Last week the Memphis Grizzlies made a move to keep their starting core together when they dumped $6 million from their payroll by sending Wayne Ellington, Mareese Speights and Josh Selby to Cleveland. Despite that, the rumors linking them with more trade deadline drama persist.
The trade was done with one thing in mind, keeping the starting core of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay together through the end of the season without having to take a luxury tax hit. The move accomplished that and they can add pieces to the lineup through free agents or a trade, hence some of the speculation that they’ll continue being active. But the idea that Rudy Gay will be part of that activity is a misconception.
Yesterday, Twitter and nearly every NBA rumor site reported that the Toronto Raptors are still trying to land Gay and are still looking to make a deal that includes young power forward Ed Davis and Jose Calderon as the center pieces. Undoubtedly, the Raptors would have to part with at least one draft pick, but the idea that Memphis has an interest in Calderon, despite his expiring contract, doesn’t seem realistic.
Memphis already has three point guards in Conley, Jerryd Bayless and rookie Tony Wroten, a young player that Grizzlies management is beginning to place some faith in. Any deal that would land another point guard in Memphis would mean Bayless leaving, but there is no chance that could mean him heading back to his former team in Toronto so a third team would be needed or Calderon left out. Without Calderon in the deal, the Raptors don’t really have the pieces intact to make a move without tying in a third team which has opened a whole other spectrum of ideas and trade speculation.
But here again, the big misconception that everyone has is that the Grizzlies would actually part ways with Gay for an unproven forward in Davis and a guard. If the Grizzlies were in rebuilding mode, these rumors might have substance, but the fact is that the team is looking to make a run at a championship this spring and would only move on a deal for Gay if it brought them pieces that could further their ability to do that.
The only trade possibility any media member has crafted thus far comes from Sean Corp of Detroit Pistons blog Detroit Bad Boys. Corp reasons that the Pistons should facilitate a deal between the Raptors and Memphis in order to acquire Calderon and his expiring deal and dump both Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince. This would give the Raptors their grand prize in the form of Gay, dump an aging player in Prince and outcast in Stuckey for Detroit while acquiring a player that can run the pick and roll with both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Memphis would get Toronto’s Davis to add depth to their squad, an experienced playoff veteran and solid defender in Prince to replace Gay and another guard capable of providing a dangerous presence off the bench.
Thus far, this is the only deal I’ve seen that really benefits all sides and could actually give the Grizzlies something of value in return. The problem with it is that the team would then be tied up with Prince over the next two seasons at around $8 million per season. Stuckey’s deal is attractive though because it is only partially guaranteed allowing the Grizzlies to cut their ties with him in the offseason for half of the $8 million he’s owed.
All this is very unlikely though. In my opinion, the deal with Cleveland set the team up to make a move or two in free agency should they find the right player or through their trade exception to acquire a player that could add depth to the squad. At this point in the season, there is little reason to trade your top scorer for a handful of pieces that probably don’t improve the team much and mess with the chemistry of the starting lineup.
Grizzlies CEO Jason Levein told reporters that management likes their team and is more likely to do nothing than make a move. Lionel Hollins isn’t the type to make drastic changes at this point in the year and probably wouldn’t invite a move as big as what is being proposed.
For now, the media can relax and take Rudy Gay off their trade radars. It’s very unlikely that anyone short of a superstar could attract the team into unloading the small forward and at this juncture, there is no reason for the Grizzlies to accept anything other than an amazing offer for their top playmaker. Toronto is indeed desperate to land Gay, but they’ll have to wait until the offseason to attempt making a deal again, third team included or not.