Over the past few offseasons, the NBA has arguably become the most exciting sports league in the world. The future of the league and many of its franchises have drastically changed in an instant several times over the past few years. The reason being is that multiple teams emerge as rational trading partners, mainly due to one team wanting to solidify themselves as clear contenders in the short term and the other wanting to solidify a significant and successful start to a rebuild over the long term. As a result, a “template” seems to have developed over the past few years for aspiring teams to follow if they hope to acquire a star-level player to become sustainable winners and hopeful title contenders.
Actual examples of this general trade idea have made the NBA a non-stop source of rumors and speculation. When these trades actually happen, the impact is both immense and influential:
The common link between each of these trades is that it took multiple assets from multiple asset areas to make each trade happen. In each case, the team that was trading for the star had to surrender multiple players, multiple future first round draft picks, and multiple future first-round draft pick swaps to create a deal that would complete the trade. While the phrase “mortgaging the future” could be a bit exaggerated at times, that is exactly what teams are having to do in today’s NBA to gain an All-Star level talent, especially one they expect to have for multiple years.
The timing and potential targets of the next significant trade for the Grizzlies is certainly an ongoing debate. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they certainly have the assets to theoretically make a trade on the level of the ones listed above when they feel the time is right. They have multiple ways in which they could offer more attractive packages than other teams. For example, the Grizzlies have a bit of an advantage over many other teams in the NBA due to owning the rights to all of their own first round picks going forward without any protections or restrictions.
As Grizzlies fans can attest to after Memphis conveyed their 2020 first-round pick to Boston as the result of a trade that happened in 2015, that small detail is certainly significant moving forward. The illustration below, via Real GM, shows that the only Grizzlies’ picks that have protections on them currently are second round picks (a more detailed understanding of Memphis’s future picks, including their own first rounders, can be found here.)
This also shows that the Grizzlies also have possession of future future-first round picks from Utah and Golden State. The significance of these picks is that they could become two of the Grizzlies’ more valuable first round picks moving forward. Another shared factor among the four deals linked above is that the teams that traded their star targeted first round picks and picks swaps that were multiple years in the future as a part of their return. These rebuilding teams targeted trade partners who conceivably have shorter windows for contention due to the age of their cores. The goal was to extend the period of time in which they will benefit from their trade return by getting more valuable picks in the long-term than the short-term.
Due to Memphis’s core being younger than most, they could have a longer window of making the playoffs and contending than others as they continue to improve. This could make the Grizzlies own picks less attractive in a trade than other teams as their picks could continue to become less valuable over the next several years. However, in regards to the Utah and Golden State picks, they are tied to the fortunes of two teams who could get worse in the near future due to key parts leaving (Utah) or an overall core aging (Golden State). As a result, the fact that Memphis can offer its own first round picks without current protections (Memphis could add protections) plus multiple picks tied to teams who may have limited windows of contention could make their trade packages more appealing.
Despite the variety and quantity of draft picks Memphis could offer in a trade, there are a few teams, such as New Orleans and Oklahoma City, who could put together stronger draft pick packages simply due to owning more picks. However, another way in which Memphis could have an advantage over those two teams and others in trade discussions is offering young players with intriguing potential on favorable contracts. Names such as Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Caris LeVert were all intriguing talents on appealing contracts that were essential to some of the deals referenced above being completed.
Memphis has several players on its current roster that fit this criteria. While these players may not reach the ceiling of an Ingram or Gilgeous-Alexander, Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, and De’Anthony Melton all offer compelling potential on multi-year contracts (assuming options are picked up) that could add value to a trade offer. This allows any team trading with Memphis to not have all the future value of its trade return tied to picks.
Mixing picks and current NBA players with potential in a trade package allows the acquiring team to mitigate risk and gain some certainty in their return. Teams such as New Orleans and Oklahoma City arguably do not have the same depth or quality Memphis does in this specific asset area currently. That could allow Memphis to have an added advantage in trade talks, at least in the near future.
Memphis also has plenty of veteran options to make the money match in a potential deal. The contracts of the players mentioned above certainly help in that regard. However, if bigger salaries were to be involved, the Grizzlies have multiple options they could utilize in a trade. The added benefit for Memphis is that each of these more experienced talents will likely become more expendable over time and will also be on expiring contracts this year or next season, which improves their trade value.
If the right deal were to materialize, names such as Gorgui Dieng, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas, and others could help make a trade happen.
One other benefit that comes from the Grizzlies depth of trade assets is that they can significantly improve their roster in multiple ways even if they do not add a true star. Similar to how they added Winslow via trade, Memphis could eventually put together a package for a talented player at a needed position that may not require as big of a package as the ones above. Their depth of tradeable assets allows for them to make that move while still possessing attractive pieces for other future moves. For instance, they could use these remaining assets to move up in future drafts.
Whether the Grizzlies decide to go after a star such as Bradley Beal, a less-regarded but significant talent such as Zach Lavine, or they want to move up in the draft in the near future, they can offer a variety of trade packages across various avenues to acquire the significant talent(s) they desire over the next few years. This variety and flexibility is certainly an ideal position to operate from for a creative front office leading a rebuild in a small market. The main reason why is because with attractive and flexible trade options, there is a better chance Memphis can gain the additions they need to make the Grizzlies a sustainable winner over time. Not only does this allow Memphis to expand its future window of contention, it also allows for them to have the best to chance to keep their core in place for the long term.
As a result, no matter how the when’s, who’s, and why’s are defined when Memphis eventually makes its next big trade, there is a good chance they will successfully acquire nearly any talent they target in the future.