The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.
THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
The Mike Conley contract
The Grizzlies find themselves at a crossroads this summer. The days of being one of the top four teams in the West are gone. Memphis doesn’t have many assets, has suffered key injuries and has a free-agent decision to make with Mike Conley.
Conley, who missed 26 games because of injury, is still the best point guard on the open market. With seven teams needing a point guard, Conley, who will be 29 in October, will get his $25 million per year, either from Memphis or another team.
Even with a rising cap, it will be hard to justify paying Conley in years 3-5 of the deal, when he will average $30 million per season.
If Conley leaves, cap space will be created but there isn’t a player on the roster or on the market to fill the void.
The Grizzlies also have two future first-round picks going to Denver and Boston, so there is really no incentive for Memphis to hit the reset button.
The positive for the Grizzlies is the cap hold for Conley will be lower than the projected max salary. If timed right, Memphis could get an agreement in place with Conley and use cap space to bring in additional players.
Health of Marc Gasol
Centers and foot injuries are often trouble.
Even with Marc Gasol making progress from surgery on his right foot, Memphis would be wise to be extra cautious on the timetable to get Gasol back on the court. Still on the books for $93 million over the next four years, the Grizzlies and Gasol cannot afford a setback.
As we have seen with the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Nets’ Brook Lopez, it’s best to proceed with extreme caution.
Build a pipeline of youth
Memphis needs to nail the June draft.
Recent draft picks Jordan Adams and Jarell Martin haven’t paid dividends because injuries have stagnated their development. It is hard to predict what role, if any, each player will have because of their limited body of work. Undrafted JaMychal Green has shown the most promise of the young players.
Memphis needs to find that next layer of young players for the future. Veteran teams with no infrastructure of drafted players who can contribute are setting themselves up for failure.
Get out of neutral
The one place NBA teams cannot afford to be is stuck in the middle.
With only six players on guaranteed contracts, the Grizzlies can begin the process of getting out of neutral this summer, but it will not be easy. Four of the six players under contract – Gasol, Brandan Wright, Adams and Martin – had their seasons end because of injury.
Memphis does not have to hit a home run with the draft and free agency, but it needs to acquire players who fit its long-term philosophy.
The Grizzlies need to get healthy, and their status will play a role in determining their free-agent direction.
Memphis also could use an upgrade at the wings. Even if Lance Stephenson is brought back, the Grizzlies need to get more athletic and their lack of perimeter shooting was apparent at season’s end.
If Conley returns, the next order of business should be finding a suitable backup. The Grizzlies thought they had that with Mario Chalmers, but the free agent’s season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury left the team without an adequate backup.
SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN
1. Marc Gasol
2. Zach Randolph
3. Brandan Wright
4. Tony Allen
5. Jordan Adams
6. Jarell Martin
7. Vince Carter
$2 million protection/trade bonus
8. JaMychal Green
9. Lance Stephenson
10. Xavier Munford
$50,000 after June 29
FA cap holds
11. Mike Conley
Full Bird rights
12. Chris Andersen
Full Bird rights
13. Matt Barnes
Full Bird rights
14. P.J. Hairston
Third-year option restriction
15. Jordan Farmar
16. Nick Calathes
17. Keyon Dooling
18. Bryce Cotton
19. Own No. 17 pick
FA cap holds
None ($6,165,351 over)
PROJECTED CAP SPACE
Although the Grizzlies have $47 million in guaranteed contracts, cap space will depend on the $9.4 million June 29 team option for Stephenson, as well as the large cap holds for Andersen, Barnes and Conley.
Memphis will have $17 million in room if Stephenson is brought back, and Barnes and Andersen sign elsewhere. The Grizzlies would be able to use that room and still be able to bring back Conley with a max contract.
What Memphis needs to do leading up to June 29 is determine how valuable Stephenson’s potential cap space is. If Memphis determines that $17 million in room is a comfort level for upgrading its roster, then Stephenson should be brought back.
JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: Own
Second round: Own pick to Boston; has Toronto’s pick
2017: Own pick or to Denver (protected Nos. 1-5).
2018: Own pick or to Denver (protected Nos. 1-5).
2019: Own pick or to Denver (unprotected). If Denver receives the Grizzlies’ pick in 2017 then Boston will have Memphis’ pick (protected Nos. 1-8). Has the Clippers’ pick (protected Nos. 1-14) if Los Angeles sends its 2017 first to Toronto (protected Nos. 1-14).
2020: Own pick or to Boston (protected Nos. 1-6) if Memphis conveys to Denver its 2018 first. Has the Clippers’ pick (protected Nos. 1-14) if Los Angeles sends its 2018 first to Toronto (protected Nos. 1-14).
2021: Own pick or to Boston (unprotected) if the Grizzlies do not convey to the Celtics a first in either 2019 or 2020.
Key rights to: Andrew Harrison (Second-round pick, 2015).
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