Once the James Harden trade went down, and the realization that he’s going to team up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving settled in, the question who’s next revolved around NBA Twitter. In the general sense, it was Bradley Beal, who’s leading the league in scoring for an (once again) underwhelming Washington Wizards team. For Grizzlies Twitter, it was Beal and Zach LaVine.
I’m totally for anything that makes this team better, and one of these players would instantly become the most talented player the Memphis Grizzlies have ever had (probably alongside Ja Morant). However, I do have some concerns about making such a deal right now at least. So I lay out these concerns and try to make sense of the whole situation on both sides with our first-ever Grizzlies Advocate, as Joe Mullinax and I discuss the pros and cons of making a splashy star trade right now.
PF: I’ve seen all this clamor on about the Memphis Grizzlies needing to trade for Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal, the presumable next stars to ask out. Is it weird that I’m not enamored? It took 5 draft assets for the Bucks to get Jrue Holiday. Can the Grizzlies afford to do the same thing for Beal, especially since it won’t launch them into the same stratosphere as the Lakers-Bucks-Nets-Clippers group?
JM: In a word? No. But you know me, Parker, I need lots more than a word. And it is important to try to understand the other side of the spectrum. So, with that in mind, let’s say for the sake of argument the answer is “yes”. They can, and perhaps even should, go for a wing the likes of Bradley Beal or Zach LaVine.
It starts with how you perceive the current state of the rebuild - the Grizzlies are currently 7-6 without two of their best players. They are as of this writing a half game behind the Phoenix Suns, who was almost at full strength in their loss to Memphis on MLK Day, for the #4 seed in the Western Conference. That was with the likes of Gorgui Dieng and John Konchar getting minutes while Memphis fans sang the praises of Grayson Allen, who closed the game for the Grizzlies.
The impending (we think?) returns of Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. are acquisitions in their own right. But imagine the ability to close a game with Morant/LaVine or Beal/Winslow/Jackson Jr./Xavier Tillman or Brandon Clarke (depending on what you trade out). Wouldn’t that theoretically be worth the combination of role players/prospects/picks?
PF: It all depends on the cost for me. If it means sacrificing 5 draft assets + a few high-end rotation players for 2 years of Bradley Beal, and he can walk for nothing and leave Memphis ringless-still, then I’m not in. The draft is a chance to add rotation pieces on bargains, when the Grizzlies max out Ja and (maybe) Jaren. Now 3 firsts (2 being the Warriors and Jazz picks, and 1 being a 2023 pick), Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, and Jonas Valanciunas for Beal? You fire that deal immediately. For LaVine, it’d likely be Valanciunas, Grayson Allen, and 2 1st-round picks for him — and I wouldn’t even mind throwing Dieng in there if it brings back Thaddeus Young, who’s not being used there.
But again, what does it do for your team? And like former GBBer Matt Hrdlicka told me on Twitter: does LaVine accept that he may be the 3rd guy? I’m not sure. Seems too risky.
I do agree that Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow are the acquisitions — hey remember when we said this about Chandler Parsons (lol I’m sorry, I had to). But really, not many Western Conference teams are adding a high-volume stretch 5 that can shoot and defend from all over the floor. In addition, Winslow is — on paper — an upgrade over every wing in this rotation, with the possible exception of Dillon Brooks. You should see what you have before making such a splashy move, especially if it doesn’t do much for the title window.
JM: Winslow and Jackson Jr. hold the key, and for the record I want to see what they look like before any more dealings are done. But this is Grizzlies Advocate - so lets get weird.
Who is to say this team can’t be a top-4 seed contender sooner than anyone predicted? They constantly overachieve, and again are above .500 without two key cogs in the Memphis machine. Say you pull the Beal deal you suggested and this is the new rotation (barring vet minimum additions, etc.)-
Ja Morant/Bradley Beal/Justise Winslow/Kyle Anderson/Jaren Jackson Jr. (by the way, this starting lineup is FREAKING AWESOME).
Tyus Jones/Grayson Allen/De’Anthony Melton/Desmond Bane/Xavier Tillman
Fringe guys - John Konchar, Gorgui Dieng, Jontay Porter
Obvious concerns about size on the second unit, but versatility? Scoring? This group is capable of all that and then some...and because you retained the Dieng expiring contract money will still be coming off your books to be active in free agency. if you’re a vet that wants a chance to play, and a Ja/Bradley/Justise/Jaren core exists, wouldn’t that be intriguing to you?
Again, Phoenix is the current 4 seed in the West. Memphis just beat Phoenix without Jonas Valanciunas (and the aforementioned Justise and Jaren). Dillon Brooks struggled mightily (although his value to the team goes beyond his shooting splits). If you believe in the Standard, and want to show Jaren and Ja that you’re willing to compete and fight for every win now, wouldn’t it make sense to swing for that type of deal (if it existed)? In theory, Beal wouldn’t want to leave such a strong young organization. And now, instead of role player/fringe starters and a potential sixth man of the year candidate with three picks who COULD POSSIBLY become Bradley Beal, you now have Bradley Beal.
Beal. Morant. Jackson. (A healthy) Winslow. That is a championship core, with a solid stable of key reserves and role players (KYLE ANDERSON WOULD BE A MONSTER) flanking them. Sure, the LA teams are better...maybe Denver...but who else?
I’d argue no one. And if you’re a top-4 team in the West, you’re a force to be reckoned with.
PF: Yes, that’d be sensational. But there’s one thing that’ll need to happen before you can swing 3 picks and a slew of role players/fringe starters into Bradley Beal, and that’s market correction. The past two years, we’ve seen a treasure chest of draft capital added to young players or starting-caliber players be the asking price for stars. It took Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and 5 draft assets(!) for Jrue Holiday. A few of these teams — I’m really looking at the Bucks and Clippers, and maybe the Nets — will have to fail and force teams to evaluate if it’s worth mortgaging their entire futures for a shot at it all.
In the Memphis Grizzlies’ case, Bradley Beal would be awesome to have right now. But given the window of opportunity, wouldn’t you want to wait for the next wave of trade demands? (Hello, Donovan Mitchell). That allows your draft picks to have their value exceed their draft slot, and where the team can go from a 50-55 one to a legitimate, title-contending juggernaut. That’s where I stand on things. I want to fire on a deal when I know the Grizzlies are one of 5 teams that have an actual shot at winning it all.
JM: I think the difference with Beal is the uncertainty of whether or not he would stay. The Grizzlies could play that angle and then bet on themselves regarding that “Standard” making Beal stick around long-term. I could see some pick swaps potentially being in the mix, but a Brooks/Valanciunas/Clarke plus three firsts outright is competitive. It may not land Beal. But it’s competitive.
Sure, Donovan Mitchell would be cool and would definitely line up with the Ja and Jaren window better than Beal. Hell, LaVine would line up better as well. But again, the evidence folks arguing for a swing for the fence are making is how well this team has done WITHOUT a veteran star like Beal. Morant is 21. The team is the second youngest in the NBA. Acquiring a veteran player the likes of Beal would perhaps make Morant even better...remember, Bradley has experience running offense with John Wall out. He could enable more Ja cuts and drives off screens to the basket, and do it without being undersized like Tyus Jones is as another two-PG option.
Your “once you KNOW” comment is a bit surprising. Maybe you mean when they’re “supposed to be”? And even then, by that time (the middle part of this decade) the draft assets you’ve gotten from Utah and Golden State will have likely conveyed. The opportunity to strike with the current draft capital doesn’t have to be 2021-based...but I don’t see that trade window being open much beyond 2022. So if you’re in that market over the next 18 months anyway...and Beal unexpectedly becomes available...why wait?
PF: That’s fair, and let me clear the air. Bradley Beal should be a top trade target on anyone’s board, but especially the Grizzlies’ board. Beal and Ja would be the best backcourt in the West, and probably behind only Harden and Kyrie overall. Beal has also never played with a big man like Jaren Jackson Jr. either. If that Jonas/BC/Brooks/3 1sts package gets him here, pull it. And you never know, he could stay with a young core with a longer title window than someone like Miami (also he’s from St. Louis and is close to home, a bit of a factor).
My reluctancy comes with the current value of stars (multiple guaranteed rotation players + at least 5 draft assets). You have to be cautious when pulling that trigger.
But besides the point, we should be celebrating the fact that the Grizzlies have the assets to acquire a legitimate star. The last front office didn’t have that luxury, as they dumped picks in salary dumps and for players like Jeff Green. The Grizzlies could’ve used a guy like Rudy Gay or OJ Mayo as centerpieces, but instead used them in a sell deal and let the latter walk in free agency. The Zach Kleiman-led regime has the Grizzlies in position to pivot in multiple positions — trade up in the draft, stay the course with marginal moves, or go all in for a star. This is the best position this franchise has probably ever been. I know there will be plenty of debates regarding this topic until the Grizzlies finally pull the trigger. But at least we can have these conversations without being unrealistic or naive.
JM- Agreed completely, and again, I am curious about what the Winslow and Jaren effect will be before I am longing for a home run trade attempt. You can’t accumulate data on the current team if 25% of it and all your excess draft capital are gone. But as you alluded to, the fact this is even a realistic conversation is a win for Memphis. It’s not a pipe dream in terms of assets. It’s a pipe dream because the Wizards (and Bulls) aren’t interested in selling.