Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com is reporting today that the Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to trade three players to the Cleveland Cavaliers in an effort to slice their payroll and avoid the luxury tax for next season. According to sources, the Grizzlies will send power forward Marresse Speights, and guards Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby along with a future first round draft pick to the Cavaliers for power forward Jon Leuer. The trade is expected to save the Grizzlies $6 million in cap space.The trade is expected to be finalized later Tuesday.
The new ownership group for the Grizzlies led by Robert Pera made it a priority to make sure the Grizzlies were under the luxury tax threshold for next season. The penalties will be even more harsh for going over the threshold next season, as instead of dollar for dollar as it is now, it could be up to $4.25 per dollar over the cap depending on how much teams are over and if a team has violated the luxury tax before. A small market team like the Grizzlies can’t afford such Draconian penalties. There had been trade rumors involving star players Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph circulating for weeks. While losing players as talented at Speights and Ellington will especially hurt their depth, this move will allow the Grizzlies to keep their core stars together in Gay, Randoplh, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley Jr.
Speights averages 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds off the bench for the Grizzlies. He played in all 40 games for the Grizzlies and averaged just under 15 minutes a game. Speights started 2 games this season He scored a season high 22 points with 13 rebounds January 4 at home against the Portland Trail Blazers in an 86-84 loss when Randolph missed the game with the flu. Speights should get significant minutes for the Cavaliers as forward-center Anderson Varejao is out for the season with a blood clot in his lung.
Ellington averages 5.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. He also played in all 40 games this season, and started 4 games. He averaged just under 17 minutes a game. Ellington provided a scoring spark off the bench. He had a memorable game in early December against the defending world champion Miami Heat when he buried 7 three pointers and scored 25 points. The Grizzlies won that game 104-86. On January 7th, Ellington made 6 three pointers and scored 26 points in a 113-81 rout over the Sacramento Kings. It was the largest road victory in Grizzlies’ franchise history. Just yesterday, he led the Grizzlies in scoring with 17 points off the bench in their 82-81 home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Martin Luther King Day.
Point guard Josh Selby has only played in 8 games this season. He doesn’t get much time behind Conley and Jerryd Bayless. He played 16 minutes January 12th at the Dallas Mavericks in a 104-83 loss. He scored 10 points, along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.
Jon Leuer only played in 9 games for the Cavaliers this season. He averaged 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds. He has never scored more than 7 points in any game this season. Leuer played in 46 games last year for the Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 13 minutes a game during his rookie season. He was never able to crack the rotation for the Cavaliers though. Leuer will get more minutes with the Grizzlies.
The 26-14 Grizzlies are in second place in the Southwest Division behind the San Antonio Spurs and would currently be the #4 seed in the West. The Cavaliers are 10-32 and have the second worst record in basketball ahead of only the 9-30 Washington Wizards. Cleveland is currently 10 million under next year’s salary cap and were able to absorb Speights 4.5 million dollar option for next season. The move will give Memphis a more than six million trade exception good for a year.
Look, as I mentioned it isn’t good that the Grizzlies have to make a move based strictly on salary cap reasons when they have been doing so well midway through the season. The Grizzlies didn’t have a lot of depth to begin with and losing Speights and Ellington will make them even less deep. With small forward Quincy Pondexter out indefinitely with a knee sprain, the only proven bench scorers are forward Darrell Arthur and Bayless. The Grizzlies were near the bottom of the league in bench scoring anyway at around 25 points per game.
We will have to see how this trade affects the chemistry of the Memphis Grizzlies. They could be shorthanded tomorrow as they host the struggling Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night. Mmephis might have call up some players from the Reno Bighorns of the D-League to fill out the roster.