The Memphis Grizzlies were the surprise team of the 2010-11 season, bursting through the Western ranks to land in the second round of the playoffs, where they took the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games and seemingly 100 overtimes. The core is set for years to come, with one glaring exception.
Here's a look at the Grizzlies' salary cap levels over the past six seasons.
You know, he may have neglected to read the bible of the NBA (its collective bargaining agreement) for the first nine seasons in the league, and he may still completely misunderstand how the sausage is made, but Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley wasn't lying when he said he'd pay up when Memphis was ready to contend. The Grizz touched the luxury tax line last season thanks to a fat contract for Rudy Gay and the free agent addition of Tony Allen, and they'll be right back there again this season.
Heading into free agency, the Grizzlies have a cap figure of $53 million with the leaguewide team salary cap set at $58 million and the luxury tax line at $70 million.
The Grizzlies' free agents are:
Memphis is expected to lock up Gasol quickly; if they don't reach an agreement on the first day of free agency, it'll be a surprise. Even if talks break down and Gasol signs an offer sheet with another team, expect Memphis to quickly match. They aren't going to lose him.
That, of course, sucks up the team's cap space, leaving the club reserved to using the mid-level exception or executing a sign-and-trade involving Battier to pull back pieces. Battier has been linked to other teams much more than he has to the Grizzlies, and for good reason, as the Gasol contract should edge Memphis to the tax line.
Haddadi will likely not be in the NBA next season. Powe is a solid bench big man who deserves a shot somewhere, if not in Memphis.
Gay's name will pop up in rumors until he proves himself indispensible to the Grizzlies' rise. O.J. Mayo is the Grizzly most likely to be traded; Memphis tried to deal him for Josh McRoberts and a draft pick last February, but the swap fell through late. Indiana ended up trading that pick for George Hill, and McRoberts has now hit free agency. If the Gasol deal allows Memphis some breathing room, McBob could be target as the team's fourth big man behind Gasol, Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur.
More likely, the Grizzlies will take a look at a cheap veteran center. Those, however, don't exactly grow on trees. How else do you think Theo Ratliff still reliably finds work?
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