The Memphis Grizzlies sent another shockwave through the NBA offseason by trading Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz. After moving Marc Gasol at the deadline in February, this deal firmly places the Grizzlies on a rebuilding timeline, with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant leading the way.
That poses an interesting question, however, for what Memphis will do with the remaining veterans on its roster. Kyle Korver, at age 38, will presumably be waived, while Jae Crowder and C.J. Miles probably have enough positional versatility to stick around as expiring contracts, or salary ballast in future trades. The real intrigue comes with Delon Wright and Jonas Valanciunas, the two primary assets in the Gasol trade, who play the same positions as Jackson and Morant.
Wright’s situation is essentially out of his control as a restricted free agent. No team really wants to suffer through restricted free agency to sign a backup point guard, so the Grizzlies should be able to come to terms with him in on a reasonably-valued contract to stay in Memphis and split minutes with the no. 2 overall pick. Valanciunas has more options, particularly since he recently declined his player option to become an unrestricted free agent.
Generally, when a player declines an option, it’s because he expects to sign a long-term deal. This usually comes at a lower annual value, but for more total guaranteed money. This is the route that both Harrison Barnes and Al Horford are expected to pursue this offseason. One would assume that the Grizzlies intend to keep Valanciunas to recoup some of the value from the Gasol deal, which requires us to consider what Valanciunas’ market value is.