Will Marreese Speights Trade Keep Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph off the Trade Block?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

So long Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph-inspired trade rumors.

The small-market based Memphis Grizzlies have been dying to get under the NBA's luxury tax threshold and haven't been shy about dangling Gay and Randolph in order to do so. But now, they no longer have to.

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to a multi-player trade that will land Marreese Speights in Ohio and, more importantly, bring Memphis under the luxury tax line:

The Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a multiplayer trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, slicing more than $6 million off their payroll to get under the luxury tax threshold, league sources told ESPN.com.

A trade call to finalize the deal is scheduled for Tuesday.

The Grizzlies would send big man Marreese Speights, guard Wayne Ellington and guard Josh Selby to the Cavs for big man Jon Leuer. There are also believed to be a future draft pick involved in the deal.

Reducing payroll both short- and long-term has been a goal of the new Grizzlies ownership and led to other trade talks involving Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph over the past several weeks.

Bidding adieu to players like Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby wouldn't normally be a game-changer, but in this scenario, their departures will alter course of the entire Grizzlies franchise.

Memphis had just over $74 million committed in payroll this season, meaning that they needed to trim at least $4 million to avoid paying any penalties, hence the Gay and Randolph rumors. 

As the two highest paid stars on the team—both were owed roughly $16.5 million this season—the departure of Gay or Randolph was seemingly necessary collateral damage if the Grizzlies wanted to stay afloat financially. Both are stars in their own right, but Memphis seemed to have no problem trying to find suitors for either.

Shipping either Randolph or Gay out, though, would have possibly proved detrimental.

As inefficient as Gay is, his 17.5 points per game leads the team and Randolph's 11.6 boards are tops on the team as well. Given the fact that the Grizzlies currently hold the fourth-best record in the Western Conference, breaking up a contending convocation like this in order to save a few bucks stood to cripple Memphis' immediate potential.

That potential has been salvaged, though, courtesy of this recent surprise.

Speights and company's departure saves the Grizzlies more than $6 million, putting them more than $2 million below the luxury tax threshold and, thus, killing any presently purported Gay or Randolph trades. Memphis now has little to no reason to pull the trigger on a dismantling that it was struggling to come to grips with in the first place.

Remember, though it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Grizzlies would blow it up this season, ownership wasn't keen on the idea.

Memphis CEO Jason Levien had talked to Gay on a number of occasions about his future, which were dialogues that culminated in the forward reiterating his desire to stay with the Grizzlies. New owner Robert Perahad had dinner with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol to discuss the direction of the team as well, and they also expressed their desire for both Gay and Randolph to remain.

I don't know exactly what was said at meeting between Pera & Gasol/Conley, tho I heard they asked to keep core together this season.

— Chris Herrington (@FlyerGrizBlog) January 18, 2013

So, let's not pretend that dealing one of their cornerstones wasn't something the Grizzlies wished they could avoid. And let's also not pretend that the impending Speights deal doesn't grant that wish.

Or does it?

While Memphis is under the luxury tax threshold for this season, next year is going to be a different issue. The Grizzlies originally had $72 million in salary obligations heading into next season—but that was with Tony Allen's salary coming off the books.

As one of the best perimeter defenders in the game, Allen is a talent that the defensive-oriented Grizzlies would undoubtedly like to retain. That being said, he is due for a raise from the $3.3 million that he is earning this season.

Does this trade create enough cap space to keep him?

Most definitely.

Thanks to this accord, Memphis' $72 million worth of commitments will fall to around $65 million in the offseason, giving the team $5 million annually to pay Allen. 

But could he command more?

Quite possibly, yet if the Grizzlies are willing to pay more then they simply need to decline the $1.4 million team option on Hamed Haddadi. After completing this deal, the Grizzlies are not only more than $2 million under the luxury tax threshold this season, but they can easily have $6.4 million worth of maneuvering to re-sign Allen and stay under the cap heading into next year.

And try not to buy into Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio's report that the Grizzlies are still aggressively searching for trades. Now under the luxury tax line, they have the opportunity to be more particular in any deals they approach.

Cavs $4 million under cap. GM Chris Grant still aggressively exploring trades before Feb. 21 deadline. Same goes for Griz GM Chris Wallace.

— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) January 22, 2013


Neither Rudy Gay nor Zach Randolph are going anywhere right now—or anytime soon.


*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 21, 2013.


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