Let’s play a little game of “guess that player”. Check out the following numbers from this past season for these three players...
Player A: 48% shooting percentage, 29.3% three-point shooting percentage, +4 net rating (113 offense, 109 defense), 5.4 rebounds per game, 55.1% true shooting percentage, .112 win shares per 48 minutes.
Player B: 37.3% shooting percentage, 34.1% three-point shooting percentage, -14 net rating (99 offense, 113 defense), 2.3 rebounds per game, 51.5% true shooting percentage, .025 win shares per 48 minutes.
Player C: 50% shooting percentage, 37.9% three-point shooting percentage, +10 net rating (117 offense, 107 defense), 7.1 rebounds per game, 60.1% true shooting percentage, .132 win shares per 48 minutes...
So, who is the better player using these specific stats? Which one is the better shooter, the better defender, the one who contributed the most to their team winning this past season. Player C, right? Surely he’s the one who should be paid the most...
It may actually not work out that way.
Player A, Jon Leuer, is a former Memphis Grizzly who will be making $10,497,319 this coming season for the Detroit Pistons. Player B, Mirza Teletovic, will be making $10,500,000 while launching threes for the Milwaukee Bucks.
And Player C, JaMychal Green, has yet to sign an offer sheet in restricted free agency 23 days after it began.
A variety of factors play in to the fact that JaMychal Green could very well be making far less money this coming season than he, and many writers/bloggers/media types, originally thought.
They have little to do with JaMychal as a player overall.
Green has proven the capacity to be a key player on a good basketball team. It’s quite amazing, actually - a player who once couldn’t crack an NBA roster was a starter in the Association for the Memphis Grizzlies as they played a competitive first round series with the San Antonio Spurs this past season. He shot well from range. He attacked the pick and roll well and has the ability to defend multiple positions on the floor. He was a capable rebounder, grabbing 14.8% of all rebounds available while he was on the floor, and he also did a good job getting to the free throw line (.334 attempts per field goal attempt, the best among the listed players above). He can do almost anything you need him to do and then some...
So again, why is he still on the market?
In short, the money has dried up. Teams spent so much last offseason (looking at you, Joakim Noah, Evan Turner, Timofey Mozgov, and...sigh...Chandler Parsons) that there simply isn’t as much cash to go around this year, and lots of it has already been given out. Put on top of that the fact that the teams that do have money either don’t need JaMychal Green or don’t want to overpay him (more on that in a moment), and here we are.
That leads us to the Grizzlies. The team has quite an advantage in restricted free agency in that they can match any offer an opposing team makes. Surely other NBA franchises are interested in JaMychal, and have discussed deals with his agent (who claimed to the Commercial Appeal that they have two offer sheets in hand). Those offers probably weren’t the number of years, amount of cash, or maybe both, that Green had in mind in free agency, explaining his reluctance to sign them.
Other teams offer a contract and, if it’s around the mid-level exception amount of $8.4 million per season, the Grizzlies are definitely matching. Their roster is missing a starting power forward, after all. Increase that amount to $10, $11, or even $12 million per? Memphis is probably still matching, since they will still be below the luxury tax in the process of taking on that deal.
If you go beyond that $12 million mark? You start to tread into overpaying for a player who, while solid, should not be making $14 or $15 million a season. He isn’t capable of being your 3rd or even 4th scorer consistently. He isn’t dominant in any area. He is the personification of the modern NBA role playing big who can defend and shoot...but beyond that? He isn’t worth handicapping your organization in future free agencies.
The Grizzlies have already done that to themselves with signing Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Chandler Parsons to long-term deals, for better or worse. JaMychal has little to no leverage.
He could of course accept his qualifying offer of roughly $2.8 million and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Even then, though, uncertainty could reign as less and less money is available among teams. He must decide if that kind of a bet on himself is worth turning down what would likely be somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-$30 million guaranteed from Memphis over the life of a three-year deal. For a player who has made approximately $2.1 million so far in his NBA career, that is life-changing money to walk away from.
And what about a potential sign-and-trade? It would have to bring back a high draft pick, or another potential starting big to fill that power forward void. Neither options appear likely at this stage.
It makes too much sense for both sides to work out a deal. The Grizzlies clearly have a hole at power forward, and that’s where Green’s advantage in a negotiation lies. But Memphis already has the winning hand. Green must either sign his qualifying offer or sign one of the offer sheets an opposing team reportedly gave him, and surely the Grizzlies will match as long as the price is right. If it wasn’t, JaMychal would have already signed his offer sheet and been on his way to a new team.
A return to Memphis is likely, as is the fact that JaMychal Green is about to become one of the better value contracts in the entire NBA. JaMychal is a victim of circumstance, but the Grizzlies will give him a hefty pay raise one way or another.
It probably isn’t as much as he wanted on the free agency market. But Memphis needs JaMychal, and Green will be best used in his role with the Grizzlies. A big short or long-term raise on a good team is a solid silver lining in the long run.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com, contract information provided by spotrac.com.