Gorgui Dieng has been the only Memphis Grizzlies player mentioned in rumors leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline. The Athletic’s Shams Charania, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, and multiple ESPN analysts — primarily Zach Lowe and Bobby Marks on a recent Lowe Post — have said the Grizzlies will look to see what they can get for Dieng, but they haven’t ruled out a possibility for a buyout. All this comes as no surprise either, as his $17M expiring contract was always going to be a trade chip this season, per the Commercial Appeal’s Mark Giannotto.
Dieng has not only responded to these trade rumors with a great sense of professionalism, but he’s also played some of the best basketball of his career. The 7-foot big man has averaged 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, while shooting a sizzling 47.9% from the field. His per-36 numbers (16.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks) highlight his productivity.
Any team looking for big man depth would be lucky to have him. He can space the floor, protect the rim, and defend in space. That’s exactly what you want out of a 3rd/4th big man.
So you’re probably asking, why not Memphis? Dieng is still a good insurance policy to have in case something happened to Jonas Valanciunas or Brandon Clarke. However, despite being in the middle of a playoff race, it’s still year 2 of the rebuild. So they want to see what they’ve got in young big men like Brandon Clarke and Xavier Tillman — or even Killian Tillie and Jontay Porter in injury-depleted situations.
It won’t be easy trading Dieng though. Is it possible? Yes, but there will be some challenges on the way.
The obvious challenge is easy: salary. Dieng makes $17M this season, and not many teams have the cash to absorb his contact and send less money. In addition, there aren’t as many bad contracts out there, since the mistakes made in the 2016 offseason are off the books. Here are the players around Dieng’s money range:
There are multiple problems that lie within the players in this range. First, some of these players are just untouchable or just wouldn't fit here. These players would either require a package that’s more than just Gorgui Dieng — some sort of combination of picks and young players. There are also players here that would be featured as salary filler in a bigger deal. Then, there are some players that make sense, but the Grizzlies may not want to take on the additional years, especially without an asset attached.
Another problem will be the team’s roster spot situation. There are no easily released players on the team, as they’d be taking on money. It doesn’t make any sense to do that either, since those end-of-roster spots are young guys worth taking extra looks throughout the season (primarily in practice at the moment). Basically, you’d have to access why you’d want an $8-10M guy. That restricts the Grizzlies from taking on two players that’s close to Dieng’s salary number.
A deal could be done for Gorgui Dieng. I’d say that last year’s Andre Iguodala trade and the 2019 offseason’s Chandler Parsons deal show that this front office can always find a deal. However, if something doesn’t go down, these are hurdles to keep in mind.
The likely outcomes
Regardless of the challenges, Gorgui Dieng will likely not be a Memphis Grizzly after Thursday's deadline.
The simple thing is to say he’s going to get traded straight up. Are there possible scenarios? Perhaps. The New York Knicks has the space to take on his contract, and it’s not far-fetched since Dieng got a lot of run under Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. Do they send an oft-used prospect such as Kevin Knox, who’s out of Thibs’ rotation? That would give the Grizzlies a big wing with lottery pedigree to take a flier on — that sounds familiar, I know. I don’t see many other straight-up trades, as there aren’t many players similar to Dieng in terms of salary and talent. Eric Gordon has been floated around as an interesting possibility, but the years on his deal aren’t pretty. Houston would likely need to add an extra asset, which is strongly discouraged for the spot they’re in.
They could also look to add an extra player to Gorgui Dieng’s contract to take on a bigger salary player that could take on a role with this team. To pull off such a deal, it’d take Grayson Allen or a bench player. The big question is, who they target. Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal won’t happen — sorry, spoiler alert. Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield have become enticing trade targets, but Sacramento isn’t inclined to move them unless the return is good, which likely means a 1st-round pick needs to be out there. Same goes for Evan Fournier, though with his recent inclination to not re-sign with Orlando may lower the asking price. Doing a 2-for-1 that frees up a roster spot could be a move, but I highly doubt they want to take on extra money.
I’d keep an eye on a 3-team trade, especially if a team is wanting to add some cap relief going into the offseason. Dieng’s contract would be perfect for that, especially for a squad like Orlando who'd rather retool instead of rebuild. Predicting the framework of a 3-teamer is always difficult, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
A buyout is a possibility, as numerous reporters such as Kevin O’Connor and Zach Lowe have pointed out. I know the perception of the buyout could be misconstrued here, because of the Andre Iguodala situation last year. Here’s the difference though - Dieng has been professional, and Iguodala wasn’t — simple as that. A trade is the more preferred outcome, but a buyout makes sense in this scenario as well if that doesn’t come to fruition.
For the sake of making predictions, I’d be willing to bet the Grizzlies will end up finding a deal for him around an hour or so before Thursday’s deadline. They’ll hold out for the best offer, or simply take what they can get for Dieng.
Gorgui Dieng has been a pro’s pro the whole time he has been in Memphis. He’s been willing to sacrifice playing time, in the middle of a contract year, so his team could develop young talent. Not many veteran players would be so accepting of that, especially when they’re playing some of the best basketball in their careers. Through all of it, he’s shown no signs of being disgruntled and hasn’t caused any locker room problem.
Now he’s getting to go to a spot where he could thrive and impact winning — regardless of how it’s going to happen. No matter what happens after Thursday’s deadline, I wish Gorgui Dieng the best.