The first month of the NBA regular season is behind us and Andre Iguodala is still under contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies acquired Iguodala from the Golden State Warriors in a salary dump in July to help facilitate the sign-and-trade of Kevin Durant and D’Angelo Russell. At the time, the overwhelming expectation was that the rebuilding Grizzlies would buy Iguodala out of his $17.1 million contract, but the team’s management has been firm in their refusal to do so, with the hope that a contending team will surrender an asset for the former Finals MVP — and in the Grizzlies’ defense, it’s not a bad plan.
Even at 35 years old, Iguodala has shown he can still contribute to a team defensively and as a secondary creator offensively. The only problem is that the teams that could really use him don’t have the means to trade for him. Take the Houston Rockets, for example.
Since Trevor Ariza left the Rockets in 2018, Houston has been trying to fill the void on the wing with a revolving door of veteran forwards, but to mixed results. Although Iguodala’s not the most efficient 3-point shooter (33.3% for his career), he’d fit right into Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense and give the Rockets the boost they need on the defensive end. But unfortunately for the Rockets, they don’t have the contracts to pull of a trade for Iguodala.
In theory, the Rockets could swap Clint Capela for Iguodala, but the Grizzlies already have $45 million committed to Jonas Valanciunas through 2021 and are in the process of grooming 20-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr. to be their center of the future. Additionally, the trade would make little sense for the Rockets, who are allowing 51.8 points in the paint per game — the third-most by any team this season — and desperately need Capela’s rebounding and rim protection.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a similar position. While they would love to have a player of Iguodala’s stature backing up and closing games with LeBron James, it’s hard to imagine they’d be willing to part with Danny Green’s 3-point shooting and lockdown defense to make it a reality. The Lakers could get to the number they need to be at by combining the contracts of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Quinn Cook and DeMarcus Cousins, but there are a few obstacles they’d face:
- Caldwell-Pope re-signed with the Lakers on a “1+1” deal in July, so he has to consent to a trade.
- The Grizzlies would be getting three players in exchange for one, so they’d have to waive two fully guaranteed contracts.
- DeMarcus Cousins is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
In the off chance all parties agreed to the framework of the deal, the Lakers would still have to make the trade worth the Grizzlies’ while and they can’t trade a first-round pick until 2023 because of the Anthony Davis trade. Even then, the Pelicans can exercise their right to swap picks in 2023. You can also add the surging Dallas Mavericks to the list of teams that can’t trade their pick until late into the 2020s, thanks to their deal to land Kristaps Porzingis.
With the Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers presumably out of the picture, unless the Grizzlies shift demands to second-round picks, there’s really only one other title contender would be a perfect fit for Iguodala: The Denver Nuggets.
Of all of the aforementioned teams, the Nuggets are in the best position to put together a package for Iguodala. Not only do the Nuggets own all of their first-round draft picks past 2020, but they have a few sizable contracts they can use in a trade, including Will Barton’s $12.7 million contract.
Barton is in the midst of a career year for the Nuggets — particularly from behind the arc where he’s shooting 45.6% — but Denver has some financial incentive to trade him for an expiring contract like Iguodala’s. For example, if the Nuggets traded Barton, Juancho Hernangomez and a future first for Iguodala, they could have as much as $22 million in cap space next summer — a figure that includes Malik Beasley’s team-friendly $8.1 million cap hold. Trading Barton would also entice the Nuggets to give more playing time to their younger wings like Beasley and Michael Porter Jr.
The question is whether the Nuggets having financial flexibility in a relatively lackluster 2020 NBA free agency class is worth surrendering Barton — who’s been with the team since 2015 — for what will likely be a one-year rental in Iguodala. Of course, that’s also operating under the assumption that the Grizzlies value Barton enough to take on his contract, which is guaranteed for $26.5 million through 2021 and has a $14.6 million player option for the 2021-22 season. If they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board for both the Nuggets and Grizzlies.
Iguodala is a highly impactful player and most teams would have interest in acquiring if given the opportunity. However, because of restrictions under the CBA, most teams won’t be able to — even after Dec. 15, when the majority of trade restrictions will be lifted.
That could lead to Iguodala and the Grizzlies negotiating a buyout, but considering the Grizzlies already bought out Miles Plumlee’s $12.4 million salary, it’s safe to assume they’d rather get something for Iguodala than nothing after how long they’ve held him out. Hopefully we’ll find out what that something is sooner rather than later, but right now it’s hard to see the path forward to making it happen for most of the top teams in the league.