NBA Trade Analysis: Why Memphis Grizzlies Are Major Losers of Rudy Gay Trade

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NBA Trade Analysis: Why Memphis Grizzlies Are Major Losers of Rudy Gay Trade
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Close to one week after trading several key role players to the Cleveland Cavaliers to get below the luxury-tax line, the Memphis Grizzlies made a shocking decision to trade star small forward Rudy Gay and center Hamed Haddadi to the Toronto Raptors for rapidly improving power forward/center Ed Davis, point guard Jose Calderon and Toronto's second-round pick in the upcoming draft (Memphis then moved Jose Calderon to the Detroit Pistons for small forward Tayshaun Prince and combo forward Austin Daye).

There are several reasons why the recent transactions the Grizzlies have made in the past week make little to no sense.  

First, Memphis made a trade last week with the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to get under the luxury tax so they wouldn't have to make a trade involving a player from their starting lineup (center Marc Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph, Gay, shooting guard Tony Allen or point guard Mike Conley).  

To do that, they gave up one of their best reserves (power forward Marreese Speights), an excellent long-range shooter on a team starving for floor-spacers (shooting guard Wayne Ellington), a young but talented prospect (point guard Josh Selby) and a future first-round draft pick.  

In return, the Grizzlies got power forward Jon Leuer and signed free agent small forward Chris Johnson to meet the 12-man roster minimum.  Not exactly a great haul while only cutting $6 million off their current payroll and $15 million in total (not accounting for luxury-tax savings).

Secondly, the key player that Memphis received, Ed Davis, plays power forward and center.  Davis could start for many teams in the league, but Memphis is not one of these teams, as the Grizzlies already have All-Star players in Randolph and Gasol composing their frontcourt.  

Al Bello/Getty Images

 

So Memphis would be trading away a high-caliber starter for a player who would likely be coming off the bench and doesn't address any of their key needs (outside shooting and offensive playmakers).  Doesn't sound like a winning formula.

Third, the main reason Memphis traded Gay was to cut future payroll to increase roster flexibility around Randolph, Gasol and Conley.  However, they also hoped to acquire players to help them compete for a championship this season and in the upcoming seasons.  To do that, they needed to add players who could improve an anemic offense (as mentioned in the previous paragraph).

And as much respect as I have for Prince and Davis (Daye was a throw-in to make the cap figures match for the trade), they are not the players that Memphis needs.  We already discussed how Davis may be talented, but he'll struggle to get the minutes he needs to validate his value. Daye is a former lottery pick and talented shooter, but he also may be the only NBA player skinny enough to be a Victoria's Secret model and has not made any impact in the league to date.  

The last player Memphis received, Prince, is the one who will likely see the floor the most and will definitely provide a positive impact on the stout Grizzlies defense, but he's not the offensive talent that Gay is and since he's almost 33, he has little to no upside.

The final reason that this trade was a mistake is because there were other great options for the Grizzlies to consider if they had their hearts set on making a move (which they didn't have to make).  

Elsa/Getty Images

Before the Grizzlies made either trade, I was researching a trade they could've made with the Orlando Magic that would have 1) cut enough salary to get them under the luxury-tax line, 2) shed them of Rudy Gay's contract and 3) acquired players that would substantially increased their ability to contend this season and in the future.

 

In this trade (which could have been executed before or after the trade between Memphis and Cleveland), the Grizzlies would have sent Gay and backup point guard Jerryd Bayless to the Orlando Magic for shooting guard J.J. Redick (who the Grizzlies supposedly still covet), small forward Mo Harkless, combo guard E'Twaun Moore, power forward Al Harrington and the 2014 first-round draft pick the Denver Nuggets owe Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard trade.

Why is this trade better for Memphis?  

First, the Grizzlies would greatly benefit from Redick's and Moore's ability to shoot from the outside and create shots for their teammates.  Additionally, Harkless would provide a young, athletic defensive stopper on the wing and could continue to blossom into a quality starter in the association.  

Harrington has a contract that is only 50 percent guaranteed beyond this season, and it's unclear whether or not he will ever suit up again, so the Grizzlies would save millions by waiving him following the season (or allowing him to retire).  

And while the first-round pick the Grizzlies would receive wouldn't come until next year, and would likely be in the later part of the round, the pick has more value than the second-rounder the Raptors gave up.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Finally, because the Grizzlies were looking primarily at cutting salary, the deal with the Magic is far superior to the three-team deal the Grizzlies just made.  The three-team deal (in addition to the trade Memphis made with Cleveland) saves the Grizzlies $12,114,418 this season, $16,525,097 for the 2013-2014 season and $8,395,836 for 2014-2015, for a total savings of $37,035,351 (not including luxury-tax savings).

In comparison, the combination of the Cleveland trade and the hypothetical Orlando trade saves the Grizzlies $10,372,025 this season, $22,373,989 in 2013-2014 and $14,772,749 in 2014-2015, for a total of $47,528,753 saved (not including luxury-tax savings and assuming the Grizzlies waived Harrington after this season).

So the hypothetical deal still keeps the Grizzlies under the luxury-tax line, saves them an extra $10,493,402 and gives them players that they truly needed in order to contend for a title. 

Grizzlies management seriously mishandled this situation by not only missing a golden opportunity to improve their team and cap situation significantly more, but they possibly ruined their chances to contend for a championship in the process.

[Editing Note: After re-checking the math, I found that my excel sheet had deleted one digit from E'Twuan Moore's cap figure so about $800,000 were unaccounted for.  I have adjusted all the figures so that they are correct now and I still stand by all my points, I just felt it necessary to provide my readers with the most accurate information as possible.  I apologize for the error and thank you for reading my article.]

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