This offseason is going to be weird and boring. It probably won’t fully occur in the summertime. A lot of the league’s stars moved last summer. This draft class is weak, and we won’t even have March Madness to evaluate them. The free agency depth isn’t there either.
However, we could start to see the next wave of All-Star trade demands form. Whether they materialize or not is the big question. It may be Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Ben Simmons, Zach LaVine, or someone else we do not expect. We don’t know right now, but some stuff may become clear over the next 18 months.
When the time comes though, the Memphis Grizzlies will be ready to buy.
Over the past 13 months, the Grizzlies have entered this asset-accumulating rebuild. Impressively enough, they’ve acquired a plethora of young players and draft picks even as a byproduct of the Mike Conley trade:
The #Grizzlies traded Mike Conley (plus Jevon Carter and a 2024 2nd) for:— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) February 6, 2020
UTA 2021 1st (prot. 1-7, 15-30)
GS 2024 1st (top 4 prot.)
PHX 2020 2nd
PHX 2021 2nd (prot. 36-60)
Zach Kleiman and company have done a stellar job of building for the long-term future while not sacrificing a fun and competitive product now. Because of the accelerated timeline and their asset flexibility, they are ready for when the time comes to add another star next to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.
When that time comes, who will be their teams bidding against them? How do their assets stack up against one another?
Untouchable: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and (lol) DeAndre Jordan
Tradable assets: Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen, 2020 1st round pick from Philadelphia.
Picks owed: future 1st-round pick to Minnesota (lottery protected in 2020-2022, conveyed to 2 seconds if not conveyed)
Of all the teams on this list, Brooklyn is the most desperate team, giving them the highest probability of pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade. They pulled the plug on Kenny Atkinson, who was instrumental in building their team culture. In addition, they’re on the clock to win now with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Both players are in the middle of their primes, and they also have injury concerns.
Any team looking to shop their star should be looking at Brooklyn. Dinwiddie and Allen’s departures seem inevitable, because Kyrie and Jordan are at their positions. If they’re trying to get a star, they may have to bite the bullet and give up LeVert too.
Nonetheless, a team like Washington should call Brooklyn first, as it gives them the best package to win now while receiving proper draft compensation.
Untouchable: Steph Curry
Tradable assets: Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, 2020 1st round pick, 2021 top-3 protected (unprotected if conveyed in 2022) 1st-round pick from Minnesota.
Picks Owed: future 1st-round pick to Memphis (top-4 protected in 2024, 1 in 2025, and unprotected in 2026)
Like the Nets, the Warriors will want to capitalize on their current core. Surely they don’t want the era of Steph, Klay Thompson, and Draymond to end with a whimper. If they don’t want to merge the past with the future — in the form of Wiggins and this year’s pick — they could use Wiggins or Draymond’s high salaries to acquire a star.
When rumors circulated around the Warriors using D’Angelo Russell and the pick to acquire a star, I was skeptical. However, their package became more intriguing when they added a loosely-protected pick from Minnesota — who probably won’t be a playoff team next season.
Given the potential market, it’s tough to gauge a realistic trade partner with the Warriors, specifically with this package. It’s not getting Giannis Antetokounmpo, and it doesn’t make sense to add a combo guard like Bradley Beal. If an All-Star 3 or 5 enter the trade market, I’d look for the Warriors.
3) Memphis Grizzlies
Untouchable: Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke
Tradable assets: Jonas Valanciunas, Gorgui Dieng, Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, future 1st-round pick from Utah (1-7, 15-30 protected in 2021; 1-6 in 2022; 1-3 in 2023, and 1 in 2024), future 1st-round pick from Golden State (top-4 protected in 2024, 1 in 2025, and unprotected in 2026)
Picks owed: 2020 1st-round pick to Boston.
Of all the “rebuilding” teams, the Memphis Grizzlies are in the best position to strike in the next wave of blockbuster trades.
For starters, it helps that they’re already pretty close to good. Adding a legitimate All-Star next to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant is surely tantalizing. They also have a collection of big, but not toxic, salaries, secondary young players, and future picks to build together a good package. Imagine if they can nab an All-Star wing next to Ja, Jaren, Brandon Clarke, and Justise Winslow. Whew boy!
That’s possible because of the potential value behind the Jazz and Warriors picks. Utah’s future is in flux. Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Joe Ingles are all aging, and it’s going to be tough to add talent around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s inevitable max extensions. By 2024, Curry, Thompson, and Green all will be 34 years old or older. If they commit to that core for too long, that pick could be gold.
This front office has made unpredictable moves that have been huge wins for this organization, and when they want to strike, it’ll be glorious.
Untouchable: Trae Young
Tradable assets: John Collins, Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter, Cam Reddish, 2022 lottery-protected 1st from Oklahoma City
Picks owed: None
The Atlanta Hawks were supposed to take a leap, but it just didn’t happen. I don’t know if it was John Collins’ 25-game suspension, or the lack of playable veterans around the team — sorry, Vince. They just weren’t good.
With the acquisitions of Clint Capela, Jeff Teague, and Dewayne Dedmon, it looks like that’s changing. In order to accelerate the timeline of the Trae era, do they look to add another star? If so, they have the pieces to make something happen.
The Hawks might be hesitant to give John Collins a max extension, and his fit with Capela may be weird. Surely they’ll be fine upgrading over Reddish, Huerter, or Hunter as well. In addition, with a guard-heavy draft class, could they dangle that pick to a team looking to deal a star?
We’ll see, but whoever they get, they must compliment Trae and be able to hide his defensive deficiencies.
Untouchable: RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson
Tradable assets: Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., Reggie Bullock, Kevin Knox, Taj Gibson, Julius Randle, 2021 and 2023 first-round picks from Dallas, 2020 and 2021 first-round picks from Clippers.
Picks owed: None
If only the Knicks had a competent front office, wow.
They have a diverse portfolio of trade assets — tradable expiring contracts for the 2021 free agency, young players that are worth taking a flier on, and draft capital from teams desperate to win now. On top of that, they don’t owe any picks — totally off brand for them.
They should aim to build around RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and their 2020 draft pick. However, I’m enamored by their potential trade packages. They could continue to sell, as they flip the expiring contracts for assets (like they did with Marcus Morris). Or, they could try to make a splashy trade to lure a 2021 free agent.
It’s also the Knicks. Knowing them, they’d use these assets to take on Al Horford or Tobias Harris’ contracts.
Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans
Most basketball minds would peg them as the teams with the assets to pull off a big-time trade, but I’m not as entirely sold on yet.
For Oklahoma City, they have a treasure chest of picks from the Clippers and Rockets. However, which players are they going to pair with them to make money work for a max player? Steven Adams? Terrence Ferguson? Chris Paul? I just don’t know yet.
For New Orleans, they have the 3 picks from the Lakers. Aside from that, not a whole lot. Any big trade piece would require them trading one of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, or Jrue Holiday. So, then, you’re looking at Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Jaxon Hayes. Again, I am just not sold...yet. Ask me again if they flip Jrue Holiday for something.
I never thought we’d see the day ... and perhaps the day may never come.
Whenever a big-time player enters the trade market, you naturally come up with ways for your favorite team to trade for him.
The Grizzlies haven’t had that flexibility in almost a decade. Now, they have the collection of assets to put together a package for an All-Star talent.
Granted, it may never come. They could be perfectly content and successful with their roster outlook. They have a nice core built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke. Justise Winslow, Dillon Brooks, Jonas Valanciunas, De’Anthony Melton, and Tyus Jones make a strong supporting cast. They’ll add cheap talent in the draft beyond 2020, once their debt is paid to Boston, and they cash in on the Utah and Golden State picks.
The Grizzlies are in a great position for the future. And when that first domino of trade demands falls, they are in a perfect spot to go all in... when the time comes.