Contract years can make or break a player — or a team, perhaps. We’ve seen many cases where a contract year ultimately leads to a huge payday. However, we’ve only seen instances where one bad season killed a player’s momentum towards a huge payday — Isaiah Thomas, prime example.
Contract years can also be a problem as well. You always run into the issue of to pay or to not pay. It leaves you in a tough business decision as well. Do you try to cash in and get an asset to avoid the risk of letting the player walk?
The Memphis Grizzlies have had some interesting contract year situations these past few seasons. Tyreke Evans’ contract year essentially became a team dilemma. Though they paid him a bargain deal to be the team’s 6th man, an unexpected tank season made him a trade candidate.
Two seasons ago, everyone thought JaMychal Green was going to get paid by someone. It was also easy to believe that when JON LEUER got eight figures the summer before. Though he did receive a significant pay-raise, it wasn’t the one anyone expected.
In 2016, once Marc Gasol went down with a broken foot, the Grizzlies flipped the expiring contracts of Jeff Green and Courtney Lee for assets, knowing that they would probably walk in free agency.
This year’s contract years are pretty important. Some of these players are going to be called upon to be reliable contributors, and some may be fighting for their NBA lives this season.
Fighting for NBA Lives
Both Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden Jr. are entering this season fighting for NBA relevance beyond this season. They each have flashed unique skillsets that could propel them to a long NBA careers. However, could they overcome a crowded depth chart to showcase it and cash in on a contract year?
Harrison was quite productive last season for the Grizzlies, making an obvious leap from his rookie season. Under Fizdale, he was essentially unplayable and didn’t look like a NBA player by any stretch of imagination. Once Bickerstaff came on board though, there was a new Andrew Harrison. A more aggressive version of Andrew Harrison came to life, as his craftiness and improved shooting and playmaking made him look like a decent NBA point guard.
This season though, Harrison must prove he can be a reliable rotation player on a competitive team, especially this season. The Grizzlies did use a valuable second-round pick on Jevon Carter, a gritty point guard that embodies the team’s culture. They signed Shelvin Mack, a veteran backup guard, as insurance for a potential Mike Conley injury.
If he doesn't separate himself from that 2-man pack, it’ll be hard for him to capitalize on a contract year.
Wayne Selden Jr. is a similar predicament. Even though “Summer League Selden” has been a nice summertime phenomenon for Grizz fans, it hasn’t really materialized to anything significant. Yes, there are some flashes here and there, but his health concerns have hindered him from being a consistent contributor. He has the upside to be a rotational player on a good team, but if we can’t separate himself from Garrett Temple or MarShon Brooks, it’ll be hard to predict the next chapter of his NBA life.
Garrett Temple won’t receive the $8 million payday he got in the summer 2016, but this season is about proving he can be a solid veteran contributor on a playoff team. Sure, people are excited about the addition of Temple and his veteran presence — primarily in the locker room. Some may even go as far as penciling him as the next starting 2-guard for the Grizzlies — a discussion for another time.
He does have the toughest position battle on the team. He’s going to compete for a starting spot with Dillon Brooks, a younger player with more upside. In addition, he’s going to battle for minutes with a young, dynamic Wayne Selden Jr. and MarShon Brooks — who may be their microwave scorer.
Temple is a steady offensive player with an improving jumper and the ability to switch positions defensively. If he can become a mainstay in the Grizzlies’ rotation, he could surely land another contract on a playoff team — maybe even in Memphis.
Here we go again!
Keep an eye out on JaMychal Green. Because of the high-potential addition of Jaren Jackson Jr., and Marc Gasol’s star power, Green is flying under the radar. However, he quietly improved his game last season, boasting a double-double after the All-Star break (11.1 points and 10.2 rebounds). In addition, if this season goes a bit awry in any way, you could see Green on the move — similar to Courtney Lee and Jeff Green in 2016.
This season, he’ll be called upon to, potentially, be a reliable starting 4 that can switch everything and space the floor. He’ll have the playmakers to play within himself, as he’ll probably find his buckets through dump-off’s, pick-and-roll’s or spot-up 3’s.
Green also has to prove he can play as a “small-ball 5” when necessary. If you’re not a point guard or a center, you almost have to play more than one position. It’s an absolute given in today’s NBA. Green is certainly undersized for the 5, and he’s not really a potent rim-protector.
At 28 years old, this year may be Green’s last chance at a big deal, and the evolution of Green’s game will determine his value in free agency — and his trade value — this coming season. If he can continue to expand his versatility to be more of a Swiss-army knife big man for the Grizzlies, he’ll surely get a nice payday or landing destination next summer.
You know... I could talk about Marc Gasol ... but you can go here to find my thoughts on that scenario.
The Grizzlies have their fair share of contract players this season, and a lot of their contributions could potentially help this team roar back to the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to follow for sure.