Jan 21, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Marreese Speights (5) attempts a shot while defended by Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi (28) during the first half at the FedEx Forum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies/Cavs Trade And The Evils Of Half Measures.

If you missed my man Ken Langston’s piece yesterday about the Grizzlies/Cavs trade, peep it here.

If you’re curious about the fallout from such a trade, then you’ve come to the right place.

Basically, the Grizzlies have been living beyond their means for too long and now have to pay the piper. We all knew that this day was going to come, but we all assumed that the deal would involve Rudy Gay in some way, shape or form.

Understand, I’m not here to wax poetic about the greatness of Wayne Ellington or Marreesee Speights. They were role players and generally did a good job when called upon, but they’re certainly replaceable. I always viewed Josh Selby as a shorter OJ Mayo, but only time will tell that as well. If you’re going to execute a salary dump, then this is how you do it. You take a few of your expendable players and you trade them to a willing team.

I have two problems with the trade as of 2:42 local time.

First, the Grizzlies included a future first-round pick in the trade. Now, one of the biggest problems for a team that plans on being perennially capped out is finding undervalued talent and finding a way to fit them on your roster. You can bank on the idea of convincing quality role players to take less money to play for what you call a contender, but that rarely happens in reality. The Heat have been good at it, but most everyone else is interested in making as much money as possible. I don’t blame them and you shouldn’t either.

The other way is by nailing your draft picks, regardless of where they fall. The best teams seem to do this every year. Oklahoma City hit a home run by picking Serge Ibaka with the 24th pick in 2008, the Chicago Bulls picked Taj Gibson 26th in 2009 and Jimmy Butler 30th in 2011 and both guys are helping keep the Bulls afloat in the tight Eastern Conference with Derrick Rose having never suited up for one game this year. The Spurs “discovered” Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker late in the first round of two separate drafts and were rewarded with future hall-of-famers.

The Grizzlies haven’t been as successful with any of their draft picks, let alone ones in the late first round, but just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Making matters worse, when you factor in the different protections on the pick, it could end up being rather early. Top 10 depending on how good the Grizzlies are over the course of the next four or five years. A decent sweetener for the Cavs just became even sweeter and the Grizzlies banked on their ability to at least remain a playoff team for the foreseeable future. The Grizzlies have a nice core of four players but you never know what the future may hold and what happens when that core of four nice players becomes three good players? That brings us to the very thing that Mike Ehrmantraut warned us about…

Let’s just say that Josh Levien is Mike the beat cop. He’s young, naive and wants to be the good guy (keeping the core four) and wants to avoid being the bad guy (trading Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph). So he trims the fat a bit, gets the Grizzlies under the luxury tax threshold and it seems like the Grizzlies are poised to roll into the playoffs with their starting five intact, albeit with a shorter bench than they enjoyed last season or so far this year.

So what happens when the payroll of those four rises again next year and there are less role players around to trade with a lottery pick? Somebody will have to go.

That’s why you can’t have any half measures in the NBA. The trade with Cleveland was a nice Band-aid and will help the Grizzlies get to an appropriate payroll for the rest of the season and satisfy the fans and teams desires to give their core one more run before they break it up. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t. But more than likely this tale ends with Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph in a new uniform before the 2013-2014 regular season regardless.

The defense I have for the trade (pick excepted) is that the Grizzlies traded a guy who had four or five big games for them and a guy who filled in admirably last season with Zach Randolph out for an extended period for what could be nothing. At the end of the day, Speights had found his way almost out of the rotation completely and was vastly overpaid at his cap figure of $4.5 million to play no more than 10-12 minutes a night. The Grizzlies trimmed salary in a constructive way. Ellington’s departure means more minutes for Tony Wroten as well, which can only be a good thing.

But the Rudy Gay/Zach Randolph trade still hangs out everything. It won’t happen before the trade deadline, and if it does then it will probably bring back a small forward and another piece if I had to guess. But if the Grizzlies stand pat, nothing short of a Conference Finals berth will keep the Grizzlies from shuffling the deck a bit in the offseason and that’s probably a good thing if the ultimate goal is to win a championship.

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