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On asset accumulation and opportunity

The future was once bleak, but it’s now bright.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Press Conference Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, the Memphis Grizzlies had one of the darkest futures in the league.

Let’s rewind to the end of the 2016-17 season. The Grizzlies were just concluded the last season the Core 4 took the court together. An aging Tony Allen and Zach Randolph were gone that summer, and the max contracts of Chandler Parsons, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley suffocated the books and prevented them from really improving the roster. Not to mention, the Grizzlies weren’t even getting production from Parsons. The young players and rotation players on the roster weren’t anything worth building around, and they also weren’t attractive assets either.

Like seriously, not too long ago, Chris Wallace was trying to sell us on the quantity of young players on the team.

Let’s even rewind to the beginning of this calendar year. After a surprisingly hot start, the Grizzlies were blowing leads and failing to recognize their own mistakes. Low-ceiling veterans were taking time away from youngsters such as Jaren Jackson Jr., (when healthy) Dillon Brooks, and Jevon Carter. JB Bickerstaff’s scheme wasn’t it. They made a short-sighted move in trading 2 second-round picks for — you guessed it — another low-ceiling veteran role player. This doesn’t even mention the off court drama during the season...

The botched trade.

The Omri Casspi, Garrett Temple fight.

Chandler Parsons being away from the team.

Oh, and the Grizzlies will be sending — what could be a very good — first-round pick to Boston by 2021.

All this stuff had me worried about a potential Anthony Davis situation with the promising Jaren Jackson Jr.

When Robert Pera openly put the Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on the trade block, a switch flipped. Before either trade went down, and with Conley and Gasol aging, it was hard to gauge their market value. I often wondered if the Grizzlies were going to lose the whole “Core 4” without getting a single thing in return.

However, the front office went to work, as they swapped Gasol and Conley for productive players, cap flexibility, and future picks. One of these picks ended up being Brandon Clarke — a draft crush for many NBA writers. Another one is a future 1st-round pick with these protections:

In addition, it created a fat trade exception for the Grizzlies to use to take on money with an asset attached.

And they did just that.

Sunday night, after a flurry of Woj bombs, another one dropped, as the Grizzlies acquired former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala with a 2024 first-round pick attached to his expiring $17M contract.

With the 2 draft picks the Grizzlies acquired, they have add some artillery to its chest of assets, and it could pay off big time in the long run.

With the way these protections are laid out, the Jazz and Warriors picks both could be valuable assets for the Grizzlies.

Utah’s pick will more than likely convey in the 2022 draft, because I don’t see them landing in the top 6 at all. The 2022 draft could also be the first draft since 2006 where the NBA allows graduating high school players to enter the league. Since it’s the only time both one-and-done and straight-from-high-school players are entering it, some people are calling it a “double draft.” Even if the Jazz are a playoff team, it’ll surely be a valuable asset down the road given the influx of talent coming in.

The Warriors’ pick could be even more valuable. The protections lay out as top-4 in 2024, #1 protected in 2025, and unprotected in 2026. By 2024, Stephen Curry will be 36, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will be 34. These players will easily be past their primes, and holding onto them for too long could cost them a really good pick — probably their first really good draft slot since they got Harrison Barnes.

Either one of these picks could mean so much more down the road. They could result in players that end up supporting a Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant core — or even becoming cornerstones alongside them. Hey, they could also bust too, that’s a possibility too. They also could be sweeteners in the next big trade.

The possibilities are endless, and it feels so damn good to say that about this team.

Zach Kleiman, Jason Wexler, and the rest of the front office have done a stellar job accumulating assets and setting this team up for the long haul. What’s crazy for the Grizzlies and their quest for assets is, they’re probably not done.

It’s easy to see Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala being flipped at the trade deadline to a contender, and the price may be driven up a tad, as the league has more parity than it’s had in the past decade. They should explore the market for Kyle Korver and Avery Bradley, before inevitably waiving them.

As the Grizzlies keep executing stellar moves, plenty of national people are taking notice:

Seeing the Grizzlies’ front office being praised for forward-thinking moves is so refreshing. After years of shortsightedness, we’re finally seeing a Grizzlies team really building for the future.