These times are tough, but we will eventually get through them. And when we do, and life goes back to normal (as normal as it can), be it a month, three months, or a year from now (hopefully not that long), the Memphis Grizzlies will regain its place in the front of our minds.
As we socially distance and inexplicably wave to strangers on walks that three weeks ago we probably would’ve ignored, there can be plenty of time to daydream. It is enough to make you long for the random conversations you’d have with co-workers during a lunch break three weeks ago that you searched for exits from, or wish that you could go to a gym or get a haircut or all sorts of things we took for granted for so long. If you’re not careful, it can also make you think your basketball team is just one player away from greatness...
Which is where we are in this article. We’re one piece away.
Our very own Parker Fleming wrote recently about the idea that Memphis could be the best positioned “rebuilding” team to pull off a blockbuster trade. That got me to thinking...which player could “in theory” get the current version of the Grizzlies over the hump? Five names immediately came to mind - after some research and long-term planning, they have been ranked and are ready to be unveiled. In part one, number five and four will be revealed.
Some key points to be made, before we begin. First - we’re trying to be “realistic”. Some of these names as you read may not seem possible for the Grizzlies to acquire, and you may be right. Remember, this is a “wish list”. But we’re also not going to find a way to get players like LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo on the roster. That’s not happening. Also, we will stick with the guidelines Parker laid out in his piece in terms of the assets the Grizzlies have...except for one. Parker lists Brandon Clarke as untouchable...
Brandon is remarkable, and is almost certainly a first team All-Rookie selection alongside teammate Ja Morant. He’s the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft, and it may not be too close in terms of second place. But considering the current state of the Grizzlies front court, there are scenarios out there in which I would consider moving on from Brandon.
Which will be outlined later. For now, on with #5 on the list.
NUMBER FIVE: MILES BRIDGES, CHARLOTTE HORNETS
The college teammate of Jaren Jackson Jr. is not a clear cut fit in Memphis. He’s a bigger wing at 6’6”, and theoretically the Grizzlies have plenty of those. He’s a tweener starter/sixth man type whose ideal role on a good team may be as a reserve, and again, Memphis already has a few guys that may have that as their claim to fame. A lot of his value is potential based - he’s regressed a bit this season, and isn’t shooting the way the Grizzlies would need him to (33% from beyond the arc) in order to warrant giving up multiple assets for his services.
So why is he number five?
Name the best player on the Charlotte Hornets.
(Waits for you to Google their roster)
Cody Zeller? Terry Rozier? Devonte Graham?
Get the picture?
Charlotte need a ton of talent. They’d benefit from more picks, and if they’re not sold on Bridges they may be willing to move on from Miles for less than maybe they should. Meanwhile, Bridges would instantly be around more talent in Ja Morant, Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas, Justise Winslow, DeAnthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones, and Kyle Anderson. None of those players should be in the conversation for a Bridges trade, meaning that Miles Bridges would have a defined role - whatever it would be - with the Grizzlies, and he’d have plenty of support to play within himself. He would essentially be a Josh Jackson replacement - one that could have a better shot at sticking long-term in Memphis thanks to restricted free agency.
Whether the acquisition of Bridges meant he starts or becomes the sixth man, he can grow and develop alongside a familiar face and in an environment much more competitive than Charlotte. That would do wonders for him, and makes him a prime candidate for the kind of move this front office in Memphis could be interested in.
BEST OFFER: Grayson Allen, a future first round pick (2022 Grizzlies protected 1-8, unprotected in 2023 if not conveyed), two future seconds (2021 via Phoenix Suns, 2023 via Memphis Grizzlies).
NUMBER FOUR: Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
Buddy is another player whose role is uncertain for his current team, but Hield’s offensive value is much more defined at this stage than Bridges. Buddy Buckets is a career 41.1% three point shooter, and would provide much needed offensive firepower for the Grizzlies whether it comes off the bench or as a starter (spoiler alert - he’s probably a starter in Memphis instead of Dillon Brooks). He’s also attractive because the four year, $94 million extension that Sacramento signed Hield to this past fall may not be as nice to them anymore given the uncertainty around his role with the Kings moving forward. The world has changed in a basketball way as well - that’s a lot of cash to put in to a possible sixth man.
Bogdan Bogdanovic will take on another big cut of the cap for the Kings in free agency, but it may not be quite as large as Hield. Even if it is smaller in terms of cash, while Buddy’s contract is declining, it is possible Sacramento decided tying up over $200 million in Harrison Barnes, Bogdanovic, and Hield isn’t the best use of their space. Kent Bazemore’s expiring contract helps, but Baze has played well for the Kings (Grizzlies fans should remember) and would be a cheap replacement if Sacramento retained him.
Hield makes the most sense to move on from since the best value in terms of pick compensation could come from an exchange with a team interested in taking on that money because their cap situation is open, relatively speaking.
Enter the Grizzlies.
It is true that Memphis has to think long-term about the eventual likely max contracts for Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. The next two years will fly by, and before you know it the Grizzlies will be back up against the luxury tax. But the beauty of the contract that Buddy signed is that it is descending - by the time you’re re-signing Justise Winslow (assuming things work out) and maxing out Jaren Jackson Jr. in the summer of 2022, Hield will only be on the books for $20.5 million that coming season. When Ja’s max offer sheet comes up, Buddy will be in the final year of his current contract and “only” making $18.5 million.
There’s no denying Hield is flawed. He may be a real defensive liability. His career has not been one that you would say focuses on offensive facilitation, although at 3.1 assists per game this season he’s showing growth in that area of his game. At his size and length (6’4” with a 6’9” wingspan) there are better combo wing player options out there that may be cheaper (Bogdanovic is 6’6” with a 6’11” wingspan, for example).
But his potential availability especially considering the fact the Grizzlies can offer Sacramento future cap flexibility in the expiring Gorgui Dieng and his ability to shoot the three ball at an elite level would be quite valuable for Memphis. The Kings could then take Dieng’s contract and flip it at the 2021 trade deadline (along with a first or two) for more long-term help, considering Sacramento is like Memphis in terms of not being a free agency destination, if they wanted to.
Hield wouldn’t have to defend the best players on opposing teams. He wouldn’t have to create for others all the time. He’d have help, and could simply be an offensive weapon while Memphis (in this best offer, at least) would not move on from any core rotation piece. That makes him perhaps the most “realistic” target on this list.
BEST OFFER: Gorgui Dieng, Grayson Allen, Marko Guduric, 2022 1st round pick (via Grizzlies picks 1-4 protected in 2022, 1 in 2023, unprotected in 2024 if not conveyed), 2024 1st round pick (via Golden State protected 1-4 in 2024, 1 in 2025, unprotected in 2026)
Dealing future firsts is always tricky. But by 2022 and 2023 you’re hoping the rebuild is complete and those picks will be in the 20’s of first rounds. Bridges, and especially Hield, move the needle closer in that direction while still having an established “star” hierarchy of Morant and Jackson Jr.
Part two will tackle the top three names on this wish list. Are these players the types of guys you want in Memphis? Are there other “lower tier” types of “dream acquisitions” that you would like to see the Grizzlies in on, perhaps a Caris LeVert of the Brooklyn Nets (who was an honorable mention for this article) or someone else? Comment below.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com