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How the Memphis Grizzlies can take a swing this offseason

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No stars are on the market for a home run swing, but the Grizzlies could still take some chances this offseason.

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San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Play-In Tournament Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

One of the biggest topics of conversation once the Memphis Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs has been hypothetical trades. It’s understandable, as everyone loves to run trade machines. However, the Grizzlies also seem like a prime candidate to make a big deal, because it’d allow them to take the next step, and they also have this brilliant problem of having too many NBA guys in their disposal.

Here’s the reality of the situation — don’t count on a big “swing for the fences” deal this offseason. This has nothing to do with the current state of the team, but it’s just the transactional landscape right now. No star has demanded a trade, and — 99 percent of the time — a team never puts their best players on the market unless that said player wants a new situation. That applies to all the favorite trades targets for Memphis: Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Jaylen Brown, or Jayson Tatum.

However, the Grizzlies can take some swings this offseason. Will it hit to the same magnitude as a blockbuster trade? No. There are still opportunities through the draft and free agency to take a swing that could result in a nice double or triple as a move.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The draft is the easiest opportunity to take a swing.

It’s going to be interesting to monitor, as the Grizzlies have nailed its science and methodology towards the draft. They have gone after older college players that can come in and contribute immediately. It’s worked with Brandon Clarke, Desmond Bane, and Xavier Tillman. They could go down this route again with someone like Davion Mitchell, Corey Kispert, or Chris Duarte.

The Grizzlies could also afford more of a younger player that’ll need more seasoning, but oozes of potential. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising if this pick plays more of a role on the Memphis Hustle next season, as the main roster will likely still have the “too many good NBA players” problem. This pick would get developmental reps as a go-to player, and he could build confidence and ease into the NBA life, rather than be thrown to the wolves.

There are a few players that come to mind here that could fall into “swing” category.

The most appealing to me is Ziaire Williams. He’s a prototype for one of the most coveted skillsets in basketball. He’s a big wing (6’8”) with a smooth shooting stroke coupled with a high release point. His percentages at Stanford (sub 40 percent from the field and sub 30 percent from 3) are worrisome, but it also could’ve been a product of injuries and strict COVID protocols that cut down practice time. He’s a high-upside player that could thrive in a situation where he gets to ease in and grow into a quality NBA wing.

Another mock draft favorite has been Tennessee’s Jaden Springer. He’s one of the youngest players in this draft, and he has an interesting skillset. His calling card falls within defense, but he has a budding game as a perimeter scorer that could help him outplay his draft slot. He could also evolve into a player that can be a lead guard that can play next to Ja Morant, while relieving him as well. In this particular season, he could be waiting in Hustle red, while the Grizzlies solve their situation at the 2-guard and backup point guard roles a bit more.

Kai Jones would be an interesting fit as well. He could get some reps with the Hustle where they can experiment with him at the 4 and the 5. In addition, it gives them a backup option if Jaren Jackson Jr.’s knee flares up, and another big man the Grizzlies could test with alongside their cornerstone big.

The swing could even be a potential workout riser over the next month — someone like Josh Christopher or Tre Mann would be interesting as well. Those guys are pure scorers with potential to boom.

A swing trade could even be a trade-up into the lottery. The Grizzlies have the Utah Jazz pick in their asset collection — I would leave the Warriors pick off the table. They could use 17, the Jazz pick, and maybe a player to move up to the territory that could yield a player like Moses Moody, Corey Kispert, Franz Wagner, or Keon Johnson.

Regardless, this front office does deserve trust when it comes to draft — whether it’s swinging on upside, trading up, or sticking to the status quo.

Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

Free agency is going to be a swing no matter what.

The Justise Winslow option will loom large. He didn't live up to expectations this past season — and that’s probably an understatement. Now, they have until early August to decide whether or not to opt into his $13M team option. People have tossed out the idea of a “prove it” deal where they opt out and give him more years but cheaper average salary. The “prove it” is that 1-year, $13M option. I digress though. They will likely opt into the team option under the assumptions that a healthy offseason will do wonders for Winslow’s game, and that the opportunity costs aren’t too high.

And these opportunity costs are important when it comes down to building around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Per Cleaning the Glass, they are at $12.8M in cap space right now, but that number could rise to under $26M if they opt out of Winslow’s deal and renounce his Bird rights. That’ll be the most cap space they’ll have while Ja is under a rookie contract. Cap space is nice, but it’s only nice until you spend it on someone that’s not a needle-mover.

So when it comes to the option, they will ask themselves if there’s any interested free agent on the market who could be a bigger difference-maker towards sustainable success than the version of Justise Winslow they envision.

It’s fair to ask. There are only a handful of players I’d feel comfortable giving the amount of money and years needed to pry them here, and they are all difference-makers.

DeMar DeRozan is the dream target. The Grizzlies need a veteran bucket-getter that they can lean on in high-pressure situations, and he fits the bill to a T. His free agency will come down to what he will prefer: a bag or a chance to win his first championship.

Duncan Robinson and Lonzo Ball are two restricted free agents that would be awesome here. They need shooting with size, and both players provide just that. It’ll take an overpay though to prevent Miami and New Orleans from matching. So what is that number, and what’s the line for an offer sheet?

Probably the only other player that’d fall into this category is Will Barton. He falls into the same boat as DeRozan, but will likely come at half the cost. Finding a number for him would be good, and it might even be possible if they opt into Winslow’s team option. Then the question lies, whose playing time or roster spot gets sacrificed here?

Lots of different routes to go down. If they opt into the team option, it’s seen as another swing on Winslow being an impact player. If they don’t, it’s them swinging on one last shot at actual cap space before the big extensions kick in for Ja and Jaren.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are another player away from taking a step towards contention. Most people will believe that guy will come through a trade. Right now is not the opportunity to take that swing, because there aren’t any trade demands flowing at the moment.

However, that doesn’t mean this summer is going to be a meh one. The Grizzlies can still take marginal swings that could result in really solid depth moves — and ones that align with the team’s vision of competing now and sustainable success.

Whatever path they take this offseason will be an interesting, despite the absence of blockbuster trade targets on the market. The Grizzlies are set for success, and this offseason could be another one that helps them take steps towards becoming a title-contending franchise.

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