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The Wright Price: Exploring Delon’s free agency

A fascinating conundrum.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Delon Wright’s run with the Memphis Grizzlies was impressive. Though it started off rocky, he elevated his game as a starter, showing he’s capable of being a NBA starting point guard. He averaged 13.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds in the final 20 games of the season, accumulating 3 triple-double’s in the last 4 games. He flashed an all-around game as a finisher at the rim, facilitator, and initiator of the fast break. Prior to the draft lottery, the question was about him becoming the starter. Now, the question is, will Wright be back?

This is what we know now:

We all knew that the Memphis Grizzlies would extend the qualifying offer to Delon Wright. It makes it easy for the Grizzlies, as they can just wait to see what kind of offers he’ll get before making one of their own. They won’t be necessarily responsible for overpaying. If the offer sheet gets pricy, they don’t have to match it. If it’s low, it’s a bargain for the Grizzlies.

The real question is, what will his offer sheet look like? And where’s the line the Grizzlies will set?

The Market for Backup Point Guards

Taking a look at last year’s depth chart, the backup point guard market is tricky. There are some bargains, as there are some backups that are on team-friendly deals — most of these are rookie deals, which I excluded in this exercise. In addition, some of them are grossly overpaid, but there are some exceptions. Dennis Schroder and George Hill were paid to be starting point guards for bottom-feeder teams then were flipped to playoff contenders. In addition, Tyler Johnson’s contract is horrible, but the Nets gave him a poison-pill contract that the Heat bit on.

Aside from rookie deals, and the starter-paid contracts, here are the backup point guards that are just as good as — or better than — Delon Wright and what their annual salary:

  • Spencer Dinwiddie: $12M
  • Ish Smith: $6M
  • Cory Joseph: $7.5M
  • Rajon Rondo: $9M
  • Patty Mills: $12M
  • Fred VanVleet: $9M

Obviously, there are different situations affecting these contracts. Spencer Dinwiddie gives you starter-level production off the bench, and at times he looked better than D’Angelo Russell. Patty Mills was the best backup guard a few years ago, but he’s regressed since he signed a 4-year deal in the summer of 2017. Fred VanVleet, an undrafted sophomore at the time of his contract signing, is the best backup point guard now and is one of the best bargains in the league. Then, Ish Smith and Cory Joseph are more of the standard for the slightly above-average backup floor generals.

Basing it off this market, Delon Wright seems to fit more along the lines of Smith and Jospeh. Though his production is probably better, his age and shooting abilities might hinder him from getting an annual salary of $10M+.

Panic Mode?

Some teams will panic this summer. It happens every single year.

This summer, plenty of teams have cap space and impact players that may bounce out of town. In desperation, teams may make a “Summer 16” style mistake — as The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner highlighted. Ironically enough, teams will go hunting for a starting point guard, and Delon Wright could receive a significant pay raise this summer.

Let’s paint a picture:

Kemba Walker leaves Charlotte. Where to now? What if Terry Rozier is already off somewhere else? They might call Delon Wright, a young-ish point guard that could be a nice floor general for youngsters Miles Bridges and Malik Monk.

Another one:

Phoenix strikes out on everyone, because who wants to go there? They decided that they actually need a point guard, since those are important. James Jones decides to throw a fat offer sheet at Delon Wright.

If situations like these arise, I don’t see the Grizzlies bringing him back.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Where Do We Draw the Line?

Delon Wright holds value for the Grizzlies. Though I’d like a backup point guard that could potentially be cheaper and can space the floor better, he’d be a phenomenal second-unit guard behind Ja Morant. In addition, he has the size to guard 2’s in a dual point guard lineup.

There has to be a line to cross though.

If the Grizzlies could retain Wright for $24M over the course of 3 years, I’d take that, but I don’t know if I’d pay him anything more than that. I’d rather have the cap flexibility to acquire a starter that can slide in on the wings next to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.

If a team pays Wright to be their starting point guard, he deserves that opportunity — one he wouldn’t have in Memphis. He showed his worth at the end of last season and proved he could be a starting NBA point guard.

If the line isn’t crossed, the Grizzlies could bring back Delon Wright to be a productive backup to Ja Morant. There’s value in having young veteran role players that are used to winning. Having a top-5 backup point guard that’s also a great locker room presence is a luxury for any rebuilding team with a budding star as a point guard.

The question remains, where the Grizzlies draw the line? It’s a question that’s magnitude is worth millions.

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Salaries found on basketball-reference.