For the longest time, we’ve been assuming that the Grizzlies will use their exceptions this summer, but I want to outline an unlikely, but still real, scenario in which the team using cap space is a better option.
Here are the following assumptions:
1). ZBo gets a deal too large and is determined to leave.
2). The Grizzlies are only interested in bringing back Tony Allen and/or Vince Carter at the minimum, and fine losing them otherwise.
3). The team still wants to keep JaMychal Green.
4). It does not cost much to trade Brandan Wright.
Each of these assumptions varies between plausible and likely. None of them are outlandish. But we would need ALL of them to be true for the following to be true. Stack somewhat likely possibilities on top of each other and you get a tower whose existence is increasingly unlikely.
Still, this could happen, so let’s look at the why.
If the Grizzlies renounced the cap holds of Z-Bo, TA, and Vince, they would give up the right to go over the cap to sign any of these players for more than the minimum. The Grizzlies would have about $93.5mm in dedicated salary. Throw in JaMychal Green’s cap hold/QO and you’re up to $96.5mm, just $2.5mm in space below the $99mm cap.
But, if you trade Brandan Wright’s $5.9mm salary, you would have $8.47mm in space, nearly exactly the Mid Level Exception.
Okay, so why does this matter?
If they stay above the cap, the Grizzlies would also have the Bi-Annual $3.5mm exception. But if they go below the cap, use $8.47 cap space to sign players instead of the $8.4mm MLE, they would also have access to the $4.4mm Room Exception. Then TA and Vince could sign for the minimum and your roster is complete.
In a vacuum, an additional $1mm of spending power isn’t worth sacrificing Z-Bo, TA, Vince Carter, and Brandan Wright, but teams don’t operate in a vacuum. The team has already been reported to only be offering TA the minimum. We’ll see if that’s right. Vince might want to go elsewhere.
The crux of this is whether Z-Bo forces a decision. If he gets an offer that the Grizzlies deem untenable, then this path becomes much more likely, and will just boil down to whether the extra $1mm in spending power is worth the cost of dumping Wright.
I keep using “cost” when talking about Wright, because to get off his entire salary, I believe the Grizzlies will need to send out an asset, rather than gain one. Some talk has seemed to imply that Wright’s name might have been out there on draft night, and no one bit. Teams are inherently optimistic about using their space, and nobody wants to use $6 million of their space to take on a big, when there are already too many bigs in the NBA.
The cost won’t be high – say a middling 2nd round pick – but this is another asset cost that mitigates the value of spending $4.4mm instead of $3.5mm.
And there is value there. At the bottom of the market, teams will have roughly the same tools to compete for players. A free agent will have to decide between taking the $5mm taxpayer MLE from Cleveland, or the $8.4mm non-taxpayer MLE from a worse team.
Similarly, a slightly lower class of players will decide between the $4.4 Room Exception and the $3.5mm Bi-Annual Exception.
The value of retaining your players typically pushes teams to stay over the cap, and use exceptions. I still think, if you simulate this offseason, that is where the Grizzlies will be an overwhelming percentage of the time. But there is value going the other direction if the scenario unfolds the way I’ve laid out. I don’t think many teams will realize the value of outbidding all other offers for the Mid-Level and Bi-Annual Exceptions. You would be able to spend at the top of both of these player pools, and while you might not get your top priority, you would have access to better tools to get one of your top choices than almost any other playoff team.
So maybe you would be able to add both Darren Collison AND Omri Casspi, or both CJ Miles AND Langston Galloway. AND in both of these scenarios, they would also be able to match any offer for JaMychal Green, because they’ve already cleared the salary necessary to retain his cap hold and only the absolute best BEST JaM offer approaches the luxury tax.
I’m not advocating that the Grizzlies seek out this alternative. I’m just saying that once a few things happen, it becomes the best way to shift and maximize your spending power. The Grizzlies should be ready for this possibility.