With the 2013 NBA draft just eight days away, various outlets continue to update their mock drafts, with Chris Mannix of SI.com and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com the latest experts to provide new versions of their respective mocks. Mannix and Givony actually agree on the top four - Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, and Alex Len, respectively - but starting at No. 5, their first rounds diverge significantly. Here are more of today's draft-related updates:
Free Agents / Cap Holds
Much was made this season of the changing of the guard in Memphis, as new owner Robert Pera assumed control of the franchise from Michael Heisley, while GM Chris Wallace ceded decision-making power to new CEO Jason Levien. Whether or not it was an accurate portrayal, the two men most frequently cited as representative of the struggle of old vs. the new were head coach Lionel Hollins and front office exec John Hollinger.
The Grizzlies' hiring of Hollinger, the former ESPN.com analytics guru, was a signal that the team's brass was interested in embracing a new-school style of thinking, an approach Hollins wasn't necessarily on board with, given his comments after Memphis traded away Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Rudy Gay. It turned out that either the front office or Hollins (or perhaps both) knew what they were doing, as the Grizzlies earned a spot in the Western Conference Finals before being beaten by the Spurs.
The deep playoff run wasn't enough for Hollins to keep his job, however, as he and the team parted ways after the season. Given the philosophical differences between Hollins and the front office, and the typical desire of a new management group to bring in its own coach, the split wasn't a surprise, but it's indicative of the franchise's direction going forward -- when it comes to coaching hires, roster management, and player development, the new-look Grizzlies will be forward-thinking and nontraditional.
It will be interesting to see how the Grizzlies' new front office values Tony Allen, as one of the league's top perimeter defenders prepares to hit free agency this summer. Allen is coming off a bargain of a deal, at three years and $9.45MM, and if the Grizzlies could re-sign him for a similar price, I'd imagine they would jump at the opportunity. But Allen's stock has been on the rise over the last several years as his reputation as an elite defender has grown, so he's likely to draw plenty of interest on the open market.
After shedding a couple of multiyear contracts prior to the trade deadline, the Grizzlies have gained a little more long-term financial flexibility. Big salaries for Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley still ensure there isn't a ton of wiggle room, but the Grizzlies only project to have about $58MM committed to eight players, assuming Jerryd Bayless doesn't exercise his player option. Even if Bayless does opt in, the Grizzlies should still have plenty of room to make Allen a competitive offer without approaching tax territory.
Re-signing Allen would likely preclude the pursuit of any other major free agents, however. As we saw this past year, the Grizzlies were willing to send a potential lottery pick to the Cavaliers to avoid paying the tax, so committing, say, $5MM annually to Allen would probably mean the Grizzlies would be filling out the rest of the roster with minimum-salary signings, with perhaps one player earning more than the minimum but less than the full mid-level (like Bayless).
Would re-signing Allen and tweaking the edges be enough to keep Memphis in contention going forward? Perhaps. Ed Davis figures to get more playing time under a new coach in the hopes that he can produce like he did in Toronto, and the team did thrive in the second half of 2012/13 without Gay. But the Grizzlies also looked overmatched in the Western Finals, and may not have even made it that far had it not been for Russell Westbrook's knee injury.
Letting Allen walk and looking to replace him with another player, or perhaps two or three less-expensive pieces, is one option. But given how much Allen reportedly enjoys playing in Memphis, I could see him taking a bit of a discount to stick around, which will make it hard for the team to find a better value among outside free agents. Additionally, Allen and Randolph have epitomized the Grizzlies' grit-and-grind style over the last couple years. While the two aren't exactly the icons that, for instance, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are in Boston, it almost feels as if the Grizzlies will either move forward with Allen and Randolph, or with neither of them.
That last idea may seem far-fetched, but I don't think it's entirely out of the realm of possibility. When the Grizzlies were making their big moves prior to the trade deadline, there were multiple reports suggesting that the team was shopping Randolph, with an eye on moving him at some point. Although the club eventually informed Randolph he wouldn't be going anywhere, that doesn't mean the issue won't come up again at some point. Randolph isn't cheap, and the Grizzlies could decide that turning his contract into a couple more cap-friendly deals, and perhaps letting the inexpensive Davis develop more at power forward, could be in the team's best interests.
Still, I think that's an unlikely scenario for this summer. My best guess is that the Grizzlies will play it fairly safe this offseason, attempting to re-sign Allen and add a complementary piece or two that can help the team return to title contention -- a backup point guard and an outside shooter look like the top priorities, especially if Bayless opts out. There may have been a difference of opinions between the new-school Grizzlies front office and the old-school Hollins, but I think both sides would agree that this roster is capable of contending, and doesn't need to be blown up.
Yesterday, we heard from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports that the Grizzlies are expected to complete their search for a head coach by the end of this week. Whether that means the team will have simply finished conducting interviews or whether Memphis will have made a hire remains to be seen, but the process does appear to be accelerating, with multiple candidates being interviewed for a second time this week. Here's the latest on the hunt to replace Lionel Hollins:
1:38pm: Gentry will meet with the Grizzlies for a second interview later this week, according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (via Twitter). Tillery adds (via Twitter) that Joerger remains the frontrunner for the job, but Gentry is "strongly in the mix."
1:05pm: The Grizzlies are expected to complete their search for a head coach by week's end, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Dave Joerger, who is reportedly interviewing with the team today, is expected to be the final candidate for the job, according to Spears.
Current Grizzlies assistant Joerger has long been viewed as the likely successor to Lionel Hollins in Memphis, but based on the candidates interviewed by the Grizz within the last week, it appears he's far from a lock. Former Nuggets coach George Karl met with the team yesterday, while ex-Suns coach Alvin Gentry and Bulls assistant Ed Pinckney also interviewed for the job.
The Grizzlies were also said to be monitoring Doc Rivers' situation in Boston, though it appears unlikely they'll get involved there, given the compensation required to pry Rivers away from the Celtics.
Earlier today, Bucks guard Monta Ellis informed the Bucks that he'll be exercising his early termination option this offseason, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. The guard, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, has the Lakers on his wish list, but that seems pretty far fetched given their cap situation. Well, we can add another fiscal longshot to the bunch as Ellis likes the Grizzlies too, according to Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times (on Twitter). Ellis probably isn't a fit for the stats-driven Memphis front office either, as his 16.3 PER was good for 27th last season amongst point guards. Here's more from around the Association..
The Celtics-Clippers saga continues with Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski saying that Eric Bledsoe had been a part of discussions between the two teams until Saturday morning (Twitter). The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett mentioned earlier that Doc Rivers might feel uncomfortable returning to the Celtics after this flirtation with the Clippers, but Wojnarowski said within the Celtics it hasn't been acrimonious between team and Doc (Twitter).
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne thinks the Clippers should dare the Celtics to cut Paul Pierce (he's owed $15.3MM if he's not waived before June 30th), and see if Kevin Garnett and Rivers will really hold to their promise to only be moved from the Celtics as a tandem (Twitter). Shelburne goes on to cite an objective league source who proposed the Clippers keep DeAndre Jordan and Bledsoe, sign Pierce after he's waived, and trade Caron Butler and a pick for Garnett (Twitter).
Shelburne also says that the Clippers have been "shaking every tree" looking for a third star to complement Blake Griffin and Chris Paul if he re-signs this summer (Twitter). According to Shelburne, the Clippers have expressed interest in Danny Granger and Arron Afflalo already as a possible third threat on their roster.
Here are some more tidbits about the Clippers and Celtics as well as other teams around the league on this rumor-filled Saturday night with a huge game 5 in the NBA Finals tomorrow.
Former Nuggets coach George Karl will meet with Memphis brass tomorrow, followed by Dave Joerger on Tuesday, a source tells Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). They're certainly not the only two people vying for the job, however. The Grizzlies met with former Suns coach Alvin Gentry about their head coaching vacancy yesterday and came away extremely impressed, the source says (link).
The Grizzlies granted Lionel Hollins permission to speak with other teams earlier this month and it wasn't a surprise earlier this week when they officially let him go. Former Hollins assistant Joerger was said to be a frontrunner for the job, but he may have his work cut out for him after Gentry's strong showing and the legendary Karl in the mix.
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes that the Timberwolves will likely trade either J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour by draft night. In the same piece, Zgoda notes that GM Flip Saunders is impressed with Victor Oladipo. Minnesota - currently slated to draft ninth overall - would have to swing a deal into the top five in order to have a chance at the former Hoosier star, though Zgoda doesn't think the team has enough assets to accomplish that. Here are more news and notes from the Western Conference tonight:
George Karl told reporters yesterday that he has been talking with the Grizzlies and Clippers about their head coaching jobs respectively. With that being said, the former Nuggets coach doesn't think that anything will get done by this week - and if it does, he says, it'll involve another head coaching candidate. Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post has other notable comments to share from Karl, of which you can read below:
On his meeting with Josh Kroenke upon being let go:
"Josh was nice and complimentary, said he'd honor my contract and the coaches. The conversation was on the decision, and I said, 'I think I should tell you, I think it's very stupid.' And since then, I don't understand it."
"I stopped myself — I could've rambled for two hours. I didn't want that argument. Basically I've had two meetings with Josh Kroenke. We met on Sunday (before the firing), and it lasted about an hour and I thought it was a positive meeting, very constructive, a lot of thoughts...I agree with them 100 percent that losing in the playoffs was disappointing and I could've done a better job. But Kenneth Faried (being hurt), he was never Faried the whole (playoff) series."
On the notion that he demanded a contract extension:
"I didn't demand an extension — I said to Josh, 'I will coach this team next year, I'm excited about coaching this team next year, but in the last year of a contract, there are things that could happen. I didn't say they would happen, I said they could happen. I said I didn't think I deserved a three-year extension, but it's a signed contract (with an option), so let's compromise. I don't think I deserved to get my option picked up, even if we won in the first round (of the playoffs), but there's a middle ground."
On the argument that he didn't play young players:
"...It shouldn't be that I didn't play young players, it's I didn't play young players enough, because we played a lot of young players — Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos, Evan Fournier at the end of the year, Ty Lawson...
"I think all of our young players are in a good place except for maybe Jordan Hamilton. He's the only guy I can say, 'OK, he might have should've been given more minutes.'
On not playing Javale McGee more and his lack of fit with Faried:
"I'm sorry, I've never had management tell me that money's important (for playing time). Every team I've ever coached, it was, 'It's your job to distribute minutes.' I think JaVale built a foundation that next year is going to be very good with him. I don't think our relationship was in a bad place. It wasn't in a great place, but it wasn't in a bad place. ... I felt pretty good that JaVale, with a good summer with us, probably would have been the starter next year. But in the same sense, I don't think JaVale and Kenneth fit. They have similar limitations. I still think having a passing point guard for JaVale, like Andre Miller, is an asset."
Thoughts on the Nuggets' season:
"We won 57 wins and are in a great place. Continuity, consistency, togetherness all are so much more valuable than they have on their priority list than playing JaVale McGee or the young players...And I never had a meeting where that disappointment (on not playing young players) was voiced to me. I never had that meeting. I heard through whispers. I'm sorry that 57 wins doesn't make you happy."
"I think it was a special season because of the connection this team has with each other and with the coaching staff and with the city. The fans like this team. The staff likes each other. And to blow up that connection is, in my opinion, extremely disrespectful to coaching."
THURSDAY, 4:07pm: The Grizzlies have an interview lined up with Karl for Monday, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes that Karl is very interested in coaching the Grizz.
WEDNESDAY, 6:30pm: The Grizzlies are set to interview former Suns head coach Alvin Gentry on Friday, according to Yahoo! NBA reporter Marc J. Spears. Gentry was contacted by Memphis today and is set to meet with new owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien in Washington D.C.
Gentry has experience as the head coach with several teams, including the Suns, Heat, Clippers, and Pistons. His all-time record is 335-370. According to a tweet from ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne, Gentry is also in the mix with the Nuggets.