The first week of free agency has come and gone, and teams have started to make agreements with players. Dwight Howard’s off to Houston, Chris Paul’s staying with the Clippers, and your Memphis Grizzlies have added… no new faces?
Yep, not one new free agent. The Grizzlies re-upped Tony Allen (which was huge for them), saw Jerryd Bayless opt in for the last year on his contract, and decided to bring back Jon Leuer. All that said, however, they have yet to sign a single new free agent!
Now, let’s be honest. Memphis acquired Kosta Koufos via trade in the draft, and don’t have a lot of wiggle room in their rotation. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen are entrenched as starters worthy of big minutes, particularly for the first three. Quincy Pondexter, Tayshaun Prince, Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis and Koufos all figure to factor in as well. That’s a nine-player rotation largely made up of players each with a valid case for a 20+ minute role with the Grizz. There isn’t much room to fit another player in.
That said, the Grizzlies can’t just ignore their glaring need for three-point shooting. This is a well-documented need, and if you would pardon the shameless self-promotion, I wrote a piece on it myself. The gist of it is, with no reliable spot-up three-point shooter outside of Quincy Pondexter, the Grizzlies offense is not getting reliable spacing. Mike Conley can shoot, Jerryd Bayless can shoot, but that’s enough and teams are able to pack the interior against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, a big part of the Grizzlies’ offense.
Thick rotation or not, there’s no doubt Memphis would’ve benefitted from adding a three-point shooter to their bench. Players can always be dumped to make room for other, better players–I’m personally fond of the idea of offloading the expiring contract of Prince to make room for a true three-point specialist at the wing position. Not having signed any free agents, Memphis still has their full Mid-Level Exception (MLE) of $5.150 million. They’d be well-advised to use it, and use it quickly. Worrying about the rotation can come after.
Why the rush? Because, having stood pat while other teams made their signings, Memphis has missed out on many a three-point shooter. Gone are J.J. Redick, Kevin Martin, Kyle Korver, Dorell Wright, and Martell Webster. You’d be hard-pressed to find a three-point specialist better than any of those. Many of the free agents left come with inconsistency, questionable shot-decisions, and other such concerns.
What types of names are left exactly? If you want strict three-point specialists, you’d have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find the likes of Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, Anthony Morrow, Daniel Gibson and Randy Foye. They’re all good shooters, but weak in most other areas of the game and not exactly ideal options. There’s also veteran combo guard Chauncey Billups, who’d be a great get had he played more than just 42 regular season games over the last two years combined due to injury.
Other options include Mo Williams and Nate Robinson, both point guards proficient at shooting the three ball, but not exactly true three-point specialists (not to mention Robinson’s even more of a loose cannon than Jerryd Bayless). Aaron Brooks and Rodrigue Beaubois are in the same boat, but although while talented, neither of them have found much regular playing time in recent years.
Yep, those are the three-point shooters left in the free agent pool. A far cry from J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver, no?
What can Memphis do, or rather, what should they do? Nobody available would be someone that the team would choose as their first option. That’s the Grizzlies’ punishment for deliberating so long, and registering minimal interest even in such players as Dorell Wright, who signed with the Portland Trail Blazers for a very affordable $6 million over two years.
At this point, Memphis’ best bet might be to sign a number of shooters, and see which ones can stick. I’m personally for signing Billups, who has the highest upside, then nabbing somebody like Morrow or Gibson cheap. If Billups pans out, great, that’s making out pretty well from a bad situation. If not, well, the Grizzlies aren’t too much worse off from where they are now, and still have a backup option they can try. Worst scenario is nobody pans out and they have to swing a trade for a three-point shooter halfway through the season. From where they are now, that might as well be an option already.
There’s not a lot to work with in this situation for Memphis, and unfortunately, they brought it upon themselves. I don’t think it’s hard to establish that Tony Allen was the number one priority for them, but after resigning him, they should have went harder at the top three-point shooters that were available this offseason. Now, they’ll have to chase for scraps and hope they can find a diamond in the rough.
Probably each of us has at least one guy we really like in that free agent pool (not necessarily for legitimate basketball reasons) and that we’d like the Grizz to sign. Myself, I like Daniel Gibson because he was a part of that 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers team that I worshipped.
Unfortunately, the fact is that no matter who the Grizzlies sign, they’ve waited themselves to a situation where they can only gamble. Hopefully, they don’t wait any longer.