Offseason Outlook: Memphis Grizzlies

May 9 at 3:27pm CST By Chuck Myron

Guaranteed Contracts

Options 

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (22nd overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $48,980,360
  • Options: $16,938,333
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $3,316,482
  • Cap Holds: $22,433,851
  • Total: $91,669,026

The man whose absence was most conspicuous the last time the Grizzlies played no doubt lingers in the back of the mind of everyone in the organization. Team officials probably won’t harbor too much anger at Zach Randolph for incurring a suspension for Game 7 against the Thunder, since his hit to the jaw of Steven Adams was such questionable grounds for a one-game ban that few, if any, expected the punishment to happen. Instead, the Grizzlies will ruminate on Z-Bo’s decision regarding his lucrative player extension for next season. He’s given little, if any, indication of his preference whether to opt in or hit the market, where he could cash in as the ninth-ranked player on the latest Hoops Rumors 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.

Randolph bookended the season with assertions that he’d like to remain with the Grizzlies for the rest of his career. He also expressed a desire to continue playing alongside Marc Gasol, who can’t elect free agency until next year, a subtle indication that Randolph might prefer to opt in so that he and Gasol can go on the market together. Still, Randolph expressed frustration with trade rumors that invoked his name this season. Team sources were adamant in their denials, but Randolph said he was hurt by what he perceived as a lack of loyalty, and he cited the Spurs, Lakers and Heat as examples of teams that have developed long-term bonds and won with them.

It would be tough to imagine the Spurs making the cap-clearing moves necessary to get into a bidding war for the 32-year-old, but the Lakers will have plenty of cap room, and the Heat might be in play if their trio of stars depart. There surely would be no shortage of other teams eyeing Randolph if he were to hit the market. The belief around the league is that Randolph would be in line for a three-year deal worth $30-35MM, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team goes a little higher for a player whose 17.4 points per game and 18.3 PER were the best he’s posted in three years.

There’s plenty of value in opting out, given Randolph’s increased production this season and the prospect of suitors growing all the more wary of his age in another year. He’ll turn 33 in July, suggesting it’s time to secure another long-term contract. Still, Randolph doesn’t figure to command the nearly $17MM salary he’d make next season if he opted in. Agent Raymond Brothers will no doubt earn his commission even before he negotiates Randolph’s next contract as he gathers the intel necessary to advise his client.

If Randolph’s back, the Grizzlies would have enough commitments to put them over the salary cap, but they’d have plenty of room beneath the tax line if the latest $77MM luxury tax projection holds up. That’ll allow them to use the full value of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, worth $5.305MM this year. There’s also a decent chance they’ll have room to use the $2.077MM biannual exception, and that chance would become a near-certainty if Randolph opts out and re-signs for a lower salary. Those loom as critical weapons for a front office that snagged Mike Miller and James Johnson at the minimum salary for this past season. Players who are bargains at the mid-level price can have an even more significant effect than minimum-salary gems, of course, so it’ll be interesting to see what CEO Jason Levien and company do with that sort of flexibility.

Randolph’s departure would give the Grizzlies even more money at their disposal, and they’d have about $11MM in cap flexibility without him. It would also present the team with an intriguing chance to change its identity from a traditional, bruising, post-oriented squad with two big men to a club based on spacing with a stretch power forward. Replacing Randolph with an outside shooter would help the team’s deficiencies in that department, and the return of a healthy Quincy Pondexter would add to the roster’s long-range firepower. The style would seem like a fit for the analytics-friendly Memphis front office, given how highly the greater advanced metrics community values the three-pointer.

It would nonetheless be difficult to change on the fly so quickly, particularly if the team wants to remain competitive and attractive to Gasol, who’s a free agent after next season. That’s why a strong push to sign Pau Gasol, Marc’s brother, would make sense regardless of the style of play Memphis chooses. The Grizzlies reportedly see any pursuit of Gasol as a secondary priority to Randolph, but that’s true of just about anything the team would do this offseason. Gasol appears have a decent chance of garnering a $10MM offer in free agency this summer, but the allure of playing with his brother on a winning team might be enough to inspire him to take a discount to return to Memphis, where he began his NBA career. Using the full mid-level on Pau Gasol as a backup should Randolph return might seem wasteful for a team in need of outside shooting, but having a first-rate reserve would be crucial, as Marc Gasol’s absence this year demonstrated.

Kosta Koufos is a capable backup, but he’s no Marc Gasol, and he’s no Pau Gasol, either, and the Grizzlies suffered when Marc was injured this season, costing them enough wins for them to wind up as the seventh seed. They proved they were much better than a seventh-place team against the Thunder, but it was also easy to see that the Grizzlies are still a player or two away from true title contention. It might not be necessary to waive Koufos and recoup most of his partially guaranteed salary for next season to upgrade the bench, but cutting ties with Koufos seems much more plausible than when the Grizzlies pulled off a shrewd trade to obtain him for Darrell Arthur last year.

Similarly, there doesn’t seem to be enough playing time to go around for Ed Davis, whose 6’10” size and pedigree as a former 13th overall pick might intrigue a team looking for a small-ball center on the cheap. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Grizzlies fail to tender him a qualifying offer, which would be worth more than $4MM. That’s more per year than Pondexter received on his extension this past autumn, and likely more than market value for Davis. The Grizzlies probably wouldn’t mind him back at Pondexter’s salary, but no more than that.

Miller has expressed a desire to return to the club “as long as everything is done fairly,” and while that might indicate that he’s unwilling to re-sign for the minimum salary, the Grizzlies could use his Non-Bird rights to give him a 20% raise, or the biannual for a larger bump. Retaining his shooting will likely be important to the club, but the Grizzlies will no doubt keep in mind that the oft-injured 34-year-old seems a long shot to play in all 82 games next year as he did this season. The Grizzlies will be without Nick Calathes for the first 13 games of next season thanks to his suspension for alleged use of Tamoxifen, so Beno Udrih appears a candidate to return on another minimum salary deal to back up Mike Conley.

The Grizzlies will have the sort of flexibility this summer that they haven’t enjoyed in the past few years regardless of whether Randolph opts out. Just how well they apply it will be pivotal not only for the team, but for the rest of the league, as Memphis lingers on the precipice of the title picture.

Cap footnotes

* — The Grizzlies waived Melo in August 2013 and used the stretch provision to spread his salary over three seasons.
** — If Randolph opts out, his cap hold would be equivalent to the maximum salary for a player of 10 or more years of experience, which will likely be around $20MM.
*** — Koufos’ salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before June 30th.
**** — Calathes’ salary becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before July 15th.
***** — Davis’ qualifying offer is $4,268,609.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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