What Luke Kennard contract situation means for Grizzlies & what his new deal might be

The Memphis Grizzlies have declined the final year of Luke Kennard's contract, but reports suggest the two aren't heading for a split.
Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons
Memphis Grizzlies v Detroit Pistons / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

The Memphis Grizzlies have finally decided on Luke Kennard and his $14.8 million team option for the 2024-25 campaign. On Saturday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the franchise has elected to decline the final year of his deal, ultimately taking him off their books and making him an unrestricted free agent this summer.

A move that has long been speculated as being a possibility, with the veteran guard's tremendous skill set that saw him place second in the association in three-point shooting last year (45.0 percent), it's safe to assume that his services will be courted heavily by rival clubs on the open-market.

Of course, fortunately for Memphis, it seems that they are still the ones in the driver's set to retain his services, as Wojnarowski revealed in his new break that though the team has opted to decline his final year under contract, "both sides are eager to pursue a restructured deal."

Why Grizzlies declined Luke Kennard option & what a new deal could be

Before deciding on Kennard's team option, the Grizzlies found themselves boasting a lucrative payroll of roughly $175 million heading into next season, which teetered dangerously close to the NBA's first tax apron set at $178,655,000.

With the three new players coming aboard via the 2024 NBA Draft alone, having things stay the same while crafting deals for these incoming rookies would have sent Zach Kleiman and company into penalty territory.

Now, with $14.8 million coming off the books, the Grizzlies have cut back on their financial commitments significantly, and, depending on how they move forward through the offseason, they could avoid the tax apron entirely.

Of course, this becomes a bit more challenging with Wojnarowski's report that Kennard wishes to remain in Memphis. However, there are ways for the two sides to make things work that are equally beneficial financially.

With a restructuring of his deal, Kleiman could work the numbers where his yearly salary could be on an ascending trajectory, thus saving Memphis money heading into next year's redemption campaign while making a return fiscally appropriate for the 28-year-old.

Last week, Bleacher Report's Greg Swartz penned a piece where he predicted the Grizzlies would decline Kennard's option, only to then re-sign him on the free agency market.

To him, "a three-year, $30 million contract would give him more than $15 million in new money," which would likely be of great interest to the sharpshooter as he looks for longer-term security while also helping the organization get "close to ducking under the tax line."

Despite the fact that Kennard's name was linked to constant trade rumors throughout the year, it was his financial impact, not his on-court efforts, that were the main reasoning behind this consistent link.

One of the greatest long-range shooters of all time, the shooting guard holds a career three-point shooting average of 43.9 percent and, since making his way to Grind City mid-way through the 2022-23 campaign, has only seen his efficiency skyrocket to 48.3 percent on 6.0 attempts per game.

Though his services from were wasted this past season as a result of personal and team-wide injuries and overall player absences, with stars like Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane all slated to be fully available come next season, the Grizzlies will be looking to thrust themselves back into the title contender conversation and, considering the modern era is predicated on three-point shooting coupled with the fact that they ranked second-worst in three-point percentage last season, they'll be tremendously benefited by a full-strength Kennard remaining in tow.