The trade deadline is over, and the All-Star break is approaching, which means plenty of storylines lie ahead for the Memphis Grizzlies. Many narratives are swirling around Grizz Nation surrounding the rebuild around Jaren Jackson Jr., when/if they trade Mike Conley, and the future of the newest acquisitions.
I caught up with Grizzly Bear Blues’ Site Manager Joe Mullinax for this edition of 5 Questions to get this thoughts on the trade deadline and what lies ahead for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Do you think the deal for Marc was enough?
I think folks need to be honest about Marc’s value. Considering he has far more value to Memphis than he does anywhere else - like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen before him - to get two good, young(-ish) players in Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright in return for him isn’t awful. C.J. Miles is cap fodder that may wind up working out, but all the players acquired by Memphis have deals that have some sort of option or free agency attached to them. If Valanciunas opts in, you have another season of a talented big to pair with Jaren and a valuable trade chip when teams miss out in free agency. If you keep Wright, you have a starter/sixth man combo guard that can fit with most lineups.
Miles is likely dead money, but with minutes perhaps he shows enough value to be an end of rotation piece or even trade fodder himself. It wasn’t a huge gain, but the Grizzlies did get somewhat better from the deal.
Do you see Valanciunas as a starting center next to Jaren, or an asset for moves this summer or next season?
See #1...kind of. He can be whatever Memphis needs him to be, to an extent. Flexibility is king, here - he can be a starter with Jaren, he can be a trade piece, he can be a chunk of money opening up (assuming they move on from Chandler somehow this summer)...he is malleable to the spot Memphis finds themselves in. Say Memphis “wins the lottery” and gets a top-3 pick this year, but that means next season the 1st round pick to Boston is top-6 protected. Valanciunas opts in...doesn’t it make sense to keep both him and Conley and try to be as good as possible again?
A lot needs to be played out through the lottery process, but I see value in Jonas sticking around in terms of his strengths negating Jaren’s current weaknesses, even if the Grizzlies rebuild can fully begin after conveying the pick this year.
Are there any other deadline acquisitions you’re intrigued with?
Avery Bradley’s contract is fascinating. If he keeps playing the way he did against the Spurs (narrator voice: he won’t), he’s worth every penny of that $12 million option and could be a very valuable trade piece. If he regresses back to his mean (narrator voice: he will), his contract only being guaranteed for $2 million holds real value for teams trying to avoid the tax or create cap space for free agency. While the return of Bradley for JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple is frustrating on the surface, Spurs game not withstanding, it again allows for flexibility that will be useful once the ping pong balls of the lottery stop bouncing.
A Zion Williamson/R.J. Barrett/Ja Morant pick in the top-3 means another season of “trying to convey the pick”, and Bradley could help with that pursuit if he’s even 70% of the player we saw against San Antonio.
What actions, this summer, should follow the deadline moves?
There’s a trend here...it comes back to the lottery. If Memphis secures a top-3 or top-4 pick, or the pick doesn’t go to Boston in general this year, then the Grizzlies should again try to convey the pick in 2020 and be as competitive as possible. That means keep Mike Conley, that means hope Valanciunas opts in, that means make moves that will allow for you to be as good as you can be. If you achieve your goal and send the pick to the Celtics? Fire sale - trade Mike, get as much value as you can for other veteran-type/expiring deals, and build around Jaren.
Regardless of the lottery, there should be a new front office structure and head coach by the time training camp 2019 begins. Change is needed in the organization, and J.B. Bickerstaff is not the coach that should be leading the on-court product during Jaren’s formative NBA years on his rookie deal.
Can the Grizzlies convey the pick this year?
Absolutely...but while the team is at least healthier/in a better state of mind after the deadline (and you can argue better physically as basketball players as well), it has more to do with the fact the Grizzlies have a lighter slate of games coming up. Including Chicago Wednesday night, Memphis plays 7 games against teams actively trying to be bad or simply struggling so much they’re going to be not very good (see Orlando Magic) the rest of the way. Say Memphis, who will want to win those games, goes 6-1 over that stretch. Then give them 7 more wins aside from those against teams also trying to win, good for a losing record facing those particular squads. That is 13 wins. That puts them at 36-46. While it will be close, 36 wins probably puts them at 9th or 10th in the lottery, and means the pick goes to the Celtics.
It’s going to be a weird last two months - cheering for wins, and on lottery night cheering against the lottery balls giving them the 5th-8th picks (1st-4th would be fine more than likely). But the sins of the past are haunting the Grizzlies...time to pay the piper soo.
Thank you, Joe, for giving us your thoughts on the Memphis Grizzlies and what lies ahead for them this season. Give him a follow on Twitter (@JoeMullinax), and stick with Grizzly Bear Blues for all your Grizzlies news and updates.