The Grizzlies and Cavaliers have offically finalized a deal that sends Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a protected first-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for Jon Leuer, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (via Twitter). The Cavaliers have waived Jeremy Pargo to clear room on their roster for the incoming players.
Memphis has been at the center of a number of trade rumors this month, a result of the team's reported desire to get below the tax line. While most of those rumors have involved more expensive players like Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, I noted last week that Speights was another candidate to be dealt, since moving his $4MM+ salary would be enough to get the Grizzlies out of the tax. That's essentially what Memphis is doing in this deal with the Cavs, moving Speights along with Ellington's $2.08MM expiring contract. Selby and Leuer are a wash, earning identical $762,195 salaries.
Cleveland has the room to absorb Ellington's and Speights' salaries under the cap, while the Grizzlies will move below the tax line for 2012/13. Memphis should also obtain a handful of trade exceptions in the transaction, worth the amount of Speights', Ellington's, and Selby's salaries — $4,200,000, $2,083,042, and $762,195 respectively.
Speights, 25, was a productive rotation piece for the Grizzlies last year after the team acquired him from the 76ers, starting 54 contests for the club and averaging 8.8 PPG and 6.2 RPG. However, he has seen a reduced role in Memphis this season, with his minutes being reduced from 22.4 per game to 14.5. Because he was playing on a one-year contract (excluding his second-year player option) following his rookie deal, the forward had the rights to veto a trade, but he agreed to be dealt to the Cavs due to that lack of playing time in Memphis, according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (Twitter link).
For the Cavaliers, Selby and Memphis' pick act as sweeteners to compensate the Cavs for taking on salary, including Speights' $4.52MM player option for 2013/14. Joel Brigham of HoopsWorld wrote yesterday that Selby, who excelled in the Summer League in July, was waiting for an opportunity to try to translate that success to the regular season. He figures to have a better chance to receive that opportunity in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the first-rounder heading to the Cavs is protected from 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015 and 2016, before being top-five protected in 2017 and 2018 and unprotected in 2019. Like the first-rounder that was traded by the Raptors to the Rockets (and eventually to the Thunder) over the summer, the unique protection makes it a likely lottery pick.
Despite clearing Speights from next year's books, the Grizzlies still project to be likely taxpayers in 2013/14 and '14/15, so as Grantland's Zach Lowe points out (via Twitter), the club could explore more cost-cutting deals in the summer. The trade also brings the Grizzlies' roster to 11 players, two below the NBA minimum, so free agent signings will be required. Memphis is currently considering Delonte West and Bill Walker, among others.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter links), Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (Twitter links), Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld (all Twitter links), and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter link) were all involved in breaking various details of the story.