They were never supposed to be together.
Andre Iguodala and the Memphis Grizzlies...two sides going in totally different directions.
On one end, the Grizzlies, who are in the midst a youth movement and have moved on from the greatest players of their brief history in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in the past eight months. Memphis is in pursuit of what is to come- the next legends in the franchise, the next great era of professional basketball for the franchise. They’re not looking for it in immediate returns. They hope it will come in investment in Ja Morant, and Jaren Jackson Jr., and others that almost certainly are not on this roster yet. It’s the beginning of their journey.
Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala is nearing his NBA end. A former Finals MVP that will turn 36 during the 2019-2020 season, Iggy has tremendous value for a team that is looking to compete in the here and now. He is a prototypical Swiss army knife type of player in the modern NBA - a wing who can defend a stretch four, a forward with guard skills, a (at this stage somewhat limited) ball handler and facilitatir with size, length, and most importantly unique experience that makes up for the step or two he has lost athletically. The sun is setting on his athletic career. He wants to play for another championship - not mentor a team meant to contend long after he is retired.
So when Memphis took advantage of a desperate Warriors team - a rare statement to write - and secured a 1st round pick to take on the large salary of Iguodala earlier this summer, most assumed that Andre would not be a Grizzly for long. A roster move of some sort was coming - fans in Los Angeles and Houston were clamoring for a release, while most Memphians hoped for a trade before training camp arrived. Those outside of the Grizzlies sphere of influence -and even some within Grizz Nation - could not see Memphis carrying Iguodala on their roster in to training camp, let alone the regular season.
But, here we are. Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian reported that is exactly what will happen.
Grizzlies, Andre Iguodala reach agreement to keep him out of camp, on the trade market. Story: https://t.co/Xx0H5Cetr7— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) September 23, 2019
A disaster, right? Iguodala is in basketball purgatory, and Memphis will be down a roster spot. Another botched Grizzlies front office move, and poor Andre has to wither away and miss out on being on a contender for a full season. How unfair to all involved...
Except, it isn’t.
For you see, this decision - one of mutual understanding of exactly what this situation is, an inconveniently convenient union - is absolutely what is best for both sides.
From the perspective of the Grizzlies, Andre is, as Draymond Green has now famously put it, a “16-game player”. He is someone you want on your roster come playoff time. He has been through the wars. He understands what it takes to win. Especially with the Lakers, or Clippers, or Rockets...in places where titles are valued but have not been secured with current rosters, that championship pedigree has value. There are no other players available that combine skill set, even at Iguodala’s advanced NBA age, with battle tested playoff minutes. His contract, however, makes it hard for these teams to acquire him currently.
So Memphis has chosen to wait, until potentially December 15th when recently signed players can be moved, or even next calendar year, when it will be easier for these squads and even more teams to be able to acquire his services...for the price of a young player and/or a draft pick, plus cap filler of course.
Is that worth the roster spot, which almost surely means the end of Ivan Rabb or some other player on the fringe of the Grizzlies roster?
Ivan Rabb likely isn’t helping you contend for a championship when the time comes down the road. Neither is Solomon Hill, or Miles Plumlee, or even fan favorite Bruno Caboclo. There are options for Memphis to move on from that won’t hurt them long-term that would allow for the Grizzlies to hold on to the valuable Iguodala, despite him not coming and being part of the roster actively, until the time for a trade for another valuable asset arrives. The loss of a Rabb-type, or even two edge-of-roster players, does not outweigh the opportunity cost of moving on from exploring all possible Iguodala options by simply waiving him before the trade deadline in February.
As far as Iggy goes? The “16-game player” idea applies to basketball played in the spring, not the fall and winter. Iguodala is a 15-year veteran of the NBA, and as such has plenty of mileage on a body that could use a little down time. With the Grizzlies allowing Andre to pursue individual workouts and stay where he wants to be, as opposed to Memphis where he clearly does not want to be, he can patiently wait until his current circumstances change. In theory, the longer he is on the Memphis roster the better - he is getting paid to be a bargaining chip, sure, but the end game remains the same for him. Title contention, whether it is on the west coast, Texas, or some other location, is what Iguodala says matters to him most at this stage.
He will still get that opportunity. Just now, in theory, with fresher legs and an appreciation for the opportunity at hand. With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson out, Golden State is probably not a title contender this season. While the Memphis detour may delay the inevitable, he will eventually be somewhere that a championship will be the realistic goal. Him having his choice of squad would be the perfect scenario, but getting to a contender while still making the full $17 million plus he is owed this year is a pretty solid consolation prize.
Would it be ideal for Andre to already be in L.A., getting ready to rule with King LeBron James or to lock down opposing offenses with Kawhi Leonard? Of course. That isn’t the reality. The reality is, the Memphis Grizzlies made the most of the end of their era of success and opportunistically acquired the services of Iguodala. The front office in Memphis understands how much value Iggy holds, and is not willing to let him go for nothing, not even if it means filling a roster spot with a player that is here...but not really here. The Grizzlies are in the business of acquiring pieces that will allow for them to select who will be their future, players that - if this is done right - will want to be in Memphis long-term. Iguodala, in that way, is a means to an end - a player who will likely be more meaningful for the Grizzlies by never suiting up for them than he ever would be in playing.
It’s uncomfortable right now. But it’s a marriage of unique circumstance that will eventually conclude with all sides conveniently where they want to be.
Better off for the union, despite having been inconvenienced in the first place.