Offseason In Review: Memphis Grizzlies

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.



  • None


Waiver Claims

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Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Nothing the Grizzlies did or realistically could have accomplished this summer was as significant as the re-signing of Marc Gasol was. Granted, no real doubt ever emerged that the Spanish center with longstanding Memphis connections would re-sign, even though he maintained at least some level of mystery in his comments leading up to free agency. That disappeared when Marc Stein of reported that Gasol had no plans to meet with other suitors, like the Spurs and Knicks. Grizzlies officials traveled to Spain to hash out a deal, and while it took longer than a true open-and-shut negotiation might, Gasol recommitted to the Grizzlies, and vice versa, through 2019 at the maximum salary, with Gasol given the choice for a another max season in 2019/20.

He’ll turn 35 in January of that season, but even though he might not be as productive as he is now at the back end of the deal, it was one the Grizzlies had to make. Gasol had just made a leap as an offensive player, lifting his points per game from 14.6 in 2013/14, when he tied his career best, to a new high of 17.4 in 2014/15, and while he had a corresponding decline in his defensive performance, it showed his versatility. He can adapt his style as the Grizzlies see fit over the next five years, and Memphis may indeed ask for a different contribution from Gasol as the team’s core ages and particularly once Zach Randolph, now 34, is no longer a reliable inside scoring force.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to accurately predict what the salary cap will look like by the time Gasol’s deal runs to term, since the players and owners could decide to tear up the collective bargaining agreement in 2017. Still, it’ll almost certainly be significantly higher than the $70MM it is now, suggesting that as Gasol’s game declines, so will the percentage of the cap his salary occupies.

Days before Gasol reached free agency, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace signaled that he was already operating under the assumption that Gasol would be back, using a trade exception Memphis created in the Jeff Green deal to absorb Luke Ridnour for no salary in return and flipping Ridnour for Matt Barnes. Perhaps no acquisition would fit as well into the character of the Grizzlies than the rough-and-tumble Barnes, and surely trading for the 35-year-old small forward was a signal that Memphis has no intention of making major changes. That Barnes has added a more reliable 3-pointer to his game is significant, too. He canned 136 3-pointers last season, a career mark, and his 36.2% accuracy was close to his best. That will help the Grizzlies, as notoriously short on floor spacing as they are, but the team would be misguided to expect Barnes to mimic Kyle Korver.

Memphis tried to acquire additional outside shooting, reportedly pursuing Danilo Gallinari at the time of the draft and apparently engaging in talks with the Nets about Joe Johnson at around the same point. No such deal materialized, and if one criticism of the Grizzlies offseason exists, it’s that the team failed to acquire a three-point shooter with a long track record of success or, Barnes notwithstanding, the potential to become one. The Grizzlies could have used the No. 25 overall pick in this year’s draft on R.J. Hunter, who went at No. 28 to the Celtics, or on Anthony Brown, whom the Lakers took 34th. Instead of those two sharpshooters, Memphis went with combo forward Jarell Martin, who shot 30.8% from behind the arc in his two years at LSU. Martin is a gifted scorer at the basket and a proficient rebounder, but he won’t solve the spacing issues in Memphis. Of course, it’s arguable whether Hunter or especially Brown are ready to play meaningful minutes for a team with legitimate title aspirations, so it’s tough to say the Grizzlies missed a realistic opportunity with their draft choice.

The Grizzlies didn’t address their shooting needs, but they did sufficiently fill the hole that Kosta Koufos left when he departed in free agency for the Kings. Memphis committed the full value of the $5.464MM mid-level exception to Brandan Wright, a remarkably efficient offensive player who’s posted PERs of 20 or better each of the past four seasons. He’s not the rebounder or defender that Koufos is, but he comes at an average annual value roughly $2.5MM cheaper than the deal Koufos signed with the Kings. The Grizzlies enter the season about $4MM shy of the luxury tax line, so while they could have afforded to retain Koufos at a price similar to what the Kings paid, it would have cost them flexibility that they instead have at their disposal this season in the continued hunt for outside shooting.

Otherwise, the Grizzlies essentially stood pat. They cycled through eight camp invitees and nearly kept one of them, Ryan Hollins, over Jarnell Stokes, the 35th overall pick from 2014. Memphis ultimately decided to retain Stokes over Hollins, even though the extra time it took to make that decision cost the Grizzlies two days’ worth of salary for Hollins, who stuck on the roster past Saturday’s deadline to cut non-guaranteed money without it counting against the cap.

It leads into a season in which the expectations and challenges are the same. The Grizzlies are still a member of the Western Conference elite, but they’re rarely thought of as the favorites to escape the West, much less win the NBA championship. That said, they’re close enough to the title that it’s worth a continued effort toward it, even as their core keeps aging. Mike Conley, the youngest member of that core, is set for free agency next year, and though multiple reports suggest he’ll quietly re-sign just as Gasol did, that’s not a given. It’s another reason why, in Memphis, tomorrow doesn’t matter nearly as much as today does.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

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