We knew this day would come eventually.
Whether it was in free agency, a trade, or retirement, we knew that there would be a day where Marc Gasol would no longer be a Memphis Grizzly. After a MLK dud — another in a cluster of two-month duds — the Memphis Grizzlies decided to shake things up and make franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley available via trade.
That’s when it became real.
Rumors circulated nonstop around these two All-Star’s — or in Conley’s case, All-Star caliber — players. Teams like Toronto, Detroit, Washington, Charlotte, Dallas, and Sacramento were potential landing spots for Gasol that were made public.
Though the Athletic’s Sham Charania reported that the Charlotte were in strong talks to land Gasol, things never materialized.
However, contrary to popular belief, the final deal might be better than any of the potential Charlotte deals. Any Gasol deal probably meant taking on some sort of draft compensation, a “B-C” level prospect, a rotation player, and a bad contract. The main deal tossed was Gasol to Charlotte for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and a protected first-round pick, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner. The first-round pick would’ve been nice, but the rest of the deal is a big pile of blah.
That trade looked like the likely scenario until ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped this Woj Bomb:
Toronto is planning to send Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Milles and a 2024 second-round pick to the the Grizzlies for Gasol, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 7, 2019
Most people probably looked at the draft compensation and were immediately turned off. I understand, especially since there was a protected first-round pick in the original offer. The second-round pick isn’t ideal draft compensation when giving up a franchise cornerstone, but I don’t know how many teams would give up a future 1st for a 34 year old center whose game doesn’t necessarily fit the always-evolving modern NBA.
The bright side with this draft compensation though is when it conveys. The Raptors’ future is quite cloudy. Kawhi could walk this summer. Gasol, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka are all on the wrong side of 30, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby are the only young players on the team that may fit into the long-term plans. This pick could eventually become a pick in the 31-40 range, which would be a nice asset for Memphis.
The players involved in this deal fit the Grizzlies short-term plans in conveying the pick owed to Boston, while also potentially fitting alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson in the future.
C.J. Miles, at best, is a 3-and-D wing that can occasionally get hot from deep, but he’ll more than likely bolster their wing depth and be a good veteran presence in the locker room. He’s only shooting 31.4 percent from deep this year, but is a 35.9 percent 3-point shooter for his career. I wouldn’t be surprised though if he’s either moved this summer, or becomes a buyout candidate next season.
Delon Wright has been stuck behind Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet for the past few seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see what he could do in a (probably) larger role. He’s a big combo guard that could run the offense next to or without Mike Conley. In addition, he’s shown promise as a 3-point shooter, as he shot 36.6 percent from deep last season. He’s a restricted free agency this summer, so his future remains unseen. However, Wright can be a solid reserve guard behind Conley and Justin Holiday, or the stopgap starter until the return of Dillon Brooks.
The cornerstone of this deal from the Raptors’ end is Jonas Valanciunas. His luster as a prospect isn’t the same as it was 3-4 years ago, but he’s still a useful piece for this Grizzlies team. He’s a big, physical center that’s ultra productive — just look at the per-36 numbers. So far this season, he’s averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in only 18.8 minutes per game. If anything, Valanciunas will shore up the Grizzlies’ rebounding woes, as they’re the second-worst rebounding team in the whole league. At best though, he’s a physical big man that’ll attack the glass, gobble up rebounds, and drop easy buckets — maybe Nikola Vucevic 2.0?
He has a $17 million player option this summer that he’ll more than likely opt in, which could make him a valuable expiring contract either this summer or at next year’s deadline.
This wasn’t the ideal return for Marc Gasol, especially considering his value here, but it’s adequate return for what he’s becoming — a floor-spacing big man that can also serve as a facilitator and a 4th option on a championship team. Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright could become interesting pieces for the next era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball.