Out of nowhere Friday, the Memphis Grizzlies signed the most dynamic player on the free agent market to a 5 year/$58 million offer sheet that was immediately matched by his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Josh Smith was the prototype for the power forward position in the offense that Iavaroni wants to run.
The funny thing is that I don't think I read a single account by a Grizzlies fan that actually thought that Atlanta would not match that offer sheet because it was reasonable. So why would Chris Wallace and Michael Heisley even waste their time with the offer? Why wouldn't they do like Philly and trade some of their young talent to clear out cap space to make an offer to Smith that Atlanta would not match? IMO it is because Memphis finally has a GM that knows what he is doing.
The Memphis Grizzlies are on The Three Year Plan (3YP) for better or worse. The first year of this plan is going to be real painful. I am not sure most fans have a realistic concept of the type of frustration they will experience this season. As such, the pressure to "do something" will be hard and heavy once the 2009 NBA trade deadline approaches and the Grizzlies are in dead last in the Western Conference. So Wallace (and Heisley) need to buy time. And that is just what the Josh Smith offer sheet did for them.
Why waste their time with the offer to Josh Smith? Why not? Josh Smith would have been a great fit for the Grizzlies long term and his talent would have mitigated the lost draft position that they would have missed on with the better record. He actually would have allowed the Grizzlies to potentially complete their future starting lineup a year in advance and thus accelerating the 3YP into a two year plan.
Why not make moves to sign Josh Smith to an offer sheet that Atlanta would not match? Although I have previously advocated making an inflated offer to Josh Smith because I think his future production will justify the salary, the Grizzlies just could not do so with their current roster. If the Grizzlies pay Josh Smith based on what they project his production to be in the future, what do they do next summer when Rudy Gay comes up for an extension? The Josh Smith offer sheet establishes the Grizzlies as a market level contract giver. Giving Smith an inflated deal would have painted them in the corner of giving Gay a near maximum extension even if he just reproduced this past season's production. That is a bad precedent to set.
So in the end the Josh Smith saga was a one day break from the offseason hibernation that the organization is experiencing. It came out of nowhere but it does reveal the motivations behind the 3YP. The Grizzlies are on the lookout for an impact player at power forward. Also, there will likely be no rumors of what the Grizzlies plan on doing until it is essentially a done deal. Sucks for us bloggers and message board folks but is good business for the Grizzlies.