Let’s talk trades.
This is where small market teams can shine, well sometimes anyway. In the NBA you get caught in a vicious cycle when you are a small market team. Even if you get a good pick in the NBA draft, there is no guarantee that player works out or even a guarantee that you get a top 3 pick. You might get a player, that player might not work out, a new coach might not be any good, the list goes on. If you are not able to attract good free agents on the open market, sometimes trades are your only friend, where you can force a player to be here to several years. Hopefully, that player grows to like the team and the city and re signs. It’s like dating someone who doesn’t want to be in the relationship at all, but you hope you can change that person’s mind.
Typically, this is where small market teams can really make a difference, especially if they drafted players that just don’t work for that team. A lot of times, players can be good, but just not for that team. Being able to “fit” in on a team is a real thing in the NBA. This is where the Grizzlies have done the most damage over the last decade. On the surface those trades can sometimes look terrible and most of the time, small market teams like the Grizzlies, have to take gambles on players in trades, just like they do in free agency.
Trades are really hard to grade, there is no mathematical way for me to lay it out for you to visually see how the Grizzlies have stacked up against the rest of the league.
The Grizzlies have made a lot of trades over the last decade so we are not going to look at all of them, because that would take up too much space and time. That being said, let’s take a look at the most notable trades that have helped shape this team.
Kyle Lowry to Houston for first round pick (DeMarre Carroll) - Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley were drafted one year apart, Lowry in 2006 and Conley in 2007. These are arguably the best two draft picks the Grizzlies made and at a certain point, one of them had to go. Both were good players, and the Grizzlies front office decided to stick with Conley, thus trading Lowry for the main reason, another first round pick. That first round pick turned out to DeMarre Carroll, someone who went on to have a good career in the NBA, but not for the Grizzlies. He played only one year in Memphis.
Rudy Gay to Memphis for Shane Battier - Rudy Gay was brought here in a trade from the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier the same year he was drafted. Rudy played seven season with the Grizzlies and was the first big win in the trade market for Chris Wallace. He was good for the Grizzlies, and he was the first true “playmaker” they may have ever had. Unfortunately, Gay doesn’t know how to play without the ball in his hands. He is a player that has to have the action run through him or he doesn’t play well. That being said, the trade by itself, was a great trade.
Rudy Gay traded to Toronto for Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis - Rudy Gay gets traded to Grizzlies and then he gets traded away. This trade was more about getting rid of Rudy than it was about getting quality players in return. The Rudy Gay era had run it’s course in Memphis and the team could not win with Gasol, Randolph and Gay on the court at the same time. The Grizzlies traded him in a three team deal for mainly Ed Davis, Prince, and a second round pick. This is the start of the journey looking for starting caliber wing. On the surface, Ed Davis was supposed to be a good prospect, but he couldn’t really get off the bench and he left in the offseason for a different team.
Jeff Green to Memphis for Tayshaun Prince (Quincy Pondexter was sent to the Pelicans) - Jeff Green was the next great solution in the journey for the wing player that could play alongside Marc and Zach. Jeff Green played here for a little more than a season and then he was traded for a first round pick to the Clippers (suckers). Green never panned out for the Grizzlies, but the trade itself, with Green’s contract at the time, the way he was playing, that was a win for the Grizzlies to be able to dump that contract to the Clippers.
Zach Randolph to Memphis for Quentin Richardson - Zach Randolph had a very rocky career before he got to the Grizzlies. Zach was in two salary dump trades before he even go to the Grizzlies. Randolph was widely considered to be a black hole as a player, never passing the ball, and taking every shot he could get his hands on. Let’s be clear about this trade, it was a salary dump the third time he was traded from the Clippers to the Grizzlies. He played 11 games for the Knicks before being traded and only played 39 games for the Clippers. On the surface, this was a trade for a player that had all sorts of problems. We can look back on it and say it was a great trade, but that just wasn’t the case. Zach ended being a great fit in Memphis, but the Grizzlies lucked into a player doing a complete turn around.
Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie to Memphis for Pau Gasol - At last we come to the Marc Gasol trade. This might have been the most notable trade in the last decade for the Grizzlies. Let’s get right to it, this was a bad trade. It was a horrible trade for the Grizzlies. They traded away arguably the best player they had ever drafted, for a group of players that had not even really played for the Lakers that much. The trade was basically for Kwame Brown and two first round draft picks, everything else was just to make the money work. Did the Grizzlies know that Marc was going to be this good? Absolutely not, but every once in a while you get lucky. The trade itself though, was not good at all.
Over the last decade, the Grizzlies have won a few trades and lost a bunch. That’s really the only way you can bring players in that will make an impact to a franchise that most people don’t want to play for. This is the primary way the Grizzlies front office has built this franchise over the last decade. All these trades have built the franchise into what it is, and this is a an area that Grizzlies have been average.
Have they been lucky? Absolutely, two of their franchise players are based on mostly getting lucky that the players turned out to be better than you could have ever imagined. They didn’t win every trade over the years, but they have been successful in at least getting a piece in every trade that they can either use in future trades or possibly a draft pick. Unfortunately, they are terrible at drafting, so you can see how this all starts to fit together now.
The only problem with the Grizzlies trades? The willingness to give away future draft picks and they have given away a lot, next time we talk about future draft picks. Stay tuned.