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The Memphis Grizzlies’ quietly strong offseason continued Tuesday, when they swung a deal with the Sacramento Kings to import veteran swingman Garrett Temple and add another big, versatile perimeter player to a squad hoping for a major one-year turnaround that’ll land them back in postseason contention.
The deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: Temple to Memphis, and a four-part package — shooting guard Ben McLemore, center Deyonta Davis, a future second-round pick (in 2021, according to Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian) and the ever-enticing cash considerations — to Sacramento. Temple’s on the books for $8 million this season, so the checks owed to McLemore (one year and $5.46 million remaining on his deal) and Davis (just under $1.55 million due this year, with a $1.9 million qualifying offer on deck for next season) will save the Kings about $1 million in 2018-19 salary.
What do the Grizzlies get out of the deal?
They get Temple, a well-traveled 6-foot-6 guard who went undrafted out of LSU in 2009 and has scratched and clawed his way to a 10-year professional career by virtue of his versatility and being the kind of player that teammates and coaches rave about.
An itinerant basketball existence that featured stints with three different D-League teams, 10-day cups of coffee with five NBA teams and a season in Italy finally found some stability on Christmas Day of 2012. That’s when Temple inked a deal with the injury-stricken and underwhelming Washington Wizards. Randy Wittman’s team stumbled to just 29 wins, but Temple seized the opportunity to prove himself, averaging 5.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 22.7 minutes over 51 appearances. His ball-handling and defensive work impressed Washington’s brass enough to stick around, earning a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal in 2013 and a two-year minimum deal in 2014.
Over the years, Temple developed into a steady complementary playmaker capable of handling a variety of tough defensive assignments on the wing, and who had shown flashes of an advancing long-range shot that positioned him as a fringe 3-and-D option for teams in need of more options on the perimeter. That earned him a three-year, $24 million deal in Sacramento in the salary-cap-spiking summer of 2016, far and away the richest payday of his career.
He responded with steady wing play, whether in the starting lineup or off the bench, averaging 8.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 25.7 minutes per game over two seasons. He shot 38.3 percent from deep on nearly 3 1/2 3-point attempts per game in Sacramento, and served as both the Kings’ top perimeter defender (which is, perhaps, not saying much) and a pretty valuable voice in the local community.
In Memphis, Temple will fit what Kevin Lipe of the Memphis Flyer recently identified as the Grizzlies’ new mold for post-“grit-and-grind”-era players: “excellent defender, high basketball IQ, big for his position [and] not a star but generally acknowledged to be good.” On that score, he seems to slot in comfortably on a team led by Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, that brings back solid positional finds JaMychal Green and Dillon Brooks, and that just landed playmaking forward Kyle Anderson in restricted free agency.
Temple has spent time checking ones, twos and threes over the years, with the length to both fluster smaller ball-handlers and hold up against bigger opponents. He’s not a primary initiator on offense, but he’ll give J.B. Bickerstaff another credible option to either facilitate alongside returning star Conley and backup Andrew Harrison, or to work away the play as a catch-and-shoot option capable of attacking an off-balance closeout and keeping the ball moving. And as a respected vet with a track record of doing exactly what’s needed to stick in the league, he seems like a solid addition to a locker room that’s adding No. 4 overall pick Jaren Jackson Jr. and second-round find Jevon Carter alongside incumbent young players like Brooks, Harrison, Wayne Selden and Ivan Rabb.
After a dismal 2017-18 season scuttled by Conley’s injury and the implosion of the Gasol-David Fizdale dynamic, the Grizzlies believe they can return to postseason contention quickly provided they get healthy years from their star center and point guard and improved two-way play from a more versatile rotation. Adding Temple to the wing mix figures to bolster that effort more than either McLemore or Davis would’ve this year, making it well worth the cost of a comparatively distant second-round pick and some cash for the Memphis braintrust.
What do the Kings get out of this deal?
For starters, there’s that cash. (We don’t know how much yet, but it’s something!) And the 2021 second-round pick, which, if things go south for the Grizz over the next couple of years — eminently possible, what with Gasol eligible to enter unrestricted free agency next summer, Conley now on the wrong side of 30 with a major foot issue in his rear-view, and no surefire superstar presently on the roster (though many are bullish on Jackson Jr.) — could wind up being a low-cost, high-value selection to add to the burgeoning core of the NBA’s next super team.
In the here and now, though, the Kings get … well, duplicative value, I think it’s fair to say.
McLemore returns for a second tour of duty with the franchise that drafted him with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, but after a one-year sojourn in Memphis, he doesn’t appear much closer to having clearly established himself as an NBA player. The athleticism that made him such a tantalizing prospect at Kansas hasn’t translated at the next level; he’s never developed into an explosive driver or slasher, a consistent high-quality defender, or enough of a shooter to merit major minutes, even on teams of relative inconsequence.
Memphis had high hopes that Davis, the 6-foot-11 shot-blocker and rim-rocker out of Michigan State who fell to them with the first pick of the second round in the 2016 draft, could turn into a screen-and-roll-diving, paint-protecting steal with his size and athleticism. That didn’t come to pass in his two seasons in Tennessee, though, as inconsistency kept him from producing enough on either end of the floor to earn a meaningful role, even on injury-plagued Grizzlies squads.
While it’s certainly possible for the 25-year-old McLemore and the 21-year-old Davis to rehabilitate their careers and establish themselves as viable rotation pieces at the NBA level, it’s tough to see how they’re going to do that on a Sacramento team that, whatever its shortcomings, has a lot of dudes at their positions. At present, the Kings already have Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield and Iman Shumpert in line at the two, and six big men — veterans Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos, former first-round draft picks Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere, and incoming rookies Harry Giles and 2018 No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III — all in front of Davis in the pecking order.
That’s a lot of traffic to weave through for two players who failed to make much of a mark on a going-nowhere Memphis team last season. It’s likely, then, that the Kings made the move less for McLemore or Davis, and more for the 2021 pick and the additional financial flexibility that comes with trading in Temple’s $8 million 2018-19 salary for the $7 million owed to the Memphis duo this season.
After the Atlanta Hawks used a chunk of their cap space to welcome Jeremy Lin from the Brooklyn Nets in trade last week, and after the Chicago Bulls spent theirs to bring Jabari Parker home from Milwaukee last weekend, the Kings now lead the NBA pack when it comes to salary cap space available — $20.5 million in room — that general manager Vlade Divac can use to try to augment his super-team goals. One option: throwing a monster offer at one of the intriguing players still available in restricted free agency.
Feels like this only makes sense for Sacramento if they're getting ready to throw a big-money offer sheet at a restricted free agent. Top names left on that particular board: Clint Capela (so many centers!), Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood (which, yipes), Montrezl Harrell. https://t.co/bz43CyqXUm
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) July 17, 2018
Another: seeking out a trade in which they absorb significant salary from a team looking for luxury-tax relief in exchange for draft picks or young talent.
The Kings now have a half-dozen second-round picks headed their way over the next three years, but they’re still out a 2019 first-round pick, thanks to the abysmal 2015 trade in which Divac gave Philadelphia a future first-round pick and swap rights on their 2016 and ’17 first-rounders to shed the salaries of Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Nik Stauskas so that they could have the cap space to pursue Rajon Rondo, Wesley Matthews and Monta Ellis. They landed only Rondo, and the ’17 pick swapped, giving Philly the right to choose third overall and bumping Sacramento down to No. 7. The 76ers used that No. 3 pick to go up to No. 1 and take Markelle Fultz; the Boston Celtics, then, wound up with Jayson Tatum and, thanks to Danny Ainge’s negotiating gifts, the right to take Sacramento’s 2019 first-rounder, so long as it doesn’t land at No. 1 overall. It was kind of a yikes festival all the way around, unless you’re a Celtics fan.
Renting out cap space to get back into the first round, this year or in the future, could be a smart way for Divac and company to manage their assets heading into this season. So, too, could using it to demand that a team desperate to clean up its balance sheet attach a quality NBA player who would help expedite the development curve of Sacramento’s many, many young players.
Alternatively, if the Kings just sit on that space, they could have well over $60 million in salary cap space to spend next summer. But, considering the Kings’ recent attempts to make big splashes in the unrestricted market have landed Rondo, Koufos, Marco Belinelli, Omri Casspi, James Anderson, Caron Butler, Quincy Acy, Seth Curry, Randolph, George Hill and Vince Carter, it’s probably not all that likely that Sacramento’s going to be in the running for superstars next summer, no matter how many max salary slots they can create.
We’re left, then, to wait to see whether Sacramento just traded a decent player and solid citizen for essentially nothing, or if the Kings really have another move up their sleeves this time that might help turn one of the least successful NBA franchises of the last decade into something more respectable in the years to come. History tells us one thing, but when you’ve got super-team dreams, hope springs eternal.
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