As the NBA playoffs likely conclude soon thanks the mighty Golden State Warriors exercising their full reign on basketball once again this season, the next few months will be filled with headlines with dollar signs and lots of zeros following.
That’s right, its about to be free agency season.
Here in Grizz Nation, free agency is more closely compared with the winter in Game of Thrones, and this summer is especially important for a different reason: the NBA draft. But for many free agents out there, this offseason can make or break a career. The jersey colors on many recognizable players in the league could change with just a few scribbles of a pen, and the Memphis Grizzlies have done their fair share of shelling out the cash over the past few years.
Just for fun, here are a few notable names on the NBA free agency market this summer: Lebron James (PO), Kevin Durant (PO), Paul George (PO), DeMarcus Cousins (UNR), Chris Paul (UNR), Carmelo Anthony (PO), *cough* Tyreke Evans (UNR).
The point is, NBA franchises shell out a ton of money to bring players to their team, and ultimately to compete for championships. Take the aforementioned Golden State Warriors - they have five players making $14 million or more. More importantly, they have three players in the top 44 in this year’s Forbes, The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes. The result? Three championships in four years.
(The Forbes list considers salary and endorsements, but the majority of significant endorsement money goes to about the top 25% of this list. As you move down the list, endorsement money becomes less and less a consideration.)
That piqued my interest. There are plenty of NBA players that make this list. As we know, the NBA has never been more lucrative in it’s history, and besides NFL quarterbacks, the NBA is second to none in paying its top talent.
The NBA boasts 39 spots in the top 100 on Forbes list, ranging from Lebron James and Steph Curry to more surprising finds like Hassan Whiteside and Nicolas Batum. But as I mentioned before, the Warriors have made paying top talent to stay (or join) has proved to be well worth the price of admission.
And then there is the Memphis Grizzlies. Our beloved team in our beloved city that has clawed its way from the pit of the NBA to relevance, playing basketball that represents the work ethic of the community surrounding it. That is, until this season. The 2017-18 season was one to forget, but may end up landing a prize that will turn things around in the near future.
The most astounding part of this season is now being seen on this Forbes top 100 list.
There are several squads with multiple players on the list. Yet there is one team that isn’t often viewed as a “big spender” that has three -
Your Memphis Grizzlies.
Mike Conley leads the way ranking at 50 making just over $30 million next season. Chandler Parsons comes in 82 at making $24 million in 2018-19. And our Memphis grown Spaniard, Marc Gasol ranks 84 making $24 million this upcoming year.
Do you see the problem? After enduring a season that the Grizzlies just had, its painful to see our guys on this list. The compensation is not equaling the production. Granted, there were major injury problems with Conley and Parsons, but that can’t be the excuse forever. These guys have to step up.
The Memphis front office has spent the money to build a foundation they think will win championships. The front office is wrong about that, but that’s a topic for a different article. This team is spending a ton of money on building around a core three, which is the new wave in the NBA, but with little to show for it.
This next season will be their third year together as a core, with Chandler Parsons more than halfway his deal and Marc Gasol on a player option. This upcoming campaign is the year to prove whether this experiment is doomed to live in Grizzly infamy, or worth the one year of greatness.
Forbes shined light on the success of the NBA while inadvertently showing the deep hole the Memphis Grizzlies have put themselves in. When next year’s Forbes list comes out, these three will see their names once again. Fans can only hope that the perception of all those zeros is at least a little more positive.