Friday, July 4, 2008

2008 Memphis Grizzlies Offseason

2008 NBA Offseason starts off with a bang!

The 2008 NBA free agency period has gotten this offseason off to a bang. It seems that Elton Brand and Baron Davis hatched a plot to make the Los Angeles Clippers more significant, while the two of them can work on their blossoming second careers as movie producers. The Clippers have vaulted themselves into the 10 team battle for the Western Conference playoffs. At this time: Golden State, Sacramento, Seattle, Minnesota and your Memphis Grizzlies seem to be on the outside with the Kings and Warriors probably making moves this summer to join the fight. Davis' defection from NoCal to SoCal leaves the Warriors with enough caproom to offer even a veteran a MAX contract. Accordingly, the rumor mill has Warrior GM Chris Mullin offering Gilbert Arenas $100 million dollars to return to the Bay area. At the time of this writing, Arenas was thought to be leaning toward turning down that ridiculous offer to accept a more retarded offer from the Washington Wizards of 6 years and $127 million dollars. I guess there is no recession in the NBA.

What does all this mean for the Memphis Grizzlies?

The Grizzlies are still one of the few teams remaining with enough caproom to make an NBA player drool. However, the landscape of the Western Conference makes it likely that unless they signed a true 1st team All NBA talent (none are available), they still could not get into the Western Conference playoff picture. That is the reality of our situation. So I expect Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace to keep his plan in motion: increase flexibility and collect assets for future use.

Now this does not mean the Grizzlies will be inactive this offseason. I think this is likely to be the most active offseason in Grizzlies history. I just do not expect them to rush out and make a splash with a headline grabbing free agent offer. The Grizzlies are in need of a veteran inside presence. They also need to thin the ranks of their guard rotation and maybe add a veteran backup for Rudy Gay.

A Deal to obtain a vet and thin the guards

The Grizzlies currently have an interior rotation of Hakim Warrick, Darko Milicic, Darrell Arthur, Antoine Walker and hopefully Marc Gasol. Unfortunately their is no real experience or proven toughness in this group. At this point Darko is virtually untradeable, so the most likely player moved is Hakim Warrick especially since he is due for a contract extension this summer and becomes a restricted free agent next summer if not extended. Warrick has proven himself to be a capable offensive player in the NBA but I do not think he fits into Chris Wallace's long term plan.

The veteran player we obtain must be on a reasonable contract and must not disrupt the Grizzlies plan of cap flexibility. Also, the guy has to be tough presence on the boards. My top 5 list of obtainable veterans are: Reggie Evans, Joe Smith, Jason Maxiell, Malik Rose, and Anderson Varejao. Of this group I think Reggie Evans is the most interesting. Today Atlanta power forward, Josh Smith, is in Philadelphia looking to sign an offer sheet. The 76ers need to clear enough caproom to offer Smith a contract that Atlanta will be unable to match.

Here is my proposal: Reggie Evans, Calvin Booth, and Phillies 2010 1st round draft pick for Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry.

This deal gives Philadelphia capable backups at power forward and point guard while giving them enough caproom to offer Josh Smith a maximum contract. The 76ers keep their 2009 pick and are owed a pick from Utah that will compensate them for the pick they are giving up. The Grizzlies get a banger in Reggie Evans who can come in and start this season to stabilize the young starting lineup. Calvin Booth is an expiring and could be waived immediately. This deal for the Grizzlies would be be cap neutral in 2009 as Reggie Evans+minimum cap hold for an empty roster spot is about equal to the 2009 salaries for Hakim and Kyle. This also gives the Grizzlies three draft picks in the next strong draft class of 2010.

The Grizz after the trade

PG: Micheal Conley, Javaris Crittenton
SG: O. J. Mayo, Marko Jaric
SF: Rudy Gay, Greg Buckner
PF: Reggie Evans, Darrell Arthur, Antoine Walker
C: Darko Milicic, Marc Gasol, Calvin Booth

This gives the Grizzlies 12 players on the roster and about $14 million in expiring contracts that can be used if an opportunity falls into their lap. All they would need to do is pick up a D-Leaguer at SG/SF to complete the 13 man roster and resign Andre Brown if they cut Booth. This gives the Grizzlies a fairly balanced roster with some toughness in the post to help the young guys bang on the inside without hurting the Grizzlies future cap flexibility.

I admit this isn't as sexy as offering Josh Smith $80 million dollars but it keeps this Grizzlies on track to their goal.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rumor: Marc Gasol Signs with Memphis is reporting, according to, that Marc Gasol signed a contract today with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Gasol, the Spanish league MVP, will be the 3rd potential rookie starter for the Grizzlies although he will face stiff competition from returning starter Darko Milicic. Milicic himself has a rumor surrounding recent Grizzlies moves. The rumor is that Milicic found out about the draft night trade while watching a movie with Marco Jaric who was involved in the trade. Wouldn't that be coincidental.

The strange part of this rumor is that's article doesn't say that Gasol has signed. The article only claims that an agreement has been reached in principle. As yet there has been no confirmation from the Grizzlies but 3 Shades of Blue plan on covering these rumors in detail as soon as they are officially confirmed.

Blowed Up Sir!

Earlier this year MemphisX wrote an insitghtful blog about the need to blow up the team and start over. At last Friday's press conference introducing OJ Mayo and Darrell Arthur to the Memphis community, owner Michael Heisley made reference to the team blowing up what had been built to rebuild from the ground up. Well now it is summer and things have changed more than a bit.

Guess who is the most veteran Grizzlies player today?

I suppose more than a few of you realize that 3rd year pro Hakim Warrick now has more seniority on the team than anyone else. He is the only player to have actually worn the Grizzlies team uniform in a playoff game. He was also the player chosen after Jerry West stormed out of the draft war room leaving his selection up to Tom Penn. Tom's reasoning for drafting Warrick was that someone would want to trade for him. Well Hakim is still on the roster. Everyone else left instead.

Funny how things work out differently than planned.

After years of criticism at the Grizzlies front office for it's failure to improve the team after the 50 win season, Chris Wallace has rid the Grizzlies of every shred of the 50 win team from it's roster. No one remains from the first two playoff teams in Grizzlies history unless you count announcers and sales staff. In fact Eric Hasseltine may be the most veteran member of the Grizzlies team.

Now I have mentioned previously that players leaving Memphis didn't correlate into a more satisfying careers. JWill has struggled with injuries, Bonzi had one semi-successful season in Sacramento for torpedoing his own career by turning down a $26 million contract, Shane Battier has yet to play in a 2nd round playoff team despite moving to a highly talented Houston team and don't even get me started on Earl Watson, Chucky Atkins or Damon Stoudamire but the ex-Grizzlies also have 3 championship rings now and a NBA Finals appearance on their resumes. Memphis is 0-12 in the playoffs.

What does Memphis have after the fallout from the most recent house cleaning?
It is quite probable that Memphis will roll out a starting lineup this season where not one single player is over 24 yrs old. Is is possible that the Grizzlies could start a game with no one over 22 years of age! Conley, Mayo, Gay, Arthur and Gasol would consist of 5 players whose oldest member won't turn 24 until January 29th and Darko is even younger than Gasol!

So obviously the team doesn't know what they are going to have when these players hit their primes. That gives the Grizzlies some time to figure out who they believe will be contributing at that age and who won't be. It allows the team some time to make the neccessary moves to take the team from 22 wins a season to 52 or more. Three years is what it took New Orleans to go from 18 wins to 56 wins. It has happened before and it can happen again. New Orleans acquired the steal of the draft in Chris Paul (2nd guard chosen) after trading their best two players from the previous season (Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn) for assumed junk. Memphis has now traded their best two players from the previous season (Miller and Gasol) for supposed junk and has acquired a player some feel could be the steal of the draft in OJ Mayo (the 2nd guard taken).

Whether or not the team follows the path set by the Hornets and continues to invest in the team (New Orleans signed Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Petterson after the Paul draft) or continues to rely heavily on the draft for their player acquisitions has yet to be determined. What is known is that the old Memphis Grizzlies are now officially blown up.

And that's the fact Jack!

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Guest Post: A Team Identity

One of the biggest things for the Grizz to accomplish is also perhaps the most intangible. Sure, we need talented players and they are off to a good start this summer in that regard. Sure we need shooters and rebounders. Those are quantifiable. We'll need chemistry and experience, too, and one will come with the other. But what about that most intangible of intangibles?

What about an identity?

We've had identities before . . . quite unflattering ones, in fact. Our current one seems to be soft, defenseless and lacking in heart. No wonder the City of Memphis can't get behind the team. The fans don't see themselves in the team. To me, all the extra "identity stuff" of are we a running team or a halfcourt team, a defense first team or shoot first team, all that falls second to establishing a certain mentality that will feed all of that -- our REAL identity.

For the good of the team and its relationship to the City and its fans, my vote is that a Grizzlies team in search of an identity looks no further than the city it calls home--Memphis.

Underdog: First of all, Memphis is a small city, smallest in the NBA. Consequently, there's an automatic underdog mentality among the citizens. Use that.

Disrespected: Second, the city gets no respect. Part of this stems from Memphis being a Southern city, and people who aren't from the South like to think we're backwards. In the NBA and the media that covers it, they think we're stupid. We're NOT stupid, they just don't understand. And they can't because they ain't from around here. Use that, too.

Hard Workers: Third, we're a working-class city. Sure there are rich folks in the Mid-South, plenty of them. But most people are hardworking stiffs who do what they have to do just to hold it together.

Unglamorous: Facts are facts: Memphis isn't as sexy as L.A., New York, Miami or Chicago. We don't have a lot of national celebrities who come to games regularly. And while it's beautiful in places, Memphis is very much a gritty city. Needs a gritty team.

Black: Hey, it's the elephant in the room, and I'll say it's there. Memphis is a majority African-American city. Nothing against Pau or Mike Miller or JCN, but it's difficult for young southern black kids to identify culturally with a Spanish white guy. I've said it for a long time: The Grizz need a young black player who fans can identify with -- OJ Mayo, anyone? He seems to have the flash, substance and swagger that this franchise has needed for a long time.

Tough & Proud: Everybody in Memphis knows that walking around broadcasting "weak" only makes you a target. In short, don't mess around in Memphis -- we don't play dat. If you think you're going to come down here and run over us, you better think again.

Now, this isn't rocket science. In fact, all those qualities are pretty much what any fan wants from their NBA team. But this is the exact formula that first endeared Memphis to Hubieball in 2004. It's the same formula that built the 2004 Pistons into champions. And if the Memphis Grizzlies can link its identity to the city -- from the top down to the court -- they'll put butts back in the seats. And a winner on the court.


BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Breaking News

Okay not that earth shattering but the Grizzlies have officially made the qualifying offer to Juan Carlos Navarro. This means that, if at some future point Navarro wishes to re-enter the NBA, Memphis owns his rights and either he has to play for Memphis or Memphis gets something in return for another team wanting him to play on their team.

Still waiting to hear news from Barcelona about Marc Gasol signing with the Grizzlies. At this point I have not heard anything from the Grizzlies or Gasol.

Economics of the Grizzlies

People want to know what the financial aspects of the deal with Minnesota means to the franchise going forward. It is a fair question. So I put my new assistant of economics (picture on right) to work on it in an attempt to figure it out.

First off everyone knows that the deal for this season changes the finances somewhat, but not enough to make a difference. Antoine Walker is scheduled to make $9,320,500 dollars next season. Marco Jaric will make $6,575,000 and Greg Buckner will make $3,759,259. Throw in the Mayo's slotted amount of $3,875,040 and add that to the returning players salaries plus an estimated $3 million for Marc Gasol and you end up with a total of around $44 million after subtracting out a buyout amount on Damon's contract.

The real question is what it means further down the line for the Grizzlies. Antoine Walker with his expiring contract is almost certainly gone. Buckner's contract has a team buyout as well. He will have the opportunity to earn that option but if not then he can be bought out for $1 million. I fully expect that buyout to be exercised so both Walker and Buckner are one year rentals that clear up cap space for next summer's sweepstakes. That means Memphis has a ton of money for next season.

Why is that important? Well first of all everyone should realize that Heisley is serious about not wasting money on marginal players but willing to spend money to players that can make a difference. Potential free agents who are young and fit the Grizzlies profile for the summer of 2009 include names like Trevor Ariza (LA Lakers), Leon Powe, Glen Davis (Boston) and Jason Maxiel (Detroit). These are younger players who could be good additions to the young Grizzlies as most have Championship level experience. Marvin Williams is in the shadow of Josh Smith but could be ready to take a step forward this season as well.

Or Memphis could draft a player (like Blake Griffin from Oklahoma), allow the young guns a chance to mature and take their chances for another season. With the additional draft pick being added to a team with only 1 player over 30 (and numerous player re-signings in the franchises future) perhaps spending FA money isn't a wise idea. After all, the best players will be kept by their current teams, you almost assuredly have to overpay to get the player you want and with the youth spread out over this team the likelihood of getting an impact player is greater in the lottery that the FA Market and a lot cheaper too.

In the summer of 2009 Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton all are eligible for contract extensions. Hakim Warrick will most likely be offered the qualifying offer and will be a restricted free agent. Can Memphis afford to extend a majority of these players, basically locking them up for four more years, and sign a free agent while still being in the smallest market in the NBA? People should be aware that the CBA shortened rookie deals so the 2006 class and the 2007 draft class now are both eligible for renegotiated contracts in the same season.

So with $35,336,586 approximately (not counting Mayo and Arthur's new deals, Marc Gasol's contract plus another likely lottery pick) tied up in option year or qualifying offers that summer and the knowledge that very soon as many as four players will be demanding new contracts, how much free cash does the team really have? Today we could hear the particulars of the Marc Gasol deal but assuming the $3 million deal is correct that puts the Grizzlies at over $38 million. OJ Mayo is slated to make $3,875,040 after being the #3 pick in the draft but actually that isn't a fixed number. Players can sign from 80% to 120% of that figure. It has become standard to pay rookies 120% of the slated number so that could put Mayo's salary at $4,650,000. That brings the Grizzlies salary cap number up to $42.5 million. Arthur would see his salary cap number rise from $970,000 to $1.17 million. That puts the Grizzlies up to nearly $44 million. Assume the Grizzlies have a top 5 pick next summer and we are close to $49 million. The cap number could be $57 million but not much more.

Then the new renegotiated contract issue becomes very serious. Do the Grizzlies go back above the salary cap to extend Rudy Gay and sign a big name free agent? Do they delay the negotiations and focus on signing a big name player during the riches of the Summer 2009 free agency?

Something to keep in mind when someone suggests we spend some money in free agency this summer.

BallHype: hype it up!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Spreading the Mayo Coverage Thick

The Memphis fanbase is still buzzing from the Love/Miller for Mayo trade. And rightfully so. There has been lots of coverage of the trade here on Shades of Blue (where do we go from here, griz draft aftermath, highlights from the press conference, mayo the star or solar flare, initial take). And many other places, like....

The Nation of Grizzlam with some entertaining opinions on the trade, Chris Herrington with the most well-written and informative posts about the trade (kudos to Chris for being the primary source of information during the hectic post-draft hours), from the Commercial Appeal who has had superb coverage of the trade from all angles, John Hollinger on ESPN rang in to dis Memphis, AOL Fanhouse (thanks TZ) has given the trade alot of space, and just about every major NBA related internet site has given their take on the biggest trade of this years draft.

So, I'm here to make sure that the Mayo coverage is spread even thicker. I'll attack this in my usual, bulleted/list style.

No Need to Worry About Losing Mayo to a Big Market Anytime Soon

I know alot of people think geting Mayo, who seems like someone that wants to be in the national spotlight, is a waste because he will just bolt to a bigger market the first chance he gets. Well, I'm here to tell you that it will likely be 7-9 years before he gets that chance. Luckily the new CBA highly favors teams being able to keep their draft picks.

We have him in on his rookie contract for 4 to 5 years. The 5th year can be voided if he signs an early extension with us. And that extension has to be for at least 3 years. That will make his time in Memphis last 7 years total before he is an Unrestricted Free Agent. This is what LeBron and Dwade did. That gives us 7 years to get this team to be a stable contender. And even then, we will have the advantage when it comes to re-signing him, being able to offer more years, more money, higher increase in salary each year, and will not have to worry about salary cap restrictions.

There is the chance that Mayo would decline to sign an early extension with us, in which case he can become a Restricted Free Agent in year 5. But then we would be able to match any offer sheet he is signed too.

(this paragraph has been edited, I think I had some stuff wrong initially, sorry) The one doomsday scenario is that he can refuse to sign with anyone, and merely accept the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent after 5 years. I hope this doesn't happen and can't remember it happening for anyone of much significance, Michael Olowokandi with the Clippers is the only example I know of. I doubt this happens. I also over-heard a conversation by people that know more than me about us trading for David Lee and what would happen if he refused to re-sign with during restricted free agency. There was something about a 6 month waiting period he would have to sit out, but now I can't find anything in Larry Coon's FAQ to back that up. Oh well. Bottomline, is that I expect if Mayo wants to change teams, he will do it LeBron and Dwade style, and do it 7 years from now, 4 years on a rookie contract and 3 years at Max or near Max money.

I Was Wrong to Be So Pessimistic

I told you guys, and told the messageboard, that I was not optimistic about this offseason. I thought we would make safe and unspectacular picks at 5 and 28. We would not spend any free agent money. And we would continue down the same path that won us a combined 44 wins the last 2 years.

I was wrong.

Heisley and Wallace took the chance. They went big as Noah would say. They did what was needed to be done to interject some life into this franchise. I applaud them for it. I give them a standing ovation for it. Wallace and Heisley made Draftmas the best Draftmas ever. Seriously, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Iavaroni Against the Trade?

The Commercial Appeal said that Iavaroni was against this trade. And that makes sense, his job is on the line in the short term and any trade that is thinking 3 years down the road is not good for his dinner table or 401K. But he will have to get use to it. Iavaroni's poor personnel decisions last year gave us the great Casey Jacobsen. Ivy needs to focus on how we defend the pick and roll and let Wallace do the player evaluation.

The Most Basic Reason Trading Love for Mayo Was the Correct Decision

Last year, when we had Pau, we sucked. No other way to put it. Wallace and Heisley saw it and knew we had to destroy this team and start over.

If our offseaon consisted of drafting Love to replace Pau, we would still suck. A starting lineup of Conley, Miller, Gay, Love and Darko is no different than it was with Pau. Probably worse, actually. We would still need to upgrade Miller or Darko in that scenario, and that would probably be difficult to do. Trading borderline starters and bench players usually doesn't net anyone quality starters. Particularly young, promising quality starters.

Trading for Mayo was the best option in the draft considering the bounty Riley wanted for Beasley.

Play Mayo at PG!!! Trade Conley!

By my count, we now have 5 guys that can play PG on our team. We have 2 guys only capable of playing point (Conley and Lowry). We have 3 combo guards (Mayo, Javaris, and Jaric). All those jokes about our 8 gazillion point guards just got even more appropriate.

What do we do now? Wallace said on ESPN national radio on Friday that he knows something will need to be done before the season to balance out our roster. Wallace has also said before the draft that he thinks Mayo can play both guard positions, but that he would be most effective and spend most time at point. Mayo has also said he envisions himself as a point guard in the NBA.

I think we need to play Mayo as the starting Point Guard. Period. I'm tired of midget ball (remember the lineups of Lowry, Navarro and Javaris?). I think Mayo will need the ball in his hands to be effective and Conley isn't effective playing off the ball (last year, I was told many times that if Conley was allowed to dominate the ball more and run more pick/rolls, he would look better....time to repeat that argument again). Playing Mayo as the starting PG is the best decision for this team to make.

And that means finding a trade for Conley. There has been a bunch of rumors floating around. On draft night, allegedly Memphis and Portland talked trade. I love this idea, because I am really high on Travis Outlaw. I think a Conley for Outlaw/Webster (or Outlaw/Frye) deal could be a win-win for both franchises. Two other teams I think could make good trade partners with regarding Conley are Phoenix (for Barbosa) and Detroit (for Prince).

Most of the Griz fanbase is saying to trade Lowry and Hak to balance out the roster. But, in my humble opinion, those two players are likely to net us a backup guard and backup forward, which is exactly what they are currently. Conley has the most trade value. Mayo will be most effective (IMO) at PG. Thus my conclusion is to trade Conley.

Sam Amico Should Have His Credentials Stripped

Traditionally, blogs have been a perfect place to rip on national writers. I want to do that here. And my target is Sam Amico of probasketballnews with his post-draft notes found here.

He starts by saying:

Memphis’ starting lineup will now look something like this: C Kwame Brown; PF Antoine Walker; SF Rudy Gay; SG Mayo; PG Mike Conley. Off the bench will be Darko Milicic, Hakim Warrick, Kyle Lowry, Marko Jaric, and new addition Marc Gasol. And there's no telling how good Gasol might be.

Seriously? How can you be given any credence for someone covering the NBA when you think the Memphis starting lineup now includes Kwame Brown (he is a unrestricted free agent, idiot, and didn't even start over Darko last year or even play last year for that matter) and Antoine Walker (who is already being talked about as a buyout candidate). No mention of Javaris Crittenton or Darrel Arthur either. He also discussed the new Timberwolves rotation and completely left off Corey Brewer.

Where Do We Go From Here?

A lot of people have been trying to figure out how the 2008-09 edition of your Memphis Grizzlies is going to shape up. Are they going to keep 4 players considered point guards? Are they going to a to start the year with only two power forwards who could best be described as tweeners more than traditional power forwards? Are they going to stand pat or continue to make moves?

These are all legitimate questions for a franchise that is looking at putting a team together a serious run this season. Heisley however has this team looking for the future not the present. They are looking to acquire the best assortment of talent possible, not to fill apparent gaps in this season's line up. The Grizzlies are trying to create a mentality for the future. To establish an attitude on this team that will change the old idea that the team was built for regular season success but not to succeed in the playoffs. As crazy as it seems today, Heisley wants to build a team that can succeed in the playoffs. A rather odd perspective from a team that hasn't won enough games in the last two years (44) to qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference last season (50).

O J Mayo and Darrell Arthur are joining a young group of go-getters that are self-motivated and hard-working including Rudy Gay and Mike Conley. These players don't need coaches following behind them to tell them they need to stay in shape. No one needs to follow them making sure they work on the weaker parts of their games. No one needs to remind them that they need to give 100% in practice as well as games.

This doesn't mean that these players will be in Memphis for the next playoff game played at FedEx Forum. What the Grizzlies want is the attitude these players bring to remain as a statement about this team long after their playing days are over. The culture of the team has to change and bringing in players with the right mental attitude is the first step to doing this. Detroit has a culture. San Antonio has a culture. Even Boston and LA have cultures. Memphis needs to establish a culture that breeds success.

The roster makeover has just begun. It should be interesting to see how it ends.

BallHype: hype it up!