Offseason Outlook: Memphis Grizzlies

Guaranteed Contracts


Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 2nd Round (41st overall)
  • 2nd Round (60th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $57,867,541
  • Options: $3,135,000
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $1,816,296
  • Cap Holds: $15,633,779
  • Total: $78,452,616

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 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.

Additional notes:

  • The Grizzlies pursued J.J. Redick at the trade deadline, and went after Ray Allen last summer. It will be interesting to see if the team is finally able to land an elite outside shooter this summer. Redick will probably be too expensive, and I doubt Allen signs in Memphis if he opts out of his Miami deal, but perhaps someone like Kyle Korver could be a fit, if the price is right.
  • In my opinion, Austin Daye's value in the three-way Gay trade came primarily as an expiring contract. He has the potential to be a restricted free agent, but it's hard for me to imagine the Grizzlies making him a qualifying offer. I don't think he'll be back in Memphis.
  • On the other hand, Davis, another piece in that deal, may be in line for a longer-term future with the Grizzlies. After not receiving much playing time under Hollins, I expect he'll see more action under a new coach in 2013/14, and he'll also be extension-eligible this offseason. He's not exactly a prime extension candidate, but I think the Grizzlies will at least take a shot at locking him up to a below-market price.

Cap footnotes:

  1. Greene's and Reed's contracts are fully non-guaranteed. Those deals will become fully guaranteed if Green and Reed aren't waived on or before January 7th, 2014.
  2. Daye will be eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,135,391.
  3. $1,084,293 is the amount of Leuer's potential qualifying offer. If the Grizzlies don't extend a QO, Leuer's cap hold will be reduced to $884,293.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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