guy that has 91 career starts. I don’t mind the Grizzlies making a push to keep Green, he is a great fit in Memphis. Let’s hope the braintrust of Beale Street gets this one right. If the price is right, keep him. If a team swoops in and offers something crazy the Grizzlies have to let Green walk.
Vince Carter: Get out the checkbook and keep Vinsanity in Memphis...
This should be the easiest decision of the off-season for the Grizzlies front office. Vince Carter has to remain a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. Pay him what he wants. Hand him a blank check. Do whatever it takes to keep VC in the 901. The 40 year old still has some juice in his legs, and more importantly he has an apparently fantastic relationship with Deyonta Davis. Outside of Mike Conley, there is no more important player to the Grizzlies future than Davis. The 20 year old has a ceiling somewhere in the realm of DeAndre Jordan/Myles Turner/Tristan Thompson and he is already showing signs of elite rim protection skills.
Marc Gasol has three All-Star caliber years left. An injury to our beloved Spaniard could shorten that window considerably. The continued development of Davis is the best chance the Grizzlies have to keep their playoff streak alive well into the foreseeable future.
It seems that Carter has taken a shine to the rookie center. The influence of the 8 time All-Star could be nothing short of career changing for Deyonta Davis. Amazingly, VC even fixed up a room at his place so Davis can come visit whenever he wants. Make no mistake people, this is veteran leadership at it’s finest. If Vince Carter wants to stay in Memphis, then the Grizzlies brass has an obligation to make that happen. Chris Wallace and John Hollinger would be wise to go in with a contract in the neighborhood of 2 years, $7 million dollar contract for Carter. That may be a high price to pay, but not nearly as costly as watching Vince Carter walk out the doors of FedExForum.