Memphis Grizzlies’ rebuild: The future is so bright

The Memphis Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson Jr is set to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend (Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Memphis Grizzlies' Jaren Jackson Jr is set to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend (Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images) /
3 of 3
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Future of the Rebuild

First and foremost, the Grizzlies need to convey the pick that they owe Boston. The first-round pick is top 6 protected in 2020, but should the Grizzlies fail to convey it then, it becomes unprotected in 2021. There are a lot of very smart people who think that the Grizzlies will be a bottom-six team in the NBA this year, that they’ll have another shot at the NBA Draft lottery before conveying the unprotected pick to Boston in 2021. Don’t count this team out yet; they may be far better than the basketball world gives them credit for.

Even if the 2019-2020 Grizzlies stink, they need to finish outside of the bottom six teams in the league to give themselves a better chance at conveying that pick to Boston before it becomes unprotected next year. There’s nothing worse for a rebuilding team than to earn a top-three pick in the NBA Draft and have to give it up to a contending team (in exchange for a bum named Jeff Green in 2014, no less). The next step: convey the damn pick.

The Grizzlies need to trade Andre Iguodala, and they probably need to trade Jae Crowder, too. Iguodala and Crowder are currently extremely valuable to teams that think they have a shot at contending for a championship. Iguodala is a former Finals MVP, and he was a key piece on the Warriors dynasty that won three of the last five NBA Championships. Crowder is a dynamic role player; he can play multiple positions, he can score, and he can defend.

The Grizzlies currently have exclusive rights to both of these players, and there are playoff teams out there that would likely pay a hefty price for either player at some point before the trade deadline in February. As the season goes on, players will get hurt, rotations will shorten, and the price for Iguodala and Crowder will continue to rise. The Grizzlies can get a decent return for both players (draft picks, cap space, promising young talent), and they need to do it before Iguodala and Crowder become free agents after the season.

As Beale Street Bears’ AJ Salah wrote earlier this week, Memphis will find itself well under the NBA salary cap next offseason. The Grizzlies currently only owe about $66 million to players under contract in the 2020-2021 season, and even that number is a little high, since Memphis has a team option on Josh Jackson and Grayson Allen next season. Should the Grizzlies elect not to exercise those options, the team would have almost $60 million in cap space next summer.

Obviously, that number will change as the Grizzlies make trades and acquisitions throughout the season. However, barring some unforeseen scenario, Memphis will have more than enough cap space to be able to pursue top-tier free agents in 2020. Guys like DeMar Derozan, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown will likely be on the market. However, the Grizzlies don’t necessarily need to offer a max contract to a guy who doesn’t deserve it just because they have the money (cc: Chandler Parsons).

If Memphis spends its money wisely and structures its contracts in ways that are beneficial to the team, there is a very real possibility that the Grizzlies will have cap space for a max contract in 2021. That free agent class is absolutely loaded, featuring names like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and the like. As of now, the books are remarkably empty in 2021. Again, that will change over the next two years, but for the first time in a while, the Memphis Grizzlies will have enough money to make a splash on the A-list free agent market.

dark. Next. Rumor: Iguodala will not participate in training camp

The future is bright in Memphis, Tennessee. The front office has supplemented a young, athletic core with strong veteran talent, a fistful of future draft picks, and cap space to go out and get somebody big. There will be growing pains, and this team may take some time before it finds its identity, but the Grizzlies are only a year or two out from making some real noise in the West. The Fedex Forum will once again be one of the loudest destinations in the NBA, and Memphis will be hosting playoff basketball in June. Jump on the bandwagon while there’s still room. It’s going to be full before long.