Last night’s announcement that the Memphis Grizzlies trimmed $6 million dollars from their payroll in order to avoid paying $4 million in luxury tax leaves some questions looming about the team’s depth as they move into the second half of the season.
Memphis sent forward Mareese Speights, guard Josh Selby and guard Wayne Ellington to the Cavs along with a future first round pick in exchange for second year forward Jon Leuer. The Cavs make out okay on the deal by adding back court depth and a replacement for the injured Anderson Varejao, but the Grizzlies are now left desperately short of options with only eleven players on the roster, two short of the league minimum.
Required to sign at least two players, Memphis is said to be in the process of signing Delonte West, Sasha Vujacic and perimeter shooter Bill Walker. While West is a signing that seemed almost certain to happen in recent weeks due to the poor play of backup point guard Jerryd Bayless, the other two come merely out of the cheap contracts their willing to accept.
The move allows Memphis to quit shopping Rudy Gay until the summer and keep their starting core together, but Lionel Hollins will needed more options if his team is going to make a serious run in the postseason. The bright side of the move is that the Grizzlies now have a $6.4 million trade exception that they can use to sign these free agents or make a trade happen.
A trade isn’t completely out of the question, but at this point in the season you have to wonder what sort of value Memphis could get back on a trade exception deal. Most teams aren’t willing to part with players who are of much use and Memphis needs two just to have a full roster.
IS A TRADE POSSIBLE?
A trade is possible due to the fact that no matter what, Memphis has to use the trade exception to either sign free agent players or trade for them or else the $6.4 million would be added to their wage bill and put them over the cap if they didn’t. That fact is somewhat irrelevant, however, since they have to sign at least two players in order to have a full roster anyhow. Dipping into free agency is really the best option at this point since it is unlikely the team could acquire two players of any real value in a trade. If they could identify two expiring contracts to bring in on a trade, it could possibly be a good move, but that isn’t going to happen.
OTHER FREE AGENTS THAT COULD MAKE AN IMPACT
While I agree with bringing in Delonte West, the signings of a defensively poor and injury prone Bill Walker or a guy that hasn’t played in over a year in Vujacic make less sense. Here are a two other options Memphis could explore instead that give them greater value at essentially the same price.
Josh Harrellson- Having been cut from the Miami Heat roster, Harrellson is currently pursuing greener pastures to play his ball. The former Kentucky man was drafted by New Orleans in the second round of the 2011 draft before being acquired by New York where he made an impact last season in 37 appearances. The reason Memphis should pursue Harrellson is that he is a young player who can be signed for under one million dollars and gives them another big man option to replace Speights. He also showed a knack for solid perimeter shooting in his time with New York having hit a third of his three point attempts and shooting 42 percent from the field. By signing Harrellson to a short term deal, Memphis ensures that they stay under the tax threshold while acquiring a player that can give Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol valuable resting minutes. He is actually cheaper than Walker by $200,000 due to the fact that he is in only his second NBA season and is nearly as good from three point range.
Quentin Richardson-Having been waived by the Magic in October, Richardson is a career 35 percent three point shooter who can come in on a minimum contract and provide the same versatility as Walker in that he can play both shooting guard and small forward. The difference is, Richardson is a better defensive player and hasn’t been as troubled by injuries during his career. He is no position to bargain for a better than minimum deal and would cost just a few hundred thousand more than Vujacic while making twice the impact.