With Marc Gasol out indefinitely with a broken foot, the trade deadline outlook for the Memphis Grizzlies has changed rather dramatically. The Grizzlies were comfortably in the playoffs prior to Gasol’s injury.
Without him for an extended period of time, the Grizzlies playoff spot looks tenuous. Because of that, it’s much more difficult to say, with any certainty, what the Grizzlies plans are for the trade deadline. Will they stick with the current roster and hope to hold on and make the playoffs? Will they sacrifice some of their young talent to get better now? Or will they become sellers and look to re-build the league’s oldest roster?
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Despite his potentially season-ending injury, Marc Gasol is not going anywhere. He just signed a five-year max contract this past offseason and, when healthy, is perhaps the best center in the league. He’s great defensively and has the playmaking ability to have the offense run through him.
His versatility offensively makes him easy to build around. He can operate at the elbow or in the paint, and can just as easily face defenders up as he can post them up. If defenses double team him, Gasol can show off his ability as one of the best passing centers in the league.
Defensively, Gasol is a strong force in the paint, limiting opponents to just a 46.9 percent shooting percentage at the rim, according to Nylon Calculus. Unlike some rim protecting centers, Gasol is equally as good in defending the pick and roll. Roll men facing Gasol have scored only 0.66 points per possession, an efficiency way below the league average.
Gasol’s versatility, both offensively and defensively,and his freshly signed max contract makes him a critical part of Memphis’ future. If teams call trying to buy low because of his injury, the Memphis front office should be quickly hanging up, regardless of their long-term strategy.
In Case of a Rebuild
If Memphis does want to rebuild, Mike Conley and Jeff Green are two names that should generate interest across the league. Both players have expiring contracts and can provide real value to teams looking to make a playoff push.
Mike Conley has been much less efficient than usual this year, but he is still as effective as ever. His drop in efficiency is almost exclusively due to shooting poorly from inside three feet, his worst shooting performance from there since his second year as a pro.
There’s nothing to suggest that Conley’s finishing skills have deteriorated, so his shooting numbers at the rim should normalize. While his efficiency has decreased, Conley’s assist and turnover rates are a career best. Add in some solid defense and Conley is still a quality point guard who can lead a good offense. It doesn’t seem likely that Conley would be traded, but he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. So, if the Grizzlies aren’t sure Conley will re-sign and they’re looking to rebuild, they may look to shop him prior to the trade deadline. He would certainly appeal to any team with concerns at point guard.
Jeff Green has never really lived up to the hype that led him to become a fifth overall pick, but he does possess good size at the small forward position and enough offensive ability to provide some value to a fringe playoff team. With Gasol out, Jeff Green is going to have to take on a bigger offensive role in Memphis for the remainder of the year. If previous experience is any guide, that could go poorly for Memphis. Green is neither efficient enough or a good enough passer to present a real threat to defenses as a second, or even third option. He does have the tools to be a good bench scorer somewhere else, though.
Green could thrive as a creator against opposing benches, and, as a starter most of his career, has the experience to step in for any injured wings. Memphis does not have the luxury of using Green in that role due to their lack of creators. But, if they are looking to rebuild, Green could be a solid role player on a good team elsewhere.
In Case of a Playoff Push
Courtney Lee, Mario Chalmers, and Matt Barnes all could be used as part of a deal to upgrade the Grizzlies’ offense at the wing position. All have expiring contracts and, while none of them are going to fetch an upgrade by themselves, could be combined with other assets including picks to obtain an upgrade to the starting lineup.
Courtney Lee is probably the most appealing asset in this category that Memphis holds. Lee is a terrific outside shooter in a league that greatly values that skill and he is a respectable defender at the shooting guard position. He isn’t likely to move the needle all that much for potential suitors, but he can provide some additional depth and shooting to a team who might need it for a playoff push.
Mario Chalmers and Matt Barnes aren’t as appealing options for potential trade partners, but they both have expiring contracts leading into an offseason where everyone is looking for cap space. Neither player is a world-beater, but both have made solid careers off being good role players on good teams. Either could provide a good team some extra depth for this year and, at the same time, provide cap flexibility for this coming summer.
More than likely, the Grizzlies won’t be making any major moves before the trade deadline. They could easily make the playoffs without Gasol and most of their assets are either not all that appealing or more valuable to Memphis than any potential trade partners. Look for them to stay pat as the trade deadline comes and goes.
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