Memphis Grizzlies find themselves in a tough spot with the championship window closed shut and two aging superstars on their roster. Mike Conley Jr, Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph were part of some deep playoff runs in the last decade. They made the Western conference finals in 2013 and made the Western conference semis in 2011 and 2015. They made the playoffs each year from 2011-2017. Zach Randolph was a big part of this playoff run. He averaged 16.6 ppg and 9.1 rpg for his career. Randolph left the Grizzlies in 2017. His departure marked the start of a rebuild in Memphis. Grizzlies drafted Jaren Jackson Jr in 2018 NBA draft. Jaren Jackson Jr has been a welcome change to the Grizzlies roster. The youth movement has begun. He is only 19 years old. In his rookie year, he is averaging 13.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg in 25 mpg. He shoots 78% from the FT line. Jaren Jackson Jr has a huge upside and he is showing a lot of promise in his rookie year so far. Grizzlies now need to surround him with young talent that can develop and grow together.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr met with the Grizzlies owner Robert Pera recently to discuss their future with the team. They requested a trade from the team so they can pursue a championship ring with a contender. Mike Conley Jr is 31 and Marc Gasol is 34 years old. They are aging superstars but they can definitely help a contending team get over the proverbial hump and win it all. Ideal fit for Mike Conley Jr and Marc Gasol would be teams that have a chance to contend for the title but have inexperience on their roster that can cost them the chance to go deep in the playoffs. There are 4 teams that fit the bill: 1) Toronto Raptors 2) LA Lakers 3) Boston Celtics and 4) San Antonio. Spurs have a core of Lamarcus Alridge and Demar Derozan that they cannot trade and the new talent they are developing in Derrick White and Bryn Forbes are promising but they do not have enough value to be packaged in a trade for Conley Jr or Gasol. San Antonio Spurs will be observers this NBA trade deadline because they do not have many trade pieces. Lakers were the best suited destination for both Gasol and Conley Jr before Anthony Davis listed Lakers as one of the preferred teams on his wishlist where he would consider signing long term. Lakers should be desperate to add playoff experience on their roster because Lebron James wants to win now. Every season that goes by without an NBA finals appearance will be considered a bust for Lebron and the Lakers. Lakers will have a hard time parting with Kyle Kuzma but Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart will definitely be hot trade targets before the trade deadline on Feb 7th. If Lakers make the trade for Anthony Davis before the trade deadline then Kuzma, Ingram, Ball, Hart and few 1st round picks will go the Pelicans way.
Celtics will be a good destination for Marc Gasol. Marc Gasol is a triple threat and averages 15.7ppg, 8.6rpg, and 4.7 apg this season. Gasol would be a big upgrade over Al Horford. Horford has averaged 12.5 ppg and 6.7rpg this season.
(Courtesy: ESPN NBA trade machine)
Grizzlies get: Al Horford, Terry Rozier, 1 st round pick
Celtics get: Marc Gasol, Omri Casspi
Analysis: Grizzlies will get a young player in Terry Rozier. He has one more year on his rookie contract. Rozier will benefit greatly with increased minutes and he can become a part of the core rebuilding effort with the Memphis Grizzlies. Grizzlies will also have a great chance of resigning him. Grizzlies will have to take on 2 years of Horford’s $29 million contract, but Horford is 32 and has atleast 2 more good years of NBA game left in him. Grizzlies should make this deal for Terry Rozier and the promise that he brings with him. Celtics should make this deal because they have Kyrie Irving this season and they can make a push for the title with Gasol playing the center. Rozier is a backup PG now and Celtics also have Marcus Smart who can play the backup PG position.
Toronto Raptors is another team that has a chance to go deep in the playoffs this season, especially with no Lebron in the East. Raptors have a very narrow championship window, probably the narrowest window amongst contenders. This is the year for the Raptors. It is a now or never scenario for them. Next season, Kawhi might leave as a free-agent and they would have a hard time signing other marquee free agents. The only way they have a chance to re-sign Kawhi is if they make the NBA finals. Raptors have not separated themselves from the Bucks, 76ers, or the Celtics. They need both Gasol and Conley Jr to make this push.
(Courtesy: ESPN NBA trade machine)
Grizzlies get: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles, Pascal Siakim, 1 st round pick
Raptors get: Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr, Jamychal Green
Analysis: Kyle Lowry has been a big name point guard in the NBA for many seasons. Lowry has been a great regular season point guard but for some or the other reason has not been clutch in the playoffs in his career with the Raptors. A possible change in scenery by getting traded to the Grizzlies can help his career. Jonas Valanciunas is 26 and will be a great rebuilding piece for the Grizzlies. Raptors may be reluctant to part with Pascal Siakim but he is in his 3rd year and when he becomes a free agent in 2 years there is no guarantee that he will re-sign with the Raptors. Grizzlies should make this deal because it will give them 2 young pieces in Valanciunas and Siakim with a potential all star PG in Kyle Lowry. Lowry will be key in developing Jaren Jackson Jr. Raptors should do this deal because of starting lineup of Mike Conley Jr, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Jamychal Green and Marc Gasol. Raptors need playoff experience on their roster. Raptors, as they are currently constructed will have a tough time winning a 7 game series against Bucks, Celtics or 76ers.
If the Memphis Grizzlies are able to pull off any of these 2 deals then they will start their rebuilding process early and get some valuable pieces back in return for Gasol and Conley Jr. If the Grizzlies are unable to trade Gasol and Conley Jr, then they both will finish their careers with the Grizzlies without a chance to contend for the title in the twilight of their career. The rebuilding effort will have to be put on hold for atleast 2 more years.