Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Key to the Offseason

It seems that for the fans of the 26 teams that are no longer actively playing, their attention is almost completely devoted to the offseason. Let's face it -- the idea of watching the overly entitled Celtics battle the contemptible Pistons or the despised Lakers take on the methodically boring Spurs is just too much for many fans to take. This is especially true for the so-called "casual fan". After all, hope springs eternal for the supporters of the teams who find themselves in the lottery and hope is much more powerful than the passing interest they might have in one of the Final 4 teams still playing. This idea is captured in this morning's phenomenal post by Tom Ziller over on The Fanhouse: Draft Fever Trumps the Playoffs. In this great piece of writing TZ accurately points out that the unknown is always more exciting than the known. Fittingly enough, the key to this year's offseason is an unknown factor that many fans haven't yet considered: Marc Gasol

That's right. The younger brother of former Beale Street Blue Man Pau Gasol has been forgotten by many fans as an afterthought of the trade that sent big brother to La-La Land. But, whether or not little brother suits up for the Grizzlies this year is the key to how this offseason will unfold.

Marc Gasol isn't currently under a contract overseas, but is being heavily pursued by most of the top-level clubs in Europe after turning in a performance good enough to win MVP honors of the ACB league this season. That means that the younger Gasol has options. He could choose to test himself against the best competition in the world by signing with the Grizzlies and playing in the NBA. Or he could decide to stay overseas, sign a long-term contract with a team like Real Madrid or Barcelona, allowing him to stay in Spain, where he is already the best center in the league and would easily be considered amongst the best players outside the NBA. His potential has GM Chris Wallace very excited, as he would definitely be a 1st round selection if he entered this year's draft, possibly even going as high as the Top 12. Since Gasol was a 2nd round pick last year, he isn't bound by the rookie salary scale, which means he'll be able to demand a certain level of pay in order to be persuaded to cross the Atlantic Ocean. If Gasol is willing to sign a contract and play in Memphis, where he played in high school and his family is still seen on a regular basis, then the offseason takes on a very different perspective.

Let's start with the draft. Bringing Gasol aboard means that a few players should be no longer be viable options with the #5 pick. That takes Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan out of play, which is a very good thing from where I sit. With Gasol joining Darko Milicic and Jason Collins at the center position, the Grizzlies' front office can turn their attention to the hole at PF (Anthony Randolph, Kevin Love) or look to upgrade the Guard position (O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Eric Gordon). It will also influence their decision at #28, where they won't have to look to add frontcourt depth as a necessity, meaning that players like Bill Walker, Courtney Lee, Brandon Rush or Chris Douglas-Roberts could be a possibility if they take Love or Randolph at #5.

While I don't expect the Grizzlies to use the cap space they will have this offseason to sign any of the big name free agents, they will be required to sign a few players to meet the league's roster minimum, so this once again eliminates the need to look exclusively for frontcourt players. This means that they could look to upgrade the swing positions by going after someone they could sign to a mid-level contract like Mickael Pietrus, James Jones or Bonzi Wells -- a player capable of playing both the Shooting Guard and Small Forward positions, given the astounding lack of depth at SF if something were to happen to Rudy Gay or Mike Miller *knock on wood* and keep either of them out for any length of time. That issue needs to be addressed either through the draft or in free agency, perhaps even both.

As of right now, Chris Wallace has been saying that it is a 50-50 proposition on Gasol signing with Memphis. If this issue is still up in the air on June 26th, then the front office will be left with a lot more uncertainty that I would like to see. Either way, Marc Gasol's decision is the most important factor facing the Grizzlies' front office, given how it will shape this pivotal offseason.

BallHype: hype it up!


ht said...

a bit off topic, but i would love to have cdr, personally. i think he's going to be a really good player in the pros- he slashes with the best of them in my opinion. definitely biased- no doubt about that- but i think if he slips to 28 we should snag him. any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Reportedly, we offered Mike Miller to the Blazers for the Number 13 pick and Travis Outlaw, which they obviously declined. We should throw in Kyle Lowry or Javaris Crittenton to make this deal happen because then we could draft Mayo, Gordon, or Bayless with the 5th, draft Darell Arthur with the 13th, and get someone like CDR or Bill Walker, or maybe even Joey Dorsey (basically get the best talent available instead of drafting for need). Or we could draft that Anjica kid from France who supposedly has tons of upside. Also, does Marc Gasol just not want to play for the Griz or something? Because if that is so than why don't we trade his rights for another lottery pick if he is supposed to be so good. Then we could draft a center with that pick (hopefully DeAndre Jordan because he could be the next Andrew Bynum) and it will even it out or maybe even get us the better player. Those are just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Its not that he doesn't want to play for memphis. I think that the euro teams are going to be offering a lot of money and I don't know if Heisley will open the checkbook for a player who has only had one good year. Not to mention that his brother was the wiping boy of the city. It comes down to what kind of expectations we have for Mark. I know that last year most people thought Darko was going to break out this year, and now I even see where some " experts" have mentioned us off loading him this offseason. I think Gasol would be a nice signing but am only looking for him to contribute not be the next coming of Tim Duncan. Plus I think that alot of it will depend on what happens with JCN. He took a lot less money last year b/c he thought it would payoff this offseason. We may not have to resign him, but if the market is not kind to him, Mark may stay in Europe and count his $$$!!!

dennis_mora91 said...

First, i´m spanish and i follow ypur blog since a long time, my english is not very good but i try explain better i can.
Marc is the best center in Spain but not only Madrid or Barça want him, for example CSKA too. Memphis need good center the next year, and Marc is ideal guy, he is strong and big, he is very good player, good IQ, in defense is better than Pau (hehehe), in offense he can improve but he is young and he will it.

Anonymous said...

Not to be overlooked: The strength of the Euro vs. the Dollar.

Not only can Spanish teams offer Gasol more money, their money is WORTH more money.