The Grizzlies and Cavaliers reached an agreement on the first trade of 2013 today, a deal that will send Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, and a protected 2015 first-rounder to the Cavaliers in exchange for Jon Leuer. With the Grizzlies sending out about $7MM in salary and only taking back Leuer's minimum-salary deal, the move will help get the team below the tax threshold.
Now that the Grizzlies won't have to worry about being a taxpayer this season, one would assume that the Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph trade rumors would die down significantly. As Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal tweeted earlier today, the Grizzlies are hoping the move increases locker-room morale, with the implication being that Memphis isn't about to shake up its core. However, within the same tweet, Tillery adds that the club also hopes that the deal brings in "real offers" for Gay.
While the likelihood of a Gay trade happening by February 21st may have been reduced today, the possibility shouldn't be dismissed entirely. The Grizzlies still project as a taxpaying team for the two seasons after 2012/13, and with more punitive tax penalties on the way starting next year, I imagine that's a situation new ownership wants to avoid.
What today's Grizzlies/Cavs trade does for Memphis is allow the club to avoid shipping Gay out in a deal that's entirely designed to cut costs. Now that the team no longer has to worry about getting below the tax line this season, it has regained some leverage in further trade talks, and can focus on finding real value rather than simply dumping salary.
With no pressure to make a move this season, I would expect the Grizzlies to hang on to Gay this season and revisit their trade options in the summer. If and when that happens, perhaps a team like the Wizards, a club Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld pegged as the frontrunner for Gay this morning, will make an offer that appeals to the Grizzlies. Washington contracts like Trevor Ariza's or Emeka Okafor's could look much more appealing as trade chips next year, when they're expiring, than they do this season.