The Memphis Grizzlies methodically went about their offseason business, re-signing a player here and scooping a player up there. None of the moves were big splashes, but most of them were solid moves to help the Grizzlies' quest of an NBA title.
Memphis made some solid moves to ensure depth in various spots on the bench. Retaining Marreese Speights, Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi sealed up depth in the frontcourt. Signing Jerryd Bayless and drafting Tony Wroten added backcourt scoring off the bench.
What's remarkable about it all is that Griz owner Michael Heisley allowed general manager Chris Wallace to spend beyond the luxury tax to do it all, going against a long-held stance against paying the tax.
Following is a report card grading each of the Grizzlies' offseason moves.
The pick of Tony Wroten was very predictable, but nonetheless intelligent. In need of someone who could score off the bench, the Grizzlies went for the guard from Washington. Wroten is a slasher who is still developing his outside shot and dribbling ability.
Wroten is also quite capable on the defensive end. He averaged a fantastic 1.9 steals per game in his year as a Husky.
Wroten will take a couple of years to develop, but he could become a sweet scorer.
The Grizzlies didn’t need to re-sign Darrell Arthur. He and Dante Cunningham are basically the same type of player—long, athletic guys who can shoot. Arthur shoots a little bit better than Cunningham, but Cunningham plays better defense.
Also, just by extending a qualifying offer to Arthur, Chris Wallace made the task of signing a bench scorer more difficult. The qualifying offer, which made Arthur a restricted free agent, put the Grizzlies in a position in which they could only offer free-agent shooters a $3 million mini-mid-level exception instead of the full $5 million exception.
Arthur had missed the entire season due to a torn Achilles tendon, but has made substantial progress in his recovery, according to The Commercial Appeal. That should be somewhat reassuring to Grizzlies fans.
In the best case scenario, Arthur will have his shooting touch back, as well as most of his explosiveness and footwork. If he comes back with most of the athleticism he had before, the Kansas product could be a good asset off the bench.
The way Marreese Speights can space the floor, knock down jumpers and grab rebounds, one would have thought that he would have commanded more attention in free agency. But teams hardly took a sniff, and Speights easily glided back to Memphis for a reasonable two-year, $9 million contract.
Speights grew quite a bit as the season wore on. He had a 10-game stretch early on in which he averaged 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game while shooting 32 percent from the field. Then, he dropped 12.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50 percent in the last nine games before the All-Star break.
His post All-Star break splits were nice. The former Philadelphia 76er averaged 8.9 points and six rebounds per game after the break while knocking down 46.3 percent of his field goals.
He did all right in the playoffs, averaging 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He had 11 points in Game 2.
Speights will return to be the first big man off the bench. He’ll capably spell Zach Randolph in whatever amount of minutes he’s needed to give.
Picking up Jerryd Bayless was about as good a move as Grizzlies fans could have imagined. He’s not Ray Allen, but he shoots almost as well from downtown as Allen did in 2011-12. Bayless shot 42.3 percent from three-point range, three percent off Allen’s figure.
Bayless is generally an impressive scorer. He averaged 11.4 points in just 22.7 minutes per game while shooting 42.4 percent from the field.
Bayless is an exciting acquisition and will serve as a very nice replacement for O.J. Mayo.
This aggressive rebounder and shot-blocker returned to Memphis for a fair price. According to The Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies re-signed Hamed Haddadi for between $1 and $1.3 million.
Haddadi is a highly productive defender in short spurts. While averaging two points, two rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 5.9 minutes per game, he posted 12.4 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes.
Haddadi had some impressive moments in the first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. He had three rebounds in three minutes in Game 6 and sparked the decisive rally by blocking Reggie Evans’ shot and tipping in a missed free throw by Tony Allen.
The Grizzlies might have been able to get a slightly better center for a minimum salary. But, as Chris Wallace acknowledged, part of the reason for keeping the Iranian center was the love Griz fans have for him.
Indeed, Haddadi is loads of fun. He had a self-directed Twitter hashtag trending this offseason (#hamedhaddadisms). One of the many related tweets was this:
While I can't say I'm privileged enough to live there, I'm pretty sure the reaction was something like that.
The goal of the trade might have been noble. The Grizzlies were apparently seeking a deal to send off a suddenly expendable power forward in Dante Cunningham for another shooter to come off the bench.
However, this was the wrong deal to accomplish the objective. Wayne Ellington isn’t a promising scorer at all. He shot just above 40 percent from the field in each of the last two seasons. After hitting 39.7 percent from three-point range in 2010-11, his three-point mark fell to 32.4 percent.
Also, Ellington is a dud on defense. He allowed 115 points per 100 possessions in each of his first two seasons. In 2011-12, he dropped that figured to a still less than satisfactory 109 points allowed per 100 possessions. He lassoed a quaint 0.5 steals per game in each of the last two seasons.
Tony Allen may have to give him a special course in defense.
On the bright side, Ellington shot 80 percent from the free-throw line and is an 82.8 percent free-throw shooter on his career. That’s a bit of a help for a Grizzlies team that ranked 13th in the NBA with a 75.9 percent free-throw mark.
Alas, free-throw shooting only redeems a bench shooter so much. Ellington will likely find his seat on the bench somewhere behind Quincy Pondexter.
Trading for D.J. Kennedy was a reasonable deal for the Grizzlies. Chris Wallace managed to move an extra point guard, Jeremy Pargo, to add depth at small forward. Kennedy will be the second small forward on the bench along with Quincy Pondexter.
The only issue with this deal is that the Grizzlies gave up too much to get the former St. John’s star. Memphis gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a second-round pick and cash, in addition to Pargo, for Kennedy. Kennedy is a good defender and can shoot well, but he went undrafted last year and makes less money than Pargo.
This could have easily been a player-for-player deal.
Overall grade: B+
In general, Chris Wallace made sound decisions to tweak the roster, making it deep enough for a deep playoff run. The re-signings of each frontcourt player ensured reliable substitutes for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Speights is growing as a front man who can fit whatever role he's called to play.
If Darrell Arthur continues to rehab well, he should be a nice asset. Hamed Haddadi gives the maximum contribution in the short amount of playing time he gets.
Signing Jerryd Bayless and drafting Tony Wroten helps ensure that the Grizzlies will have more scoring off the bench. Bayless will be a hot hand as a sixth man, often dropping a dozen points or more as O.J. Mayo did in Memphis. Wroten will provide periodic jolts of scoring next season, although his impact likely won't be felt for a couple years.
The trades weren't inspiring, but they helped balance out the Grizzlies' roster. Trading Dante Cunningham addressed the surplus at power forward, and sending Jeremy Pargo to Cleveland removed one extra point guard from the roster.