The NBA has turned into a 365-day year league. The draft has concluded, and now we immediately focus our attention to free agency starting on July 1st.
For the Grizzlies, free agency will give the fans another glimpse at what this front office is thinking moving forward with this franchise. Are they building for the future? Or are they in compete now mode? This free agency, just as we saw with the draft, will be incredibly important for the Grizzlies this off-season.
Memphis have a few different options going into this free agency. As we know by now, the Grizzlies do not have much cap room for any big splashes this off-season. The majority of the room to use for a free agent will be with their mid-level exception. This will potentially be around $8.6 million, depending on other moves. It can be used all at one player such as a Tyreke Evans or can be split up as we saw last year with the signing of Ben McLemore (yikes). However it is used, it will give Grizzlies fans a little bit of new excitement heading into the drama of free agency.
Now, this article will be taking a different approach. Instead of featuring the big-ticket players that will require all of the mid-level exception, I will be highlighting just a few of the free agents that won’t expect as much money. These “bargain” players could come in and be great additions on this Memphis roster.
This first free agent may be a stretch at a cheap price, but it is still someone the Grizzlies should look out for this free agency. Hezonja is a third year player coming off of his rookie deal to which the Orlando Magic declined his $4 million team option. When a team declines a player’s team option, it usually sets the price at what the market value is for the player. This is why I have Hezonja as my first bargain candidate for the Grizzlies.
Mario Hezonja did not find his way his with the Magic his first three years in the league. Coming in as the fifth pick in the 2015 Draft, he has not lived up to expectations. Last season, he averaged 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds with 44.2% shooting from the field.
Yes, this feels exactly like the nightmare of Ben McLemore, but I think in the direction the Grizzlies are building for, taking a risk on a young talent like Hezonja could be a smart move. That being said, I would not pay him over $4 million per year. That could knock him out of consideration, but if the price is right he should land on the Grizzlies radar.
Before you go quick to judge, hear me out. As we all know by now, Lance Stephenson is a handful and a half to have on any roster. Teams can have the Charlotte version of Lance or the Indiana version of Lance. He just became a free agent after Indiana declined his team option on Monday. The team turned down a $4.3 million option to let him go out on the open market. I think he could fit nicely on this Memphis team.
Last season, Stephenson played all 82 games for the first time in his career. He was a bench spark plug who brought the intensity and antics with him every game. He averaged 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Plus, he is versatile on defense to guard a team’s best player. With all the crazy drama surrounding Lance, it would be a gamble to sign him for a full season. He played well the last time he was in Memphis averaging 14.2 points per game in 26 games. The question begs what would he do in a full season of work here. He could be worth the risk on a cheap deal to experiment with if the full MLE players fall through.
VanVleet is a restricted free agent coming into this offseason. He is a two-year player out of Wichita State who has contributed tremendously for the Toronto Raptors. Last season, he averaged 8.6 points and 3.2 rebounds and shot 41.4% from three. Coming in off the bench behind Kyle Lowry, VanVleet was one of the best pieces on that bench unit which was one of the best in the game. He brings tenacity on defense that would fit well in Memphis.
This is the year that a good offer could pull him away from Toronto. Before another season in that Toronto system to increase his value even more, the Grizzlies could get a solid two-way point guard to back up Mike Conley on a cheap deal. Depending on what the number is, I could see the Raptors coming in to match most offers because of his importance to their team. Again, he would not be my first priority, but if other players went other directions, FVV could be a sneaky addition to the Grizzlies bench that no one knew it needed.
These three free agents are only players to consider if the full MLE value players do not go the Grizzlies way. As we saw last year, the mid-level exception could be broken up into two players. If that seems to be the case, any of these players would be quality acquisitions for a cheap price tag.