Grizzlies Free Agency Update

It’s free agency time for the Memphis Grizzlies! So far, that has meant some new players and plenty of trades as Zachary Kleiman and company continue to gain more and more respect around Memphis and the league for their simple, yet well-calculated decisions. The roster tinkering seems as if it may never cease, but shows how important a new image is to this renewed front office. Here’s everything that’s happened so far:

Chandler Parsons is No Longer A Grizzly

Within every faction or group of people, there is always some kind of unifier. As a Grizzly fan, whether you wanted Mike and Marc traded or not, whether you wanted to see the Grizzlies move away from Grit n’ Grind or not, there has been one major unifying question and concern: “How can we beneficially get rid of Chandler Parsons?”

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Zach Kleiman and company found everyone an answer through a trade with the Atlanta Hawks. As Chandler Parsons and the final $25.1 million remaining on his 4 year $94 million contract heads to the city in the woods, former Pacer and Pelican, Solomon Hill and a reserve big man in Miles Plumlee will be making their way to Memphis.

A common unifier between Parsons, Hill, and Plumlee? All were signed with considerable portions of the summer of 2016 cap space on four year deals that will expire at the end of the season: Parsons making an average of $23 million a year and Plumlee and Hill both making an average of around $12 million. All have had quite their fair share of injury issues; however, not quite as drastic as Parsons.

There is a lot to love about this trade if you are a Memphis fan without even having to know or care who Hill or Plumlee are anyways because, once again, this savvy front office has positioned themselves for future decisions. It is a lot easier to trade away one player, good or bad, who carries a cap hit of $12 million than it is to trade an injury-riddled, thirty year old in Parsons who is owed $25 million.

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Hill, a 6’7” wing, has averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds across 305 games, while Plumlee’s raked in 5 points and 4 rebounds 346 contests as, primarily, a reserve center. The two have had plenty of their own health problems to go along with Parsons, and neither have lived up to their contracts.

When the Pelicans took a chance on Hill three years ago, they hoped, with more runtime, he would become a “three and D” wing to accentuate New Orleans’ starting lineup around Anthony Davis. It never happened, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying on the Pelicans’ end. They gave him the same runtime that Hill received his sophomore year in Indiana, yet never showed improvement. He became a floor-spacing nightmare with a higher turnover percentage (14.8%) than assist percentage (10%), while posting a rebounding rate similar to Chandler Parsons’ three years in Memphis across Hill’s three years of play in the Big Easy.

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Miles Plumlee only played 18 games last season due to knee issues of his own, but, when he did play, he seemed comfortable with some space in Lloyd Pierce’s system with Trae Young. The newest head coach of the Grizzlies, Taylor Jenkins, has indicated that he hopes to implement a system of his own that would take advantage of spacing, as well, but it is not certain what Plumlee’s status will be regarding his knee.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the trade first, also reported within his story that Parsons and the team couldn’t come to an agreement on a buyout. This might not be a surprise to most Grizzly fans, but it is worth mentioning. Parsons will always live in infamy in Memphis due to his body failing him. To end the 2019-18 season, he played 22 games in a row, the longest of his Grizzlies tenure, after only playing the preseason and initial three games of the season. He averaged 7.5 points behind 30% shooting from beyond the arc off of 3.8 attempts in 19.8 minutes. He showed flashes of his former self scoring more than 10 points nine times with a season high of 17, reached twice.

Wojnarowski’s report also noted that the Hawks would give him a chance to “earn a role” among the young team, but, if he had interest from another team, they would be willing to talk buyouts.

Andre Iguodala Becomes a Grizzly… For The Moment (?)

Before the June 30 free agency opening, the Mike Conley trade to Utah netted Memphis four players in Brandon Clarke- in thanks to the twenty-third pick in the 2019 NBA Draft that the Grizzlies eventually used to move up to select Clarke-, Grayson Allen, Jae Crowder, and Kyle Korver along with a future first with odd protections that indicate a high chance of conveying in 2022 and a near $25 million trade exception thanks to the salary offset of the deal.

Everyone knew this trade exception would be important. It would allow Memphis to take on a lot of money with no real consequence. In other words, it would allow Memphis to take on a horrendous contract(s), see Chandler Parsons, and get rewarded in assets and/or young players to do so.

On Sunday evening, while Grizzlies fans forgot about the trade exception to focus on the mystery around D’Angelo Russell’s destination and the drama surrounding the Jimmy Butler to South Beach sign-and-trade, the Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that ESPN’s Brian Windhorst’s earlier comments about a Russell to Golden State sign-and-trade were more than just rumors.

Russell had interest coming from the Lakers and Minnesota before the Golden State Warriors extended a $117 million max contract to him after losing Kevin Durant to Russell’s former team, the Brooklyn Nets. To make the deal happen and pay Russell his rate, however, the Warriors had to drop some salary off their books. Unsurprisingly after his infamously candid radio appearance on the Breakfast Club last week, many reported that it would be Andre Igoudala and his lone remaining year worth $17.2 million to be sent out to an unknown suitor.

Who knew that this unknown suitor would wind up to be the Memphis Grizzlies, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Grizzlies were paid with a first round pick to take Andre Igoudala, one of the most respected veterans in the league who still plays at a high level. There is a number of options for the Grizzlies here who find themselves, once again, in great positioning with great leverage under the direction of the young executive, Zach Kleiman.

Andre Igoudala, as I said above, is highly respected and would be highly sought after by contenders. The 6’ 6” 35 year old is coming off a season averaging 5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists over 23.2 minutes of action. He started the first few years of his career with the 76ers as a scorer and adapted into a defensive-minded winner of a role player for the Golden State Warriors. In 2015, he earned the title of NBA Finals MVP, becoming the first to do so without starting any regular season games thanks to his defense on LeBron James.

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The national expectation was that Igoudala would be bought out by Memphis, so he could sign to a contender. However, that wouldn't make much sense when there are contenders have assets that they would be willing to trade for him.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon dispersed the nonsensical rumors with his report that said Memphis wouldn’t buy Igoudala out, but are actively searching to trade him.

This wouldn’t be a bad idea, nor does the potential of trading him midseason or at the deadline for similar assets hurt either. To be frank, with the multitude of expiring contracts next season resulting in, potentially, large cap space, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Grizzlies to keep him all the way through the next offseason. Memphis has a certain affinity for hard-nosed defending highly-respected good guys. Age or scoring hasn’t particularly mattered in the past, so I don’t see why it’d matter now. Not to mention, the leadership Igoudala could provide to such a young core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson, Jr., Kyle Anderson, and Brandon Clarke.

Unless, of course, Igoudala absolutely does not want to be here. If that is the case, which it seems to be that way, then it would be best for the team to avoid hurting their image by keeping him happy. If one of the most respected players in the league feels dissed in some way by Memphis, that would have ripple effects. Those effects could hurt the Grizzlies’ automatically crippled chances of attracting marquee free agents when the time comes to transition from the rebuild into competing for either the playoffs or- knock on wood- a championship.

The first round pick the Warriors sent toward Memphis is just as important thanks to the light protections placed around it. In 2024, when Stephen Curry is 36, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are 34, and, newest Warrior, D’Angelo Russell is 28, if the pick falls outside of the top 4 in the lottery, then it conveys to Memphis. If it doesn’t convey that year, then the next, if the Warriors are bad enough to garner the overall pick then they’d keep it that year too for the pick to go to Memphis, regardless, the following year in 2026.

To give some further insight on how valuable this pick could become, Stephen Curry will only be on the Warriors books for until he becomes a free agent in 2022, Russell will be a free agent once again the year after in 2023, and then Thompson in 2024. The league would be dramatically different which shows just how much of a panic move this was for Golden State after losing their two-time Finals MVP in Kevin Durant.

The Grizzlies aren’t finished tinkering with the roster. The team and Avery Bradley reached an agreement to push back his contract guarantee deadline to July 8, per The Athletic’s Omari Sankofa II. This gives the Grizzlies time to decide what to do with the shooting guard who if not waived or traded by then would wind up with a fully guaranteed contract worth $12.96 million compared to the partial guarantee of just $2 million.

Jonas Valanciunas Stays

First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski via Twitter just before 1 PM Central time, the former Raptor will remain in Memphis for another three years netting a contract worth $45 million. According to The Daily Memphian’s Chris Herrington, the deal will have a descending salary built within it. Herrington later specified that it would be about $16.1 million the first year, an even $15 million, then $13.9 million as Valanciunas heads into his next free agency period.

Despite only playing 19 games as a Grizzly, he gained strong support from the fan base to return in thanks to his strength in scoring around the basket and how well he gelled with the team on and off the court including the former and future franchise cornerstones in Mike Conley and Jaren Jackson, Jr.

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In only 27.7 minutes per game, Valanciunas averaged 19.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks with 10 of his 19 games resulting in 20+ points and 10+ rebounds. The heights of his contributions can’t be mentioned without his spectacular ten day stretch just before an ankle injury kept him out of the final five games of the season:

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His deal is great on a variety of levels. As the league moves away from the bang-it-down-low-and-put-it-up game, the first is that with a descending contract structure he would potentially be a more attractive asset in years to come. Not to mention, if there happened to be a sharp decline in his game or a unfortunate injury, the cap hit would be slightly easier to swallow down the line.

Valanciunas will only be on the Grizzlies books until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022. Also, in 2022, Jaren Jackson, Jr., becomes a restricted free agent. That means that when the time comes, there would be nearly $14 million dollars in additional cap space to help play a part of keeping Jackson in Memphis.

During his exit interview, Mike Conley was asked, “Is Jonas Valanciunas cut out to be a Grizzly?’:

The newest Grizzly, Ja Morant, and Jaren Jackson, Jr., were both vocal on their social media accounts that they wanted the 8 year veteran to return, despite Jaren only playing two games with Valanciunas and Morant none. After Wojnarowski broke the news this afternoon, Ja Morant reacted with just a smile.

Quiet Market So Far For Delon Wright

Sometimes little news is good news. Maybe not for Delon Wright, but certainly for the Grizzlies. While point guard free agents get big contracts across the league, there has been a very slight mention of teams finding interest in the 27 year old. So far, the only interest comes from the Dallas Mavericks, according to Sportsnet New York’s Ian Begley.

In 26 games as a Grizzly, Wright averaged 12.2 point with 5.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 31 minutes of action per game. He came away from his 26 outings and 11 starts with 43.4% from the field on 10.2 attempts which is decent, but the three point shot was remarkably less efficient for him. He shot a career high 3 attempts from beyond the arc, which resulted in a career low 25.6%. He showed his length and versatility by notching 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks a game as well. Holding the Grizzlies franchise record of most triple doubles by getting three in the season’s final four games kind of wrapped all of that up with a pretty bowtie. It would be safe to assume Delon had hoped that would have helped attract significant suitors by now.

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But no. There’s been nothing. It is similar to the restricted free agency of JaMychal Green in 2017 when the front office waited all the way to training camp to give him an offer sheet after no others came around. It resulted in a 2 year $16.2 million deal. The difference between Green’s past situation and Wright’s current dilemma is that there was at least interest surrounding the stretch four before teams ultimately moved on.

Here are ALL of the free agency moves regarding point guards: Kemba Walker to the Boston Celtics for a $141 million max contract across four years, Kyrie Irving took less than a max contract of $141 million across four years for the Nets to sign his friend Deandre Jordan, Malcolm Brogdon got a four year $85 million deal from Indiana, Terry Rozier got his chance to lead a squad in the Charlotte Hornets for $58 million over the course of the next three seasons, Ricky Rubio was able to get good money from the Phoenix Suns at $51 million for three years, George Hill is getting paid $29 million to stay in Milwaukee, also, for three years, Derrick Rose is signed a two year contract to the Detroit Pistons for $15 million, Cory Joseph is signed on to be in Sacramento for three years as a King for $37 million, Denver signed another one of their core young players in Jamal Murray to a $170 million extension that would keep him a Nugget through 2025, Patrick Beverly is staying with the Los Angeles Clippers for $40 million, D’Angelo Russell got the four year $117 million max from Golden State thanks to a spectacular sign and trade, Gerald Green is staying in Houston on a one year veteran minimum deal, Ish Smith signed a 2 year $12 million contract to become a Wizard, JJ Barea will remain a Maverick for another year on a minimum contract, Elfrid Payton is on the move to New York to become a Knick for 2 years at $16 million, and, lastly, at the moment at least, Tim Frazier will make the minimum for a year in Detroit.

According to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and RealGM, only 8 teams have more than $2 million in cap space, just four above $10 million. The top four are the Lakers with $32 million as they wait for a Kawhi Leonard decision, the Clippers with a noted amount that is dependent on the order of their latest signings of anywhere between $29 million and $37 million, the Dallas Mavericks with $22 million, and the Atlanta Hawks with $14 million. The Hawks are also one of the two teams in the NBA along with the Cleveland Cavaliers that have not signed a free agent of any kind to their roster.

The challenge with signing desired restricted free agents is that often you need to overpay them in some sense to keep the team that holds their rights from matching your offer. The money is drying up for teams who wish to do that. Delon’s made it clear that he wishes to be in a situation where he can show off what he has to offer. A situation he couldn’t find in Toronto as the third option to run the point behind Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Fleet.

“That was the whole reason I wanted to get into a better situation,” Wright said during his exit interview of the possibility of a Mike Conley trade. “Showing that I could potentially be that starting point guard. If it is here or somewhere else, I feel pretty much ready for that.”

GrizzEric Lentz