2018 NBA Free Agency is nearly upon us, and as the minutes tick away toward LeBron James (possibly) becoming a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and Paul George (probably) staying with the Oklahoma City Thunder, all eyes are on the Memphis Grizzlies...
Memphis figured to stand on the immediate sidelines as the first wave of free agency hysteria washes over the NBA, mostly because they almost certainly will not have more than roughly $7.5 million to offer any potential future Grizzly (unless a trade is done). Even then, that amount would put them dangerously close to the luxury tax, with not a ton of room for emergency signings throughout the season due to injury.
So what does it all mean?
It means the Grizzlies, for all the Will Barton wishes and Tyreke Evans dreams, will most likely be bargain shopping.
Here are some predictions on what Memphis will try to do, starting at 12 midnight ET July 1st.
They’ll call Avery Bradley and Tyreke Evans, but it won’t work out
I believe the reports that Avery Bradley is high on the Grizzlies’ wish list in free agency. The idea of him fits well with what Memphis says they want to be - all heart, Grit and Grind once again. I even think preliminary negotiations will start (if they haven’t already, but shhhhh, it is supposed to not happen). But Bradley will want too much, be it years or cash, and Memphis will not be willing to go “all-in” on a guy with injury concerns and is undersized on the perimeter.
At least they shouldn’t be. Who am I kidding, Bradley makes total sense for this front office. But let’s assume the Clippers don’t “rebuild” right and keep Avery.
With Tyreke, it will be a simple “too expensive” situation. With Barton seemingly ready to return to Denver, Evans makes a lot of sense in Indiana, where Tyreke can both compete in an Eastern Conference that looks to be LeBron-less soon (things can change, of course, but LAbron seems real as of this writing). The Pacers could make a run on that side, and Tyreke could get a combination of competition, years, and money that Memphis cannot provide.
They’ll be linked to Joe Harris at some point...
...but it won’t be because they have a legit shot at snagging him. It will be because an agent is trying to get more money out of another team that Harris’ team is negotiating with. Joe makes a ton of sense with the Grizzlies, and a 2-year $12-$13 million contract FEELS fair for Harris. Yet a better team with similar money could be convinced that Memphis has made that offer and they will have to up their money to secure Joe’s services.
Harris as a shooter and wing defender would make the Grizzlies that much better. A legitimate connection would be welcome. Joe will have other suitors, though, and all it will take is one Woj Bomb linking Memphis to Harris to get his reps what they want from someone like Brooklyn or San Antonio.
The Grizzlies will consider waiving Ben McLemore
They won’t do it, but it will cross their minds.
Why? Roster spot.
He’s essentially dead money anyway, and on the last year of a deal if there were two players on the Grizzlies radar for roughly $6.5 million per year total - say, Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier - would it make sense for Memphis to pursue depth and pay Ben to not play for them?
Absolutely. But they need to be sure that option is better than what McLemore would be in year two.
That feels like a bad bet as of now - Ben had flashes of success, but those moments were flooded by long stretches of bad, bad basketball. A Graham/Napier combo would strengthen the depth of the roster, while also allowing for Andrew Harrison to become a true wing. This would make Memphis more - wait for the buzzword- VERSATILE - on the perimeter, and would bring in a true veteran point guard behind the injury concern that has become Mike Conley.
Makes sense. It would also be admitting a mistake. Which it feels like Memphis will not do.
The Grizzlies will sign...
Could go a couple of ways. If it is one guy?
He checks a lot of Memphis front office boxes. He could be a candidate for another “second draft”, like the Grizzlies said for Ben McLemore. That didn’t work out for Ben, but Mario has more well-rounded offensive skills and could be more - here it is again - VERSATILE due to his size. He can score, he is still young, and Memphis may be willing to offer a 2nd or 3rd year that other teams may want to avoid. 2 years, $11-$12 million total should do it.
For similar reasons to Super Mario, Hood finally coming to Memphis like he should have years ago (still salty) could happen. The Cavaliers have the right to match any offer to Rodney via restricted free agency, but a willingness to add a 3rd or even 4th season to the contract could get Hood on the Grizzlies. This is especially possible if LeBron does indeed leave Cleveland - “overpaying”, be it by years or money, Hood doesn’t fit the post-James Cavaliers...unless it becomes a clean slate for all involved.
MULTIPLE SMALLER SIGNEE CANDIDATES-
- Graham and Napier, as mentioned above. Graham “plays hard” but not much else is known about him beyond that, so he should be relatively cheap. He played 1,000+ minutes for Charlotte last year and shot 41.2% from three. There’s potential there. Napier’s availability is surprising, but Memphis could use a scoring point guard who can spot start for Mike Conley. Shabazz fits that well.
- Glenn Robinson III. He’s still young, and he is an elite athlete. Finding any possible potential there for $4-ish million per year would be a good fit for a Grizzlies team rebuilding, but not really rebuilding. Being a career 38% three point shooter doesn’t hurt.
- Doug McDermott. DOUGIE MCGRIZZLY CAN STILL HAPPEN! The guy can shoot, and has the frame to play multiple positions. Dallas remains interested, but Memphis could offer him a larger role and probably a little more attention with the Mavericks focused of DeAndre Jordan. The Grizzlies could slide in under the radar and snag him, if they move fast...
Which they probably won’t.
Happy free agency, everyone!