The Dallas Mavericks have just completed one of the more impressive sets of moves in recent memory.
First, they take advantage of the Sacramento Kings selecting Marvin Bagley III (who in fairness may still wind up being a superstar) and trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who had their sights set on Trae Young, to move up to #3 overall to select Luka Doncic. Any concerns about Doncic’s game should be squashed at this point - it isn’t whether he will be a star or not in the NBA.
He already is a star.
Then, Dallas found opportunity with the New York Knicks, whose relationship with their young star Kristaps Porzingis was on the rocks. The Mavericks knew New York had eyes on the summer of 2019 and would value the ability to clear their books for potentially two max contracts. Dallas swung for the fences, sending two first round picks, plus the expiring deals of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews and young guard Dennis Smith Jr., to the Knicks for Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, and Porzingis.
Who won? Possibly both teams, but if the Knicks do indeed get Kevin Durant and another star in New York they’re sitting pretty. Meanwhile, Dallas is poised to have Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash 2.0 in Doncic and Porzingis...as long as the Unicorn stays.
What does this all mean for the Memphis Grizzlies six days away from a pretty important trade deadline?
The division just got tougher
Depending on what becomes of the Pelicans once Anthony Davis is dealt, the Grizzlies could be looking at the following reality-
SAN ANTONIO - DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gregg Popovich. If those three stick around (especially Pop), the Spurs aren’t going anywhere...plus San Antonio has young talent of their own.
HOUSTON - James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela. Houston will be a contender for a while.
DALLAS- Doncic, Porzingis, Hardaway Jr. (hardly cap filler), and underrated bigs like Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber getting more run with DeAndre Jordan gone make the Mavericks a playoff possibility, especially next season.
Again, New Orleans is now in the balance, but it’s pretty easy to argue that Memphis is now probably at best the fourth best team in the division on paper and if NOLA is able to get the return they should for Davis they will almost certainly fall to fifth. Of course, the Grizzlies are potentially in the process of moving on from their own stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Perhaps there is a deal out there that can even things out a bit?
The trade market may have just gotten colder
Two reasons for this line of thinking-
- New York was a possible trade partner and now they’re not...for the moment. The idea of a possible Garrett Temple/JaMychal Green for Tim Hardaway Jr. deal had been floated by me on GBB for a while, with the idea being that the Knicks would value cap space this summer a good bit and the expiring contracts of Green and Temple were more important that the return in actual players for New York. This was indeed true, but the Knicks took that idea and turned it up to 11. Now they have a young point guard asset (Smith Jr.), two future first round picks, and the expiring deals of Jordan and Matthews. This is a home run for New York.
It makes any possible lesser deal to strengthen the wing for Memphis without trading Marc or Mike less likely, though, because aside from New York there really isn’t a team with the combination of market and goal of “tanking” left to do business with. Chicago would be a maybe on that front, but they simply don’t have the realistic long-term valuable player to make a deal with. Of course, if the Knicks strike out on their dream of two max players, perhaps Mike Conley becomes an option for them via trade this summer - remember, Conley’s best season of his career was under David Fizdale.
2. The big man market may have just dried up. Remember how the Knicks value the cap space and not the players in a season where they aren’t tryin’ for Zion (or R.J. Barrett)? While this hasn’t been directly reported yet, the idea has been suggested that the Knicks may buy out DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews before the deadline for players to sign with playoff teams (as Gary Parrish and I discussed on GBBLive last night). This would allow for them to go play for a postseason contender and not miss out on the playoffs with the currently woeful Knicks.
If this happens soon, as in before Thursday’s trade deadline, while it shouldn’t hurt Conley’s trade value it certainly could limit what Marc Gasol market there is out there. Say you are Charlotte, the one team that should be looking hard for a starting-caliber big man and is trying to be as good as possible right now. Maybe as the deadline nears Memphis could squeeze Malik Monk, Nicolas Batum, and a future 1st out of the Hornets, which would be very good value for Gasol.
But if Jordan wants minutes to help him earn his next pay day and the chance at postseason success, wouldn’t Charlotte just pursue him first and not have to lose anything for acquiring his services?
Again, the Knicks have not specifically said they will buy out Jordan. If New York doesn’t buy him or Matthews out by, say, Wednesday of next week, the Gasol market especially should be fine. It is just another layer to add to this sandwich of chaos.
It isn’t great news for Memphis. Porzingis, at least for the immediate future, will be a problem alongside Doncic. The likelihood of using expiring contracts to their max value and then some as trade chips just went down drastically. While it remains unlikely in my eyes that both Gasol and Conley are on the team past the deadline (it is far more likely both are gone), their value may take a hit if the Knicks buy out their newly acquired veterans.
Yet the Grizzlies can still work the phones and look for suitors for Marc and Mike, and those expiring deals, in the hopes of acquiring assets that refill the draft cupboard and surround Jaren Jackson Jr. with young-ish, talented pieces that compliment his skills set. If anything, it should strengthen the resolve of the front office to do what is best for the future of the franchise.
Within the southwest division, the present is further away from being theirs with Dallas acquiring two of the best young talents in the NBA in the past nine months.