The Memphis Grizzlies are in a peculiar situation coming into this free agency period. The team finished the year ultimately underachieving with the talent on the roster, but at the same timebthey would have had a realistically difficult time knocking off the top teams in the West regardless. Now, the biggest question becomes where does the team spend its money?
Our own Kevin Haswell made the case yesterday about a youth movement beginning in Memphis. He wanted to let Tony Allen and Zach Randolph go and, instead, build around the young guys for the future. It was a well-written and well-argued piece, but I will feature a counter argument to his overall conclusion. It will show how Memphis can think long term roster rebuild while also not having to give up their free agents and core team culture in the process.
If you have read any of my articles before, you know that I am a wholehearted believer in teams rebuilding around young assets while changing their styles to the new Spray N Pray era of today’s game. However, Memphis does not have that luxury of building around dominant early draft picks and collecting assets (such as the 76ers). Outside of a complete blowup by trading Marc Gasol (I don’t think Memphis would get a big enough return anyway), the Grizzlies are handcuffed to this roster construct for at least another year or so. Let’s break it down.
The main goal of any rebuild is creating enough cap room and building assets for a long-term goal. Achieving this does not have to result in trading away big pieces and letting major players go in free agency instantly. It all depends on how the players’ contracts set the roster up for the future.
Depending on the reputation of the player, contract length is as important, if not more important, than the value of the contract itself (such as the one-year deals used with Kevin Durant and Lebron James). A team’s ability to get out of contracts that do not work out is crucial. With this in mind, Memphis can restructure themselves for a rebuild while at the same time reloading with similar pieces for another year.
The current roster construction is not ideal for the Grizzlies, and it will take some years for it to work itself out. Last summer’s spike in salary cap made a few general managers, Chris Wallace in the center, break out the checkbooks with no regard. Unfortunately, we saw that all too well with the Chandler Parsons deal, along with Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov with the Lakers and even Joakim Noah with the Knicks. All of these long-term deals have been a thorn in the side of the teams’ roster flexibility.
This abomination of a contract, in an ill-fated way, is the main reason the team should run it back one more time with the pieces from last year. Until some team takes this deal off the Grizzlies books (which is highly unlikely) or it expires on its own in 2020, the rebuild and youth movement won’t be able to really start. The goal from here on out should be shorter contracts that give the front office an escape route if the deal goes south. The team may not have an option but to start this trend this free agency period.
As Memphis faithful know by now, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green (Restricted), and Vince Carter are all free agents this summer. Another fact well known is that the Grizzlies do not have much cap room to work with in free agency. With that to consider, there just will not be enough money to go around to all pay all four free agents what they want and still stay under the luxury tax. With Vince Carter most likely going to a team closer to a ring, the challenge will be to balance the other three.
It was reported that Tony Allen will only be offered the veteran’s minimum from the Grizzlies, so it will be interesting to see what other front offices value TA’s services. I believe Zach Randolph will be back no matter what. He recently joked about a “super team” being started in Memphis. Z-Bo knows where he belongs.
As for JaMychal Green, this is where the bulk of the money should go if possible. He is a young, athletic big man and demand has never been higher. Teams with cap room will probably be driving up players’ prices like we saw with Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe last summer. Depending on how his value compares to other big man free agents on the board, Memphis will need to try their best to match other offers that teams put out. Short or cheap deals, if possible, are key for all three of these new potential contracts. It will go a long way down the road.
All in all, it would be absolutely ideal to keep JaM, TA, and Z-Bo. Run it back with last year’s team and see what happens. The city will get behind this team, no matter what, like we saw all last season. Maybe Parsons can contribute at some point while he’s there and maybe he won’t, but the thought of running last year back again and fighting for a playoff berth sounds better than a rebuild.
A roster rebuild needs to happen eventually, but without much flexibility, bringing the Core Four back and going for another playoff run would be the best offseason formula for, not just the team, but for the city of Memphis.