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Five best trades in Memphis Grizzlies history

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Though the Grizzlies have made many trades over their time in Memphis, a few have clearly defined the journey they have taken.

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images

After examining the most memorable and forgettable draft decisions in the history of the Grizzlies franchise, it is clear that Memphis has made plenty of choices that have helped and hampered their journey as a franchise. However, the NBA Draft has not been the only avenue the Grizzlies have used to build a winner in the Mid-South. Due to never being considered a destination for free agents, the Grizzlies have had to upgrade their rosters through trades.

Though many trades over the past two decades have either not worked out or did not have long-term impact, a few deals have significantly shaped multiple playoff eras in Memphis. Furthermore, some of the most beneficial deals in franchise history involved trading away franchise icons. As a result, it should be a fun stroll down memory lane to see how the art of the deal has influenced the Grizzlies’ past, present, and future.

HONORABLE MENTION

NBA Europe Games 2003 : San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Stephane Reix/Photo & Co./Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
  • At the 2003 NBA Trade Deadline, the Grizzlies acquired Mike Miller in a deal that involved trading former fourth overall pick Drew Gooden to the Orlando Magic. Miller would become one of the Grizzlies’ most important talents, as he helped Memphis reach the playoffs three of the next four years. He also would play a significant role in the Grizzlies’ 2014 playoff run. For a team that has been one of the worst three point shooting teams in the NBA over the past 20 years, Miller arguably is the best in franchise history. He is second all-time in career three pointers with 844 in Memphis, shooting 42% on 2,011 attempts. He truly is one of the best Grizzlies of all-time, and has become one of the most beloved players in franchise history.
  • In the 2006 draft, the Grizzlies traded Shane Battier to the Houston Rockets for Stromile Swift and the rights to Rudy Gay. This was not only one of the best draft night decisions in Grizzlies history, but also one of their best trades. Gay instantly became one of the best offensive talents and most consistent scorers in franchise history. He and Mike Conley are the only two Grizzlies with 400 or more career threes and 8,000 or more points in a Grizzlies’ uniform. Though his time in Memphis may have ended in less than ideal fashion, Gay was clearly one of this franchise’s best trade acquisitions.

5. Grizzlies Trade Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors for Jonas Valanciunas

Memphis Grizzlies v Toronto Raptors Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

When Gasol was traded to Toronto, it was a significant and needed step that Memphis was fully committing to a rebuild that was overdue. Gasol made it clear he was open to, and likely preferred, playing for a contender. As a result, the Grizzlies traded Gasol to the Toronto Raptors for C.J. Miles, Delon Wright, Jonas Valanciunas, and a 2024 second round pick. For Gasol, the trade could not have worked out better as he became an eventual NBA champion; for Memphis, though the trade return was not considered a huge haul initially, it was a package to build off of for the present and future.

Miles was eventually traded to Washington for Dwight Howard to simply cut costs. Though many felt extending Wright made logical sense, the Grizzlies eventually turned him in to two second round picks and the ability to sign Tyus Jones for three years. The Grizzlies also decided to extend Valanciunas for three years as well. In the end, the indirect trade return for Gasol was Valanciunas, Jones, and three second round picks. The Grizzlies gained significant future draft assets and two talented players for their future through the trade.

By doing right by Gasol and themselves, the Grizzlies created a highly successful start to their rebuild that could continue to build on.

4. Grizzlies Trade Shareef Abdur-Rahim to the Atlanta Hawks for Pau Gasol

Hawks v Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the 2001-2002 NBA season, there were multiple teams in the Pacific Northwest on the verge of monumental changes within their franchises. The Vancouver Grizzlies were on their way to Memphis, but likely without their best player in Shareef-Abdur Rahim. The Seattle SuperSonics had made it clear they were ready for a major roster overhaul. The two franchises nearly accommodated the wishes of the other in a pre-draft trade that would have resulted in Gary Payton and Seattle’s first rounder heading to Memphis for Abdur-Rahim. Negotiations were so close that Payton actually said goodbye to Seattle and its fans. Fortunately, that trade never occurred and Abdur-Rahim was traded to his hometown Atlanta Hawks. In return, the Grizzlies acquired Brevin Knight, Lorenzen Wright, and the rights to Pau Gasol.

While Knight and Wright contributed to the Grizzlies progression as a team in their first few seasons in Memphis, Gasol was the prize of the trade. The same reasons that made Gasol the best draft night decision in franchise history also supports this trade being one of the best in the history of the Grizzlies.

Beyond Gasol’s individual achievements (highest single season and career PER and WS/48 marks of an player in franchise history) and leading the Grizzlies to unprecedented levels of success, he arguably was one of the most significant international acquisitions in the history of the NBA. This was not only due to his talent; it was also because he succeeded in one of the NBA’s smaller markets in Memphis. Many questions surrounded the Grizzlies franchise when they moved from Vancouver to Memphis, especially when Abdur-Rahim requested his trade. Fortunately, Gasol not only proved that marquee talents could thrive in Memphis, but that the Grizzlies could become a sustainable winner.

3. Grizzlies trade Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Marc Gasol

Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Grizzlies found themselves in the same position with Gasol in 2008 as they had experienced with Abdur-Rahim in 2001. This time, however, it was hard to find an immediate positive.

If Grizzlies trades were to be judged by initial reactions, the deal that sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008 would be deemed a failure by a landslide. In terms of quantity, the Grizzlies received a sizable haul: Kwame Brown, Aaron Mckie, Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Marc Gasol, and the Lakers’ 2008 and 2010 draft picks. The lack of a perceived quality piece in return caught the ire of many across the NBA, including some prominent names questioning the league for allowing the trade to occur.

The reasons for the trade seemed less than ideal, as the trade had a lasting impact on highly regrettable draft night decisions in both 2008 and 2009. However, the trade also likely influenced other moves as well, moves that would greatly influence the best era of Grizzlies basketball. The departure of Gasol created the opportunity for the development of his young brother Marc and the eventual trade for Zach Randolph.

Specifically, Marc would become the most valuable player of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies on the court over time. He is among the top three in franchise history in minutes, points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists. His three All-Star selections and two All-NBA selections are the most among any player to ever play in Memphis. He is the only Grizzlies player to ever start an All-Star game, and was the 2012-2013 Defensive Player of the Year.

While Pau Gasol may have been the best talent to ever play for Memphis, Marc Gasol is the most accomplished. The fact that the Grizzlies acquired Marc when the traded Pau may be the best narrative in the history of the franchise.

2. Grizzlies Trade Mike Conley to Utah Jazz

Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Grizzlies traded Conley to the Utah Jazz in June of 2019 for Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, a 2019 first rounder and an additional future first rounder. The initial haul seemed to be a fair return at the time; however, it was how the Grizzlies built on this move with other trades as the summer progressed that arguably makes it the best trade in the history of the franchise. In all, the overall haul for Memphis as a result of trading Conley is a sight to behold:

If the Marc Gasol trade was the first step in a needed rebuild, the Conley trade was a giant leap that landed the Grizzlies much farther down the path toward once again being competitive than anyone could have anticipated. Not only did they gain a deep and talented cast of supporting players for Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the present, they also significantly upgraded their cupboard of future assets. Though time will certainly determine how good the Grizzlies did as they make other future moves with these assets, it is hard to deny plenty of quality will come from the quantity of pieces they acquired.

1. Grizzles Trade Dillon (No, Marshon !, or is it Dillon?) Brooks to Wizards for Kelly Ou.....

JUST KIDDING!!!

Grizzlies Trade Quentin Richardson to the Los Angeles Clippers for Zach Randolph

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

It likely will be hard to find a more exciting summer for an NBA player in the history of the league than the one Quentin Richardson had in the summer of 2009. Between June 25th and July 20th, Richardson was traded from the Knicks to the Grizzlies to the Clippers to the Timberwolves in three separate trades in less than a month. To acquire Richardson, the Grizzlies had to part ways with former second overall pick Darko Milicic. Richardson never played for Memphis, and was part of the organization for three weeks.

The Grizzlies eventual return for Milicic and Richardson? Zach Randolph.

The Greatest Grizzly of them All.

In terms of on the court production, this trade made as little sense then as it does now. However, the Clippers were clearing space for the number one overall pick in 2009, Blake Griffin; they also were likely ready to part ways with Randolph after a tumultuous 2008-2009 season. However, Randolph immediate committed to capitalizing on a new opportunity in Memphis, and made the absolute most of it to a level no one expected.

In his debut season in Memphis in 2009-2010, Randolph achieved his first All-Star Selection, the second ever for a Grizzlies’ player. In the 2010-2011 season, Randolph became the first Grizzlies’ player to make an All-NBA team. He would earn one more All-Star Selection during his time in Memphis, but his value is not best defined by his recognition across the league.

He was the heart and soul of the Grit and Grind Era, arguably the best player to ever step on the court in a Grizzlies uniform, and arguably the most beloved Grizzlies player by the city of Memphis over the past two decades. No other player can make that claim, and you can bet Grizzlies fans would not let them. While Randolph’s name is well represented in the Grizzlies franchise record books, his name will be forever tattooed to the hearts of numerous Grizzlies’ fans for generations to come.


For a franchise that has made plenty of questionable decisions, these trades highlight moments in which Memphis has been able to minimize the impact of negative choices with positive ones. Over time, Memphis has seen many of its best players traded away. When the Grizzlies granted those trades, they did right by the player and themselves. As a result, each time the Grizzlies traded a former franchise cornerstone, they acquired a future franchise cornerstone in return.

Hopefully, as time plays out, and the true value of the returns for Gasol and Conley evolve, this trend will only continue to gain more validity. With the current core in place for the foreseeable future, this current Grizzlies’ roster may reach a new level of success many never thought possible.

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