June 22, 2012
By Geoff Hutchinson
Through shrewd acquisitions by trade and free agency, the Memphis Grizzlies has become one of the best teams in the Western Conference. After last season's playoff run, the Grizzlies were seen as a team of the future in the West. Unfortunately, injuries hindered the Grizzlies from reaching their full potential in 2011-2012, and suddenly the future in Memphis has become more uncertain.
The Grizzlies are currently going through an owner transfer. Current owner Michael Heisley is said to have reached an agreement with 34 year-old billionaire Robert Pera. However, there has been some complications with the transaction, and there is uncertainty regarding whether the sale will actually take place. It is entirely possible that current management might try to unload one of the major players of the team as a way to lessen the financial burden for the new owner of the team.
Memphis's core of Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol are all signed to long term deals. Outside of those four, there are not many pieces under contract to return next season. With their core signed to expensive long-term deals, Memphis does not have much flexibility in terms of adding major pieces to the roster. Internal discussions have been had regarding potentially trading Gay after the team's struggles in the postseason this year. Gay, the Grizzlies' most valuable asset, has a fair amount of trade value, and trading him would allow for GM Chris Wallace to address other needs on the team, and structure the team's offense around big men Randolph and Gasol.
With management in flux, it is unlikely that Memphis will be a major player in free agency this offseason. One free agent that Memphis needs to make a decision on is restricted free agent OJ Mayo. If the team was to sign him to a qualifying offer, it would push Memphis over the cap and close to the luxury tax. As a small-market team, being subjected to the new punitive luxury tax is not the ideal situation for the Grizzlies. Memphis management will likely look at low-cost free agents as a way to supplement their core of Conley, Gay, Randolph, and Gasol.
The Grizzlies have the 25th pick in this year's draft, and are in a good position to address an area of need. However, Memphis has had its struggles in the draft as of late. Recent draft picks such as Quincy Pondexter, Hasheem Thabeet, and Xavier Henry have not contributed to the team. The two areas of major concern for Memphis are the backup point guard position and perimeter wing depth. With the 25th pick, there will be many options available for the Grizzlies. Some of the options will possibly include Jeffery Taylor, Evan Fournier, Marquis Teague, and Jared Cunningham.
Memphis has many decisions to make this offseason. After showing much promise in 2010-2011, the team stumbled a bit in 2011-2012. As many teams are finding out, the new collective bargaining agreement has placed many teams in tough financial situations. Memphis will faced the task of maximizing the potential of their current team, while making sure that the team does not reach the luxury tax. However, with management in flux, these decisions might be forced to the back burner, until the owner issue is resolved.