The 2008 NBA offseason has hit a quiet period for the Memphis Grizzlies. Now don't think GM Chris Wallace is resting on his draft night coup of getting O. J. Mayo and Darrell Arthur in Beale Street Blue. Apparently the Grizzlies are in talks with the Orlando Magic about sending backup point guard Javaris Crittenton to Disney World for J. J. Redick or Keith Bogans plus a 2009 1st round pick. However, this is the vacation period for NBA GMs, so do not expect any deals real soon. I won't speak on the merits of this deal at this time but I think Wallace needs to do something significant this offseason.
Why this season? I know there is a three year plan in place but being frugal this season could cost Wallace and the Grizzlies in the future. My reasoning is that without a major talent upgrade, especially in the frontcourt, the Grizzlies are going to be a non-competitive team for the third year in a row. This would mean that for the entirety of Rudy Gay's career, the Grizzlies will have been one of the three worst teams in the NBA each season. So next offseason in 2009 when it is time to start negotiating a contract extension, I think Rudy might be a little hesitant to commit long term to the Grizzlies organization. That is unless the Grizzlies want to offer him an inflated extension relative to his current value. I know most reading this are aware of the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and that even if the Grizzlies and Gay are not able to agree on an extension in 2009, the Grizzlies will hold the right of first refusal in 2010 and will be able to match any offer Gay gets as a restricted free agent. So what is the problem?
The problem is that 2010 is going to be a major offseason for free agency. There will be a lot of major market teams with lots of capspace in 2010 loading up for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. In fact a lot of GMs are getting some career longevity by clearing up caproom for 2010. By this time, if the plan is going right, Rudy Gay should have established himself as a reasonable alternative for an NBA GM when LeBron James decides not to sign with their team. This means that a NBA GM looking to save face for his 2010 plan might be willing to through a maximum contract offer at Rudy Gay. No problem right? The Grizzlies can match that and retain Rudy.
Well, the other inherent problem with Rudy Gay becoming a restricted free agent is that he gets a chance to see the other side. Despite what his other NBA friends tell him, all Rudy knows about the NBA is from the perspective as a Memphis Grizzlies player. Time for some reality: The Grizzlies are not the model NBA franchise. The last thing the Grizzlies want is to let Rudy Gay (and his agent), to get a taste of the possibilities of playing in New York or Chicago especially if we are coming off of four straight lottery appearances in 2010. Restricted free agency is one thing but do you think Heisley wants to invest a MAX contract into another player that voices a reluctance to want to be a Grizzlies player? Unlike other places, there will be no media backlash if Rudy and his agent demand that the Grizzlies work out a sign and trade or not match his offer sheet. It would be reasonable and expected by the national media.
This is the problem with going with a plan that has being a bad team as the focus. The Grizzlies risk alienating the very young players they plan to build around. I imagine that it has to be and will be very frustrating to be a part of so much losing. For the fans and the Grizzlies to expect this not to take a toll on their young players is unreasonable. Not only will it weigh on them but it enhances the perception that the Grizzlies are the Mid South Clippers. If the Grizzlies are serious about this three year plan, they need to put a more solid foundation down at the beginning or anything they build in the future will be unsteady.