Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Memphis Grizzlies have already made the trade they needed to make.
The team's new owner, tech entrepreneur Robert Pera, bought a franchise that has had troubling financial results of late, according to Forbes, so there were fiscal incentives to get below the luxury-tax threshold before season's end.
By slashing $6 million from their payroll earlier this week in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Grizzlies did just that, alleviating their immediate concerns and saving upwards of $15 million.
They save $12 million in direct payroll costs, plus they will now be recipients of the NBA's recently expanded revenue sharing program.
It was merely a short-term fix, however.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News explained the remaining challenge.
The Grizzlies have not addressed the real problem, which is that their frontcourt—Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol—is earning $47 million this year. It is slated to make $50 million next year, and almost $52 million the following year. You just can’t pay three players that much money and expect to fill out a credible roster around them. Memphis dodged the tax bullet for now, but the Grizzlies are still committed to $68 million in salary next year, and that’s for eight players. Someone in that Randolph-Gay-Gasol trio is still going to have to go.
Eventually—probably before the start of next season—someone else needs to go.
Since Memphis now appears to be a clear step behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and probably the Golden State Warriors, the Grizzlies may still be willing to part with Rudy Gay before the trade deadline.
Insight recently offered by the team's GM, reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN, didn't exactly make it sound like Gay would be retiring in Memphis.
The Grizzlies' loss could be another team's gain.
Gay is underperforming this season, but he has the versatility, talent and athleticism to fit into any rotation.
He can handle the ball on the wing, drive to the rim and find his own mid-range shots. And though mired in a tough shooting slump this season, on the right roster, he should be able to space the floor better as a spot-up threat—if he isn't asked to create shots so often with the shot clock winding down.
On the other end, he is no lockdown defender, but he has the size, quickness and strength to guard both bigger and smaller players.
Memphis likely won't part with him easily, as it has already found a creative option to shed salary without giving away its 26-year-old swingman. Gay remains on the trading block, however, so any team that can absorb his salary could land a prize.