Happy NBA Trade Deadline Eve, everyone! While the Memphis Grizzlies figure to not be too involved in the festivities in the next day and a half or so, GM Zach Kleiman and the Memphis braintrust has proved willing to get in the mix when opportunity has presented itself. With the Grizzlies solidly in the three seed hunt in the Western Conference with one of the NBA’s youngest rosters, the teams certainly doesn’t need to do much of anything in terms of improvement. But as the franchise progresses from the rebuild to the contender stage organizationally in 2022, the question becomes when does the front office join the party that the coaching staff and players have already started?
When does Memphis become a buyer? Is it in the next day or so, this summer? Maybe not at all?
To discuss various topics around the deadline, I have secured some help. Joining me on this edition of the GBB Roundtable are GBB Associate Editor Brandon Abraham, GBB Staff Writer Shawn Coleman, GBB Writer EdMemphis, and one of the hosts of our Starting 5 Podcast Parish Sharkey.
Which player is more “untouchable” in a trade - De’Anthony Melton or Kyle Anderson?
GBB SITE MANAGER JOE MULLINAX (@JoeMullinax) - The correct answer is De’Anthony Melton. Melton is signed to a team-friendly contract, is only 23-years-old, and has displayed an elite ability to play defense the way Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins wants. He is an elite creator of steals and blocks for his position and is an above-average rebounder. While his offense is inconsistent, he has high upside as a secondary or tertiary facilitator of offense while also showing growth as a shooter. Kyle Anderson is older, has lost some ability as a wing player and is more of a big at this stage of his career, and fits the Memphis Grizzlies contender window less.
That’s not to say that either of them should be traded. The question was who is more untouchable. To me, it’s Melton and it’s not particularly close.
GBB ASSOCIATE EDITOR BRANDON ABRAHAM (@bcabraham) - I think Melton is pretty clearly the untouchable guy here for a couple of reasons. First, his age/contract fits the Grizzlies timeline and he figures to potentially be a core piece of future (even if it’s still ultimately via trade). His value is also probably the lowest it’s been since he was acquired by Memphis. He’s played better of late, but the Grizzlies aren’t in an extremely strong position to have high demands. Lastly, Kyle being on an expiring contract is more valuable to other teams in a trade, even if his overall value is lower than last year. Ultimately, the young guy who has flashed really good potential is more “untouchable” than the “old” guy on an expiring.
GBB STAFF WRITER SHAWN COLEMAN (@StatsSAC) - De’Anthony Melton is more untouchable. Age, two-way upside, shooting upside and contract commitment are all in his favorite. While Kyle Anderson may be more consistent and be closer to a more needed player profile, Melton has a higher ceiling when it comes to impact, so he should be the priority over Slomo.
GBB WRITER EDMEMPHIS (@EdMemphisPimpin) - Melton, due to his contract, age, similar versatility in his own way. I however much prefer Kyle.
GBB PODCAST HOST PARISH SHARKEY (@DaOne_PShark) - De’Anthony Melton, mainly for contract purposes. Kyle Anderson becoming am unrestricted free agent this summer makes it more likely that he’s traded before Melton, plus Melton has a great tradeable contract for a bigger deal down the road.
Would you prefer the Grizzlies move on from Jarrett Culver to strengthen depth, or move on from Jarrett Culver to add a bad contract/another asset (draft pick or young player)
MULLINAX - In a lot of ways, it is six in one hand and half dozen in the other. Whoever the Grizzlies acquire with a hypothetical Jarrett Culver (and a pick or two) trade would probably be a 9th or 10th man in the rotation for this team anyway, assuming the squad doesn’t make any other moves with a rotation player. If a team for some reason wanted to throw the Grizzlies a 2nd rounder to take on a player with a $6 million or so price tag in to next season for Culver’s expiring deal? Kleiman has made it clear he loves assets, so I would not remove that from the realm of possibility. But to lose depth at this stage - Culver has shown some flashes of good play - would not make sense for a “contender”. It is much more likely Memphis uses Culver to bring in a Torrey Craig or Kenrich Williams than for a salary dump.
ABRAHAM - I would prefer to move Culver for depth at the end of the bench, mostly because I want the Grizzlies to be able to maintain flexibility this offseason. A vet mentioned in previous GBB posts (Eric Gordon, Harrison Barnes, etc.) could be solid options to help the bench offense in a playoff series while also being tradeable or expiring after this season. Getting a first for a bad contract wouldn’t be bad, but it would have to be an expiring bad contract on a team trying to duck the tax. Even these moves are difficult since most of the bad contracts are at least 2-3 years in length on the teams looking to avoid, and those contenders could probably find better deals than Culver. Whatever keeps financial flexibility this offseason is my priority, but end of bench depth is more realistic and helps the team more.
COLEMAN - Get a player. Use Culver’s expiring contract plus a pick asset and get a somewhat valuable bench piece you can control this year and next. With rotation minutes likely opening up this summer, Culver offers present value that could be used in a package to get future value in a needed form for next year.
EDMEMPHIS - Being that the Grizzlies don’t have a lot to prioritize in FA, they maybe are in position to take on a bad contract in exchange for additional assets such as picks. However if there is a quality veteran or prospect to be had in a Culver deal such as a big that can compliment center and PF versions of Jaren, then that has to be explored as well.
SHARKEY - Strengthen depth. Adding another draft pick or young player doesn’t help now and the Grizzlies asset pool is in great shape right now. Also, adding a bad contract shouldn’t be in the cards right now like in years past based on the ascending level the team is on right now.
If the Memphis Grizzlies stand pat at the trade deadline, what is this team’s playoff ceiling at full strength?
MULLINAX - I see this team making the 2nd round of the playoffs at best and not advancing beyond that. If we assume health for Memphis, we must do that for their opposition as well. With the issues the Grizzlies have in the half court, and from beyond the arc, is it really probable that this Memphis roster as-in can knock of the Suns, Warriors, Jazz, or some other possible surprise in the semifinals? Dillon Brooks will of course help the Grizzlies as the playoffs unfold, and a 2nd round appearance would be a massive success for this team (heck, a 1st round one without the play-in is a massive success). But as alluded to before, this front office isn’t doing business like a contender. These players can only go so far as the playoffs slow down the style of play.
ABRAHAM - If the Grizzlies stand pat I think they are either a second round exit or a 6-7 game first round exit depending on the matchup. There is the possibility that the team could make a Hawks-like run from last season, but that should not be the expectation. The Grizzlies have matched up relatively well with both Phoenix and Golden State so I wouldn’t put it past them to upset either in the Semi’s but I do not think it is likely. Ultimately that is the “ceiling” as I don’t see them able to beat both back-to-back. I could also see them lose in the first round, and I think that is okay as well.
COLEMAN - The ceiling for this team is a hard-fought second round exit. They have the talent and level of play to each a first round series win. However, seeing them beat the Warriors or Suns right now in a playoff series is a bit of a stretch. Can they? Sure, but they will need to improve quite a bit shooting consistently.
EDMEMPHIS - NBA FINALS. I can see this team striking hard while still very young. They remind me of Penny & Shaq’s Magic teams in the ‘90’s. I damn near don’t see any team in the West beating the Grizzlies 4/7 game series right now to be honest. Maybe The Lakers or Warriors get in team takeover mode but that’s it.
SHARKEY - Ceiling is Western Conference Finals. Young teams typically have to go through the growing pains to win in a 7 game series against a veteran team (albeit this young team is already doing what a young team shouldn’t do) but I give them a chance at an upset series win in the 2nd round. Anything further wouldn’t shock me because in the words of Kevin Garnett “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”
Thank you to Parish, Ed, Shawn, and Brandon for joining me! What are your answers to the questions in this edition of the Roundtable? Reply in the comments below! And be sure to check out Part II of our GBB Roundtable on the Trade Deadline!