Wow! Who would have known that so soon after my call for action that Memphis Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace would finally listen to me. Ok, he didn't actually consult with me but I am sure he has been reading 3 Shades of Blue and unfortunately I did not include the Los Angeles Lakes in my Five Bags of Magic Beans article. However, this is the exact type trade I expected for Gasol. It is not a reflection of Gasol's talent, it is just where the NBA is right now in terms of economics. There was a very limited market for a player on the back end of an escalating MAX contract that cannot lead a team. Yes, Gasol will thrive in LA. Heck, the Lakers can plug him in and have the exact same things around him every Grizzlies fan has been wanting for 7 years (a big bruising center and one of the best closers in NBA history). However, the Grizzlies were going nowhere with Gasol and his contract on the roster. Not enough flexibility financially, indifference in the fanbase, and just not enough talent to surround Gasol.
Now what do we make of the haul the Grizzlies got from the Lakers. There is one prize...Javaris Crittenton or J. Crit. For a team that wants to play uptempo, Crittenton is almost the perfect combo guard. He has size (6'4.75 in shoes at the predraft camp), he is athletic, he attacks the basket, and can switch deftly between point guard and shooting guard both offensively and defensively. Think Monta Ellis of Golden State plus 2 inches and 20 pounds without losing the quickness. If he would have stayed another year in college, he would have easily been a lottery pick this year. Do you think national reaction to this trade would have been different if we had gotten Ellis, two 1st round picks, Marc Gasol and MAX cap space? In Chris Wallace's new game, three men enter-two men leave, I expect J. Crit to beat out Lowry mainly due to his size and ability to come off the bench and play next to Conley.
The two draft picks and the draft rights to Marc Gasol will be used as sweetner. Either to get someone to take somebody off our roster (Collins, Brian Cardinal) or to get someone to give us their restricted free agent that they do not want to pay. At worst they will be dice rolls in the draft. Maybe Chris Wallace can catch "lightning in a bottle" at the end of the 1st round.
There is still work to be done obviously. I think they need to complete the clean sweep and get Mike Miller out of the locker room. This not to see he is a bad influence, a malcontent, or a bad player but the young guys need to be able to establish a pecking order going into the offseason. Even though it might not be feasible into the offseason, I think Mike Miller has very good value due to his relatively modest contract and his shooting stroke. However, I don't think Miller is as much of of "got to get rid of" as Pau Gasol.
Now it is time for the Grizzlies to see exactly what they have in Rudy Gay. Is he Corey Maggette, Antawn Jamison, or Paul Pierce? Heck, will he exceed expectations and become an All NBA type of player? Gay definitely has the tools to become a bonafide super star. However, the question is does he have the mentality to lead the Grizzlies to team success? The former we got from Pau Gasol, the latter is what we are looking for to take this franchise to the next level.
It is now the turning point for the Grizzlies and the decisions made in the next 6 months will be critical to this team finally becoming a contender. There is no room for mistakes. We must get the best player available with our draft pick, we need to get some type of future rotation player with the Lakers 1st rounder, we must get an impact player with our cap space, and we must either keep Mike Miller or get a valuable player in trade.
I will go out and say that this season will continue as expected and we will end up with around 24 wins. I expect us to get to the level we thought we would be at this season, next season. I am predicting about 35 wins even if we do not use our cap space for next season. I expect us to get back to the playoffs in 2010 and to be as good or better than the Lakers the following season before Pau Gasol's contract expires.