Marc Gasol is an extremely good basketball player. His ability to fill in whatever gaps the Grizzlies have needed for nearly the last decade has made him so unique — Gasol possesses the unique ability to do whatever his team needs on a given night due to his versatile offensive skills and tremendous defensive presence, coupled with his off the charts basketball IQ.
Gasol is also in a really weird situation in Memphis. The Grizzlies fired head coach David Fizdale earlier this week after he decided to bench the All-Star big man down the stretch of a game the team won. While Gasol is adamant that he had nothing to do with Fizdale getting canned, reports indicate that the relationship between the two had deteriorated to the point that they had barely communicated over the last 10 months.
Firing Fizdale is a move that shows loyalty to Gasol, even if no line in the sand was ever drawn. This is a move that shows the team chose to side with a veteran stalwart that a front office wants to build around, not a highly-respected coach that could oversee a rebuild and establish a culture in Memphis.
Well, that’s what conventional wisdom would say. Instead, the Grizzlies might trade Gasol, anyway. This is according to a report by the Sporting News, which indicates that a move involving the big man could be in the cards if they decide to rebuild.
Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace shot these reports down on Wednesday night, saying the team has no plans to trade either of its stars: Gasol or injured point guard Mike Conley.
This is the right thing to say. In the wake of firing a head coach, a team has to have as much stability as possible or else things run the risk of imploding. And seeing as how Gasol and Conley have only played for Memphis since coming into the NBA, moving them at this juncture would look like an all-time knee jerk reaction.
But let’s say the trade deadline comes around, the Memphis is struggling, and the calls to blow it all up become really loud. The issue for the Grizzlies is that it’s also really, really hard to find a deal that makes sense for either guy. Conley is fantastic, and despite the fact that he was briefly the highest-paid player in NBA history, you can still argue that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves among fans for being a star.
But on the flip side, Conley is a 30-year-old point guard who hasn’t reached the 70-game mark in any of the last three years. And while it was awesome seeing him get paid due to his status as a perpetually underpaid guy, here is what his contract looks like right now, per Spotrac.
This is brutal. Even if the salary cap explodes in the next few years for whatever reason, taking on this big of a contract for any player — let alone an injury-prone point guard who is in his 30s — would be a massive risk.
Then there’s Gasol, who despite being older than Conley is cheaper and on a shorter contract (he has a player option before the 2019-20 season that will pay him about $25.6 million). And as we established earlier, there are few big men who are able to match the versatility, skill, and basketball IQ that Gasol possesses.
The issue here is something that popped up when we went through possible trade scenarios for DeAndre Jordan. As we wrote then, most teams either have log jams at center, can’t afford this make this kind of move financially, don’t have the pieces to make a move like this, or are in a position where adding a guy who turns 33 later this season and is under contract for three more years doesn’t jive with their short and long-term plans.
While you can pretty easily argue that trading for Gasol would be a better move than trading for Jordan, much of this still applies. A team getting him would basically be saying that they think Gasol is a piece that can help them win a championship before his contract expires, and right now, there aren’t many teams that are in that situation.
All of this is not to say that it is impossible for the Grizzlies to do anything with either Gasol or Conley — only one team has to go “they’re worth it” to make a move for either guy, and the Sporting News reported that Memphis has gotten offers if it decides to move Gasol. There are just legitimate reasons why it’s hard to imagine the team getting fair value for one of the two centerpieces of their organization.