He’d be perfect.
Chandler Parsons, or at least the non-existent to this point healthy version of Chandler Parsons, fit the mold of a perfect addition to the Memphis Grizzlies this time last summer. A wing who can play multiple positions, defend multiple spots, create off the dribble and in the pick and roll, shoot the three...he was supposed to be exactly what the Grizzlies needed.
Until he wasn’t.
It’s very possible that Parsons could rebound and have a great 2017-2018 season, and of course it would be in the best interest of the Grizzlies for that to occur. But what if it doesn’t? Even the biggest believer in Chandler and his abilities has to admit that there’s a real chance he is never what he was as an NBA player again. That’s scary, and could be crippling to the Grizzlies franchise, unless the opportunity arises to potentially move off that deal.
It’s a long shot, but that opportunity may have arrived.
The Indiana Pacers were told by Paul George, their All-Star wing, that he would not be returning to Indiana in free agency next summer, in 2018. That started rampant rumors and speculation about where he may wind up. Cleveland and the Cavaliers became a hot destination quickly, but surely all 29 teams would be interested in a player the caliber of George. All 29 including the Memphis Grizzlies, hopefully.
By now you’re saying to yourself as you read this...
Memphis doesn’t have the assets to acquire him. Surely you don’t think he could come to the Grizzlies, do you? And even if he did, would he be worth a one year rental price, considering he almost surely would not stay in Memphis?
Yes, and yes. Here’s how and why.
How to acquire Paul George in three not-so-easy steps
- Hope Indy gets desperate...fast.
There are already rumors that, if things got too serious between Cleveland and Indy, the Lakers would swoop in and offer a package to acquire George. This would potentially make sense, except that the word is already out that PG-13 wants to be in L.A. with Magic Johnson and the Lakers anyway. If Johnson, who surely believes in the Lakers mystique as much as anyone alive considering he helped create it, thinks no amount of wooing would convince George to skip out on L.A., why give up anything to acquire him in a year where you’re not planning on being very good anyway? Especially that #2 overall pick.
So imagine the Lakers call the Pacers bluff, and the third team that would be necessary to get the Cleveland-Indiana deal off the ground never materializes. It’s draft night. Calls aren’t coming in for George because teams are either waiting out the era of Warriors and Cavaliers (see Celtics, Boston) or don’t have the cap space/combination of assets necessary to get a deal done. The Portland Trail Blazers, with multiple firsts this year, don’t want to sacrifice that many picks for a rental. Same thing with the Denver Nuggets, who are a lighter version of the Celtics in the west and have a lot of good, young players that they would like to see stay in Denver.
The phone stops ringing...except for a 901 number. It’s Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace, and he’s willing to deal.
2. Be willing to part with young prospects
What Memphis lacks in draft picks, especially of the first round variety, they make up for somewhat in young prospects on rookie deals. Wade Baldwin IV and Deyonta Davis are probably the two most valuable potential assets on the Grizzlies roster, especially Davis, who in limited playing time has shown real potential as a rim protector. If the Pacers somehow do not have a deal on the table with an upcoming first round pick or two involved as they would like, perhaps getting talented sophomore players would be an attractive plan C or D.
Parsons would be the key from Memphis. You aren’t parting with Mike Conley or Marc Gasol in this deal - you’re not losing a cornerstone of the franchise for a rental - and Chandler would have to be something Indy would even want (more on that in a minute). But this trade could potentially work -
Memphis receives - Paul George, Monta Ellis
Indiana receives - Chandler Parsons, Wade Baldwin IV, Deyonta Davis, 2018 Charlotte Hornets 2nd Round Pick, 2019 Brooklyn Nets 2nd Round Pick, 2021 First Round Pick (top-five protected in 2021, top-ten protected in 2022, unprotected in 2023)
The Pacers get two young players with upside and three assets to use in future trades or to hold on to for selections the next few seasons, and they also get rid of the Monta Ellis contract. For Memphis, it allows for the Grizzlies to keep the gang together, so to speak. More on that later.
Now? The real key to all of this...
3. Hope that Indiana wants to tank.
Remember how Chandler Parsons may never be good again?
The Pacers would want to have that on their roster.
This is what makes this such a potential stretch. There are no illusions of grandeur here - any play Memphis has as a dark horse in the PG-13 sweepstakes depends almost entirely on what Indy plans on doing in the long-term. George did the right thing for the Pacers informing them early, since they now can find a way to not lose him for nothing. Indy could get Parsons, have a top-5 pick next year and probably the year after, and rebuild that way. It surely isn’t what the Pacers want, but they may not have a choice.
Indiana’s loss could be Memphis’ short-term gain.
Why the Grizzlies should do the deal
As discussed earlier, the market for George may be limited by the current NBA landscape. Other teams have more resources and more cap space that would make them more attractive trade partners than Memphis. But will they want to part with those things for only a year of Paul George? Is it worth likely losing to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals? Or the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals? More and more it seems teams don’t think it is.
But Memphis almost surely does. And here is why they should be willing to part with young players and picks to get it done, if it is possible.
Because their core pieces, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, are either in their primes or leaving their primes. Because their role players who are so important to the history of the franchise - Zach Randolph, Tony Allen - are free agents as well, and this acquisition would make all the more reason to bring the gang back together one last time. Because it would help Memphis get off of the Parsons contract and allow for the Grizzlies to potentially be free agency players again in 2018, as Ellis also has a player option for the 2018-2019 campaign and may want to opt out like George. That would free up $30 million in cap space.
It would also give Memphis a reason to go in to the luxury tax for one year to try to maximize whatever is left of this era of Grizzlies basketball. In this example Ellis and George will make roughly $30.7 million, whereas Parsons/Baldwin/Davis are scheduled to make about $26.3 million. That takes the amount of guaranteed money on the Grizzlies payroll up to about $98.8 million for the 2017-2018 season.
Add in signing back players like Wayne Selden Jr. ($1.3 million team option), JaMychal Green ($11 million in year one of a new deal), Zach Randolph ($6.25 million hometown discount), Tony Allen and Vince Carter (roughly $2.8 million veteran minimum deals) and you are about $1.6 million over the luxury tax. This trade could also make not bringing JaMychal back more realistic and using the Mid-level Exception to bring in a new starting power forward like Ersan Ilyasova, or perhaps going small and getting Tyreke Evans, or P.J. Tucker, or...gulp...Rudy Gay.
A starting lineup of Mike Conley/Tony Allen/Paul George/JaMychal Green/Marc Gasol, with a 2nd unit of Andrew Harrison/Monta Ellis/Vince Carter/Brandan Wright/Zach Randolph, has the potential to be a pretty darn good group in the Western Conference. Wayne Selden Jr., James Ennis III, Troy Daniels, and Jarell Martin would round out the roster.
This is just one possibility full of speculation, and again, it is likely Memphis is not able to acquire George for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean Memphis shouldn’t try.
Say Stephen Curry gets injured, or Kevin Durant. Both tremendous players have injury histories, and losing one of those players makes the Warriors seemingly more beatable again. Meanwhile, you are already invested in the here and now in Memphis, anyway. Why not give yourself the opportunity to say you did everything you could with a beloved group of players? If you fall to a healthy Warriors club in five or six games, you fall, but in a time where more and more teams are looking to five years from now you’re dealing with the present. You’re shooting your shot. You’re hoping that if opportunity comes, you’re there to take advantage.
You throw a max contract offer at George when the season ends, and if he turns it down, so be it. You were essentially all-in anyway, now you’d just doing it with a better hand than you had the year before. Considering the current state of the Grizzlies, taking advantage of Indiana’s potential misfortune may be the very best Memphis can ask for.
Spotrac.com was used for contract figures for this article.