State of the Cap: Memphis Grizzlies
By Josh Redetzke
2007/08 Memphis Grizzlies Payroll: $42.4 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $13.6 million under cap
[img_assist|nid=3851|title=Pau Gasol|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=345]The Good: After going from 49 wins last year to 22 wins this season and losing a heartbreaker in the draft lottery, there aren’t a lot of good vibrations coming out of Memphis these days. One reason to think happy thoughts is Eddie Jones and his $15 million expiring contract. That alone keeps the Grizzlies out of salary cap hell and actually provides them with a fair amount of breathing room for free agents this summer.
Another source of optimism was the play of Mike Miller, who took over the team in Pau Gasol’s absence early in the season. Miller raised his scoring average nearly 5 points a game to 18.5, averaged a career-high 4.3 assists per game, and shot over 40% from the three point line for the third consecutive season. He will be well paid, averaging $9 million a year the next three seasons, but that kind of production is more than worth the price.
Memphis also got a boost from two of their young players; Hakim Warrick and rookie Rudy Gay. Warrick improved his numbers tremendously in his second season, averaging a very respectable 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 52% shooting. Gay had a lot of pressure on him after coming to the Grizzlies in exchange for Shane Battier, but he made the all-rookie team and showed a lot of versatility and athleticism. Memphis will be able to watch them develop under cheap rookie contracts for a few more seasons.
The Bad: Sadly, Brian Cardinal is still on the team and will be for three more years since nobody is going to want the $18.9 million left on his contract. Cardinal barely plays and it still boggles the mind how anyone could think he was worth that kind of money.
When Damon Stoudamire isn’t injured he is shooting 39% from the field and collecting paychecks for more than $4 million dollars. Stoudamire’s contract isn’t that expensive, but he certainly doesn’t meet the Grizzlies’ need for a point guard. Regardless, he’ll be hanging around for two more seasons until his deal expires.
You can’t be more unlucky in the draft lottery than Memphis displayed this year. With the best chance, by a wide margin, to land either Oden or Durant, the Grizzlies fell all the way back to fourth. Not only did they miss out on the big boys, they might also fail to grab Mike Conley if the Hawks take him with the third pick. Conley would fill a glaring hole and give this team a playmaker to put alongside Gasol, Miller, Gay, and the bunch. Not needing a forward in a forward-heavy lottery, Memphis could be forced to trade down. So much for having the worst record in the league.
The Future: We’ve heard rumors all season that Pau Gasol could be traded and we’re still hearing them. I don’t really understand why. He has a large contract, paying him between $13 and $17 million each of the next four years, but it’s not quite as big as many other stars in the league. He is a post player that averaged roughly 20 and 10 and added 2.1 blocks per game and 53.9% shooting. Gasol is still getting better and he is only 27 years old. Why on earth would you want to trade him?
Similar to Kevin Garnett, Gasol can’t really win games himself, especially in the playoffs. He needs to be paired with another star player if Memphis is going to take themselves to the next level. The team would be better off keeping Gasol and trying to find the right player to compliment him and Mike Miller. The cap space is there and if Memphis wants to get back to their 50-win seasons, they should use it. A smart free-agent signing and an intelligent draft pick could get this team back there very soon.
Free Throw: If Memphis really wants to trade Gasol, they better get something special back in return. Someone like… maybe… Kobe Bryant? Wouldn’t a package of Gasol and Rudy Gay be more than fair for Kobe? The Grizzlies could then use their pick to replace Gasol with either Al Horford or Brandon Wright. With money to spend on a free-agent point guard like Mo Williams, wouldn’t a line-up of Mo, Kobe, Miller, Warrick and Horford be an exciting, fast-paced scoring machine? The possibilities are endless. There is no doubt that Kobe would inject some immediate life into the basketball community of Memphis. It’s something to keep an eye on this summer.