Do the Memphis Grizzlies Need a Trade Before the Deadline?

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Do the Memphis Grizzlies Need a Trade Before the Deadline?
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

The Memphis Grizzlies satiated their most basic need on the trade front by roping in Courtney Lee, but Mike Conley's injury served as a reminder that a bit more may be required. After Conley went down, worries arose about whether the Grizzlies could have steady point guard play with him out.

The Grizz don't have great depth behind the methodical floor general Conley. Nick Calathes is the only other point guard. Lee, a 2-guard who is a capable ball-handler, can shepherd the ball sometimes.

As a rule, however, Lee doesn't hold the ball much and isn't often entrusted with passing duties. He holds a 16.9 percent usage rate and an 8.8 percent assist rate since joining the Grizz.

Calathes, who took the starting job after Conley became injured, is sorting himself out.

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His ball-handling is a work in progress. His turnover rate stands at 24.4 percent, although it has dropped 5.2 percent in the past four weeks. Since Dec. 28, he's giving up the ball 2.7 times per 36 minutes.

The rookie managed to score 22 points without coughing up the ball in his first start on Feb. 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Still, the surging Grizz can't risk faltering with a green point guard not long after they joined a heated race to make it into the West's top eight.

 

The Grizzlies' assets

Memphis possesses a few tools to make a deal. 

The smallest of acquisitions can be completed with a trade exception. Robert Pera's club holds five trade exceptions, totaling $8.89 million.

If this small-market team can swing a deal for a cheap backup point guard, they would save themselves from giving up a useful rotation player.

Ed Davis is the most logical trade candidate on the roster. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported earlier in the season that several teams were interested in Davis, and that should increase with his improved shooting.

Davis, whose contract expires after this season, isn't growing into the role as Zach Randolph's successor, to the chagrin of Vice President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger and the rest of the Memphis front office. The former Toronto Raptor doesn't show much toughness inside or attack the boards. He averages 9.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, 0.7 fewer than last season.

Davis' 55.5 percent shooting clip speaks well of his stroke, but he takes shots almost exclusively inside eight feet.

If anyone, whom should the Grizzlies use in a trade?

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A less popular trade chip would be Tony Allen. The Memphis Flyer's Kevin Lipe laid forth the idea that Memphis have a ripe opportunity to send the three-time All-Defensive Team selection to a contender for a young player. This thought arises from Lee's stellar play in Allen's absence.

Trading Allen might not provoke the level of ire as one that included Randolph, but such a deal risks a loss of identity for a team that prides itself on defense. Memphis re-signed Allen to a four-year, $22 million contract last summer to carry the mantle as the defensive leader. 

He brings an attacking energy when defending the perimeter. He's known for forcing turnovers; his 3.9 percent steals rate leads the team by 0.8 percent.

Allen's contract and limited offensive tools render him appealing in deals only to specific teams. As I discussed last year when he was a free agent, only teams in need of a top-notch defender who doesn't create much offensively will be interested in obtaining him.

Hence, the "Grindfather" would serve as a last resort as a trade tool, one Hollinger may use with his eyes towards the future rather than this year's playoffs.

 

Players to fill the gap

The main sort of player the Grizz would pursue is a veteran ball-controlling point guard. One who could help guide Calathes would be nicer than one who simply eats minutes.

C.J. Watson, who will earn a shade above $2 million this season and next, is a solid caretaker. Watson, who averages 6.3 points and 1.7 assists in 18.8 minutes per game for the Indiana Pacers, holds a 12.6 percent turnover rate.

Watson also is a nice long-range shooter, hitting 34 percent this year and 37.7 percent for his career from three-point range.

In an ESPN trade machine test, the Grizz could grab Watson, along with Orlando Johnson, in exchange for Davis.

His numbers suggest that Watson's a very solid defender, allowing 98 points per 100 possessions this year and fewer than 102 in three of the past four years.

Eric Maynor, who makes $2 million this season and has a $2.1 million option for next year, figures as an always handy replacement for Conley in the lineup. Maynor, who gets only 9.2 minutes per game with the Washington Wizards, has a career 17.3 turnover rate.

Maynor shoots respectably from three-point range, hitting 35.1 percent on 2.9 attempts per 36 minutes for his career.

An ESPN trade machine test allows the Grizz to get Maynor, as well as fellow point man Garrett Temple, for Davis.

 

Conclusion

The Grizz have been anything but immune to the injury bug. Conley is the third sidelined starter whose absence has tested the team's depth.

Standing pat in the weeks before the trade deadline would show great faith in Calathes, but it would be a risky decision for the franchise. Calathes may not be able to sustain for long his improved ball-handling, especially when faced with tougher defensive squads like the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Trading for a seasoned ball-handler would better ensure that the Grizz maintain their push toward a playoff berth. Hollinger has a few tools to acquire a steady hand to improve depth.

 

Statistics are current through Feb. 2 games. Unless otherwise noted, advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.

 

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