Memphis Grizzlies

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are in an interesting place as a franchise and how they fare over the course of the next few seasons will have an impact on the team’s lasting legacy.

With $160MM tied up in franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol (32 years old) and Mike Conley (30), the good-but-not-exactly-great club has little choice but to keep retooling its rotation with low-cost players capable of possibly contributing to a second-tier Western Conference squad. More importantly, the Grizzlies have to be ready to promptly move on if those experiments don’t pan out.

Memphis isn’t expected to have any cap space next season, so any progress or roster development will have to come from within. Here’s a look at the team’s players who will hit free agency this summer and which way their value is trending.

Mario Chalmers verticalMario Chalmers, PG, 32 (Up) – Signed to 1-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017
The Grizz brought Chalmers back on board after waiving him in the spring of 2016. After spending last season out of the NBA altogether recovering from an Achilles injury, the former Heat punching bag has stepped into a role as a backup point guard and spot starter. Chalmers lacks the ceiling of a younger prospect and doesn’t contribute consistently enough to qualify as a reliable go-to bench option, so don’t expect any teams to offer big money. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of landing slightly more than the veteran’s-minimum contract he signed for last summer. If he stays healthy, Chalmers could find other suitors around the league. But with little reliable point guard depth under contract, the Grizzlies may be among those most eager to sign him.

James Ennis, SF, 28 (Down) – Signed to 2-year, $5.9MM deal in 2016
Memphis isn’t afraid to give Ennis a sizable workload, as evidenced by the 23.5 minutes per game he saw last year (which has risen to 26.5 so far in 2017/18), but the small forward isn’t particularly effective with that time on the court. With so many other swingmen on the roster, three of whom were signed just last summer, it doesn’t make much sense for the Grizzlies to commit long-term to the gritty veteran.

Tyreke Evans, SG/SF, 28 (Up) – Signed to 1-year, $3.3MM deal in 2017
The Grizzlies got one of the biggest bargains of the summer when they signed Evans with their bi-annual exception. The biggest issue with Evans, however, is health — he played just 65 games over the course of the previous two seasons. That said, Evans has shown no signs of lingering ailments so far this season and has averaged a head-turning 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in just 28.2 minutes per contest. If Evans keeps up his trademark versatile play for a full season, he’ll yield plenty more on the open market than what Memphis will be able to cover with his Non-Bird rights.

Brandan Wright, PF/C, 30 (Down) – Signed to 3-year, $17.2MM deal in 2015
Having played in just 40 games over the course of the past two seasons – and having been traded twice mid-season the year before that – it’s hard to know what to expect out of Wright. While the big man was once a surprisingly productive reserve, he suddenly qualifies as a 30-year-old journeyman who has made six forgettable stops over the course of 10 NBA seasons. Wright has done an admirable job trying to fill holes in Memphis’ depleted 2017/18 rotation, averaging 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes, but given his spotty track record, don’t expect him to net more than the veteran’s minimum next summer.

Player ages as of July 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jarell Martin Has Room To Grow; Austin Nichols Returns To Memphis

  • Tennessee native Austin Nichols will suit up in the FedEx Forum as a member of the Memphis Hustle tomorrow night. It will mark the G League affiliate’s only performance in the Grizzlies‘ arena this season. “I was a little burned out on ball, but I’ve fallen back in love with it,” Nichols, once a featured member of the city’s revered college program until his unceremonious exit told Pete Wickham of Grind City Media. “I’ve matured on and off the court, trying to figure out who I wanted to be, and trying to mature as a person. I wanted to stay in the States, and when this option became available, it was great to be back home playing for the city.”
  • Although he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase it, Grizzlies forward Jarell Martin believes that the sky is the limit for his development as a player, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes. The 23-year-old, who didn’t start playing basketball until his junior season in high school, has averaged 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season.

Grizzlies Offer Update On Conley's Health

The Grizzlies provided an update on injured point guard Mike Conley after Friday’s game, saying treatment and therapy will be used to lessen the pain in his left heel and Achilles tendon, according to an Associated Press story. The team plans to re-examine Conley in two weeks, and coach David Fizdale is optimistic that he will be ready to play by then.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/18/17

Here are the G League moves from around the Association today:

  • The Grizzlies announced that forward Jarell Martin and center Deyonta Davis has been recalled from the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies’ NBA G League affiliate. Martin has started in 12 of his 13 games for the Grizzlies this season and Davis has suited up for the NBA club twice.
  • The Sixers will recall Furkan Korkmaz from the Delaware 87ers before tonight’s game against the Warriors, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (link via Twitter). Korkmaz has made one appearance for Philadelphia this season.

Jarell Martin, Deyonta Davis Yo-Yo Between NBA, G League

  • After assigning Jarell Martin and Deyonta Davis to the G League earlier today, the Grizzlies recalled the duo, according to the team (Twitter links). Martin and Davis participated in shootaround with the Memphis Hustle this morning, returned to the Grizzlies for practice, and have since been reassigned to the Hustle, per a team press release.

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Southwest Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re finishing up our series with the Southwest division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Southwest teams:

Memphis GrizzliesMarc Gasol vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $101,105,736
Projection: Over the cap

Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Marc Gasol will earn a combined $78MM+ in 2018/19, so unless the Grizzlies trade one of those players, the team is extremely unlikely to create any meaningful cap space. If Memphis struggles and misses the playoffs this season, I could see trade rumors surrounding Gasol begin to intensify, but for now, we’re assuming the Grizzlies will begin the 2018 offseason over the projected $101MM salary cap.

New Orleans Pelicans
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $91,577,138
Projection: Over the cap

With nearly $92MM committed to just seven players, the Pelicans would need to account for cap charges for five empty roster spots. Once those cap charges are added to team salary, New Orleans is left with about $5MM in potential cap room, which is less than the value of the mid-level exception. So even if the Pelicans don’t end up keeping DeMarcus Cousins‘ cap hold on their books to try to re-sign him, they’ll likely function as an over-the-cap club.

San Antonio Spurs
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,410,994
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Spurs ultimately don’t have any cap room at their disposal for 2018. The team has three veterans holding player options, in Danny Green ($10MM), Rudy Gay ($8.8MM), and Joffrey Lauvergne ($1.7MM), as well as three potential restricted free agents (Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes).

It’s entirely possible that all three of those players with options turn them down, and it’s also within reason that the Spurs will let their RFAs go. Still, I’d expect at least two or three of those six players to remain in San Antonio. And if guys like Green and Gay are among those returnees, either on their options or on new contracts, then the Spurs’ cap space will evaporate in a hurry.

Houston Rockets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,123,448
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

Like the Spurs, the Rockets could create a modest amount of cap room by parting ways with all their potential free agents, but the more likely scenario will see them stay over the cap. Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza will be among the most coveted free agents in the NBA, and re-signing even one of the three would likely take Houston over the cap, or close to it. Re-signing two, or all three, could push Houston into luxury-tax territory.

Dallas Mavericks
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $41,269,318
Projection: Up to approximately $35MM in cap room

Based on their current team salary projections for 2018/19, the Mavericks could theoretically create up to $53MM in cap space. However, that’s probably an unrealistic estimate, since it doesn’t include Wesley Matthews‘ $18.6MM player option.

The 31-year-old guard has failed to make more than 40% of his field goal attempts in any of his three seasons with the Mavs, and his .359 FG% so far this season is his worst mark yet. He’s also averaging just 11.2 PPG despite playing 34.6 minutes per contest. Simply put, Matthews isn’t going to find an $18MM salary on the open market if he turns down his option.

As such, our projection for the Mavs assumes that Matthews will exercise that option, which still leaves Dallas with about $35MM in cap room. That would be more than enough to bring back Seth Curry and Dirk Nowitzki – if he doesn’t retire – and still have space left over.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

No Timetable For Mike Conley’s Return

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley missed Wednesday’s game against Indiana, and will remain out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. According to a press release from the team, Conley will undergo therapy and treatment on his troublesome left heel and Achilles, but there’s no timetable for his return.

While the Grizzlies didn’t give an estimate for when they expect to get Conley back on the court, the club did note that further updates on the veteran’s recovery will be provided in about two weeks. That means Memphis figures to be without its starting point guard until at least the start of December.

Conley, 30, has struggled with his shot somewhat this season, making just 38.1% of his field goal attempts and 31.2% of his three-pointers. However, he continues to be a reliable part of the Grizzlies’ rotation, averaging 17.1 PPG and 4.1 APG. In his absence, Memphis may lean on Tyreke Evans to share the point guard minutes with Mario Chalmers, as Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Andrew Harrison is also an option.

After a 5-1 start to the season, the Grizzlies have lost six of their last eight games, and they’ll face a difficult schedule over the next couple weeks. Before the end of November, Memphis has games on tap against the Rockets, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Spurs. The club will then open December by playing the Spurs, Cavaliers, and Timberwolves in a four-night stretch.

Batum, Green, Ilyasova Returning From Injuries

A trio of players who have been sidelined for most or all of the 2017/18 season due to injuries are set to return to action for their respective clubs on Wednesday night, per various reports. JaMychal Green will play for the Grizzlies, Ersan Ilyasova will return for the Hawks, and Nicolas Batum will make his season debut for the Hornets.

Batum’s return may be the most notable of the three, as he has been sidelined since early in the preseason with a torn ligament in his elbow. Reports on Batum’s injury initially suggested he’d be out for eight to 12 weeks, with the Hornets confirming that they expected the veteran swingman to miss at least six weeks. Thursday will mark six weeks since the team made that announcement, so Batum made a speedy recovery. He’ll start tonight against the Cavs, according to the Hornets (Twitter link).

Green, the Grizzlies’ primary power forward, will return to action tonight after missing all but one game this season with an ankle injury, writes Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jarell Martin, who appeared to be on the verge of losing his roster spot in training camp, stepped into Memphis’ starting lineup in Green’s absence. Martin figures to return to the bench tonight against the Pacers, while Green looks to begin making good on the two-year contract he signed with Memphis in September.

As for Ilyasova, the Hawks’ power forward, who signed a new two-year deal of his own in the offseason, has been on the shelf since October 27 with a bone bruise in his knee. However, after participating in today’s shootaround, he said he’s ready to go, per Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ilyasova opened the season in the starting lineup, but will come off the bench against the Kings tonight, according to head coach Mike Budenholzer.

Rade Zagorac Expected To Sign With Serbian Team

Former NBA second-round pick Rade Zagorac is expected to continue his career in his home country of Serbia, according to international basketball journalist David Pick, who reports (via Twitter) that Zagorac is committing to a new deal with KK Partizan Belgrade.

Zagorac, 22, was the 35th overall pick in the 2016 draft, and after spending one final season overseas, he appeared poised to join the Grizzlies this year. However, despite signing a contract that was fully guaranteed for two seasons, the 6’9″ forward was unable to earn a spot on Memphis’ regular season roster. The club waived him along with fellow 2016 draftee Wade Baldwin at the end of the preseason.

Assuming Zagorac finalizes an agreement with KK Partizan Belgrade, it will represent a homecoming for the Serbian, who spent several seasons playing for Mega Leks before making the leap to the NBA. Zagorac is on track to team up with Jazz draft-and-stash prospect Nigel Williams-Goss, who struck a deal with Partizan Belgrade earlier this year.

As for the Grizzlies, they’ll carry $950K in dead money on their 2017/18 cap for Zagorac, plus about $1.38MM for 2018/19. However, the club hasn’t given up on the idea of eventually trying to bring the young forward back to Memphis, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal noted last month.

Injuries Not New To Grizzlies

  • The Grizzlies have drawn from last year to effectively navigate through a plague of injuries, Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. “We had our moments last year when we were down to nine guys. So, you have to figure out how to use them and put them in a position to succeed,” head coach David Fizdale said.
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