Have you ever been through such a stretch of good luck and fortune and stayed grounded by reminding yourself that all good things must come to an end? Maybe things went so well that at some point you forgot that invariably all things that end actually end badly, else they wouldn’t end at all.
If you’re a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies then you’ve enjoyed the last two seasons immensely, save for the first and last games of the Clippers playoff series last year. You probably even have an appreciation for the 2009-2010 team that rose from one of the worst teams in the league to being on the fringe of the playoffs almost overnight.
This season, the Grizzlies held the best record in the NBA for the first few weeks of the season and people were talking about Memphis as some sort of basketball epicenter and wondering aloud if they could topple Western Conference heavies like the Spurs or Thunder.
The Grizzlies’ hot pace has slowed lately, but they’re still going to be a contender barring mass injuries.
Unfortunately, the Grizzlies’ impending luxury tax bill and elevating salaries to their best players over the next few years is that nagging feeling that while things are rolling right now, it almost certainly won’t last forever.
But change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You’d like to think if the Grizzlies are still within striking distance of the Southwest Division championship around the trade deadline that the front office would stay the course and bank on the extra playoff games covering most of the luxury tax bill.
However, a number of teams have shuffled the deck and remained more than competitive after a major in-season trade. Remember, the 1995 Houston Rockets were the defending World Champions and got out of the blocks slowly. They traded for Clyde Drexler and won their second straight title despite never having home court advantage in any playoff round.
The 2004 Detroit Pistons were a solid team, but swung a huge trade for the volatile Rasheed Wallace at the trade deadline. The move paid huge dividends as they beat the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals and returned to the Finals in 2005, but lost in 7 games to the Spurs.
The 2008 Los Angeles Lakers traded for Pau Gasol and promptly rolled to three straight Western Conference championships and consecutive World Championships.
The difference between those trades would be that the Grizzlies would likely not be getting an All-Star back and probably sending the All-Star in most scenarios.
First thing’s first, I don’t think Marc Gasol is going anywhere. For all of the things that he does for this team and his relative youth coupled with his fair contract extension make him a building block for the Grizzlies today and down the line. I’m sure Chris Wallace would say that nobody is untradeable and if the Miami Heat called and offered LeBron James for Marc Gasol straight up then I’m sure he would take that call, but for all intents and purposes, Gasol seems like he’ll be in Memphis for the forseeable future.
A lot of people have mentioned Zach Randolph as a potential trade piece because of his salary and the fact that he’s getting on in years. I don’t see that though. When Randolph is healthy, he’s an All-Star and a guy that is beloved by the fans and city alike. I can see Zach being traded before Marc, but I’m not sure that the Grizzlies are dying to move him either, unless they feel like they’re getting a younger guy that would keep the Grizzlies’ title window open for a longer period of time.
Maybe a trade like this perhaps?:
Love made some waves last week by mentioning that he was getting more and more frustrated with his situation in Minnesota and there’s been bad blood ever since the Timberwolves refused to use their one-time five-year extension on him and offered only a four year deal instead. With Minnesota struggling with Ricky Rubio out, it seems like Love has grown disenchanted there and seems like he could be the next superstar to join someone else’s team in pursuit of a championship.
The Grizzlies make the deal because Love is on a cheaper extension and is younger. They’re both great offensive players, but they get it done in different ways. Love can stretch the floor with his jumper and Zach is one of the two or three best low-post scorers in the league.
That deal would break Twitter as we rarely see two All-Stars traded for each other, and ultimately I think that neither team would necessarily make the trade. Minnesota would worry about Zach’s contract and advancing age and the Grizzlies probably feel like they take a small step back this year when they have a very clearly defined title window. Trading Randolph for Love is a move that you make looking two years down the line. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. I just don’t see the front office taking a leap of faith like that.
I’m sure you see where this is going by now. Look, I like Rudy Gay. He seems like a nice guy, is a good player and seems like he gives a crap. I was frustrated by him during Friday’s game in Denver when he didn’t get a foul call and moped for the rest of the game, but he actually cared. I know it should be a given that you care about the proceedings of being a basketball player when you make almost $17 million a year, but it seems like it’s more and more rare.
But Rudy does make a ton of money and probably has the highest trade value of any Grizzly outside of Gasol and his performances and still uneven. He’s been more consistent this year than any year since his shortened 2010-2011 season, but a guy that makes more money than LeBron James has to crap or get off the pot and decide to bring it every night. The Grizzlies are a good team. When Gay is going and playing well, they’re an elite team. When Gay shoots 5-21 from the field and gets lost on defense, he’s an albatross, especially when Lionel realizes it at least four minutes after everyone else and the other team is on a run.
Rudy could benefit from a change of scenery. I’m here to help.
Don’t worry about Rip Hamilton because he won’t be around that long. He can be bought out in the offseason for $1 million and become a free agent. Deng’s contract is expiring after next year and while he may not have the offensive upside that Gay does, he’s a far better defender and when paired with Tony Allen they would represent the finest pairing of perimeter defenders in the entire NBA.
As far as age goes, as crazy as it is to hear, Deng is only one year older than Gay, even though he was part of the 2004 NBA draft and Gay was drafted in 2006. You’re getting a cheaper option to play small forward and probably a better player to boot.
In the offseason I referenced this trade and said that the Bulls would walk away because Deng is Tom Thibodeau’s security blanket, but with the Bulls struggling to score, they may be more compelled to make a move for a slightly younger, if more expensive scorer to carry the offense until Derrick Rose returns. You can flank Gay with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson and his defensive shortcomings wouldn’t be as apparent and he may even buy into Thibodeau’s defensive system.
I still think Chicago passes because they’re in a holding pattern while waiting on Derrick Rose, but if the Bulls are proactive they could stay afloat, put themselves in a good position to win their division and when Rose returns have a lineup of Rose, Marco Bellinelli/Jimmy Butler, Gay, Boozer/Gibson and Joakim Noah to close games out. You could do worse.
The problem with the deal from the Memphis point of view is they would trade Rudy to save money and that would be about it. Taking back Hamilton would inflate their payroll even further for a player that not only isn’t in their future plans, but probably not in their plan for this season either. It wouldn’t matter, but the Bulls hard-capped themselves over the offseason by bringing Kirk Hinrich to Chicago on the Mini Mid-Level Exception for a taxpaying team. Once they did that, then they made sure that they could not add payroll at all. In the offseason they could have taken the extra salary with no issues.
Again, it’s unlikely that the Grizzlies make a move as long as they’re playing well. They can always make a move in the offseason. But if they decide to act now, they can shake things up, remain competitive and save some money at the same time.
The Bucks come to Memphis tonight as the Grizzlies continue their tour of the Eastern Conference’s Central Division.
The Bucks are 13-10 and just a half of a game behind the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division lead.
The Bucks are still an inconsistent outfit as they recently lost a home game to those same Bulls, then turned around the very next night, got down 27 points and rallied back to win in Chicago. Milwaukee did win it’s last game against the division rival Indiana Pacers, however.
A pretty good analysis of the game tonight can be found here by our sister network at behindthebuckpass.com.