Over the past two seasons, the national media and local bloggers alike have written about Marc Gasol’s future with the Memphis Grizzlies — mainly in regards with trading him.
This article isn’t one of them, because let’s be totally honest, a trade will not happen.
For starters, his trade value is pretty low. What are you going to get for a 33-year old center? You won’t get the same return teams got for Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Demarcus Cousins, or even Carmelo Anthony. The trade package would be quite disappointing — one that would send Grizzly fans into a frenzy.
Secondly, the team values Marc Gasol way too much, and for good reason. He played a pivotal role in the most successful run in franchise history, and both Chris Wallace and Robert Pera recognize that. In addition, Gasol’s rapport with Wallace and Pera is too strong for him to demand a trade.
So why am I saying Gasol’s future with the team resembles an hourglass?
Marc Gasol has a player option for next summer, which would entail him turning down $25M to become a free agent.
There are multiple different routes he could choose, and none of them would surprise me.
Marc Gasol has found himself in a tough position. pic.twitter.com/ermm4T7DjY— theScore (@theScore) July 9, 2018
To Win or to Stay in Memphis?
Comments like these build content for these Marc Gasol trade posts. However, if you follow the Grizzlies religiously, you know he makes comments like these every summer. Next summer, unlike almost any other, he can act on his statements and bolt.
This upcoming season could determine Marc’s decision, which makes it one of many compelling storylines for the Grizzlies. If the Grizzlies fall short of the playoffs again, why would a 34-year old Marc Gasol stay in Memphis, especially when there are many teams in the Western Conference rising right now?
Next season, half of the league has max-level space, while some may even have space for two. None of these teams are going to give Marc Gasol a max contract, but it doesn’t cross out the possibility of him opting out to take a pay-cut to join a new — or existing — superteam.
The Lakers’ best center right now is Javale McGee. What if the Lakers actually land Kawhi next summer? Wouldn’t Gasol be intrigued to be a starting piece with the 2019 version of Jordan-Pippen?
The Celtics and Gasol have been connected to many trade rumors over the past few years. Maybe, a close Finals with Golden State persuades him to take a reduced role to join Brad Stevens and company.
There are plenty of scenarios that could play out here, as the NBA landscape will definitely change next summer. If the Grizzlies miss out on postseason festivities again, it’s hard to see Gasol want to stay — even if it means turning down $25M.
The Dirk Route
For the five past summers, it’s become an annual event where Dirk Nowitzki opts out of his deal with the Dallas Mavericks to allow the team chase big-name free agents. Granted, it hasn’t worked out entirely too well, as the Mavericks have only made the playoffs twice.
However, if Marc Gasol decides to go down this route, the Grizzlies are in good enough position to build a bonafide playoff team. Maybe, just maybe, Robert Pera could convince his All-Star center to go down the Dirk route.
Next summer’s free agency is loaded with All-Stars — Klay Thompson would be awesome in Memphis, by the way. While they may not find themselves in position to acquire one, maybe they can land a fringe All-Star that could bolster this team’s depth.
If the Clippers are successful while star-chasing, a departed Tobias Harris would be the perfect forward hybrid to pair with Jackson and Gasol. If the Nets go down the superstar route as well, D’Angelo Russell would be an ideal 2-guard next to Mike Conley, while also serving as his prótegé.
To a lesser extent, they could look to build depth with a short-term deal or two — maybe look at the one of the Morris twins, fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio, Thad Young, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
This option probably won't come true, but it would definitely be Gasol’s best route, if he wants to win in Memphis.
More than likely, Marc Gasol will opt into the final year of his deal. Who would turn down $25M, especially when the market for pure centers has been dry for the past two summers?
He’s still a starting-caliber center in this league, and probably could stay one for at least two or three more seasons. Paying $25M for one more season of him isn’t harmful by any means.
It’s hard to say how much worse or better the Grizzlies will be in the 2019-20 season if he opts in. However, the opportunity to improve the team with external talent will be scarce. This year’s Grizzlies team is good enough to make the playoffs, but a 2019 first-round pick will be the casualty of a run. Chandler Parsons, Gasol and Conley all will make at least $25,000,000 next season, which eliminates them from any All-Star sweepstakes — my “Klay Thompson to Memphis” dream vanished as I typed that last sentence. Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green coming off the books will help, but it won’t be a huge difference-maker as the Grizzlies are projected to have roughly $5M in cap room next season. Maybe, just maybe, they can find a taker for Chandler Parsons’ expiring deal — looking at you two, Atlanta and Sacramento.
If Marc opts in, it won’t be for winning a ring; it’ll strictly be for loyalty and money.
This storyline will be a lingering one for the Memphis Grizzlies, because it determines both its short-term and long-term future.
If he opts out for less money or to bolt, who do they chase with the available money? Will that player become a cornerstone for the future? If he stays, how does the team improve the team with limited resources?
The Grizzlies’ partnership with Marc Gasol will end eventually, especially as he’s entering the twilight of his career. However, this player option could determine the magnitude of the break-up.
Start the hourglass.