The Memphis Grizzlies will more than likely sit and watch as the trade deadline passes — after all, they've already made two deals this season, including one franchise-changer that got rid of the team's star, Rudy Gay.
The Grizzlies' outlook
Coming into the season, there was lots of speculation surrounding the Grizzlies' centerpiece. Gay was the team's leading scorer and remains a great defender, but his numbers were modestly down, and eight years into his NBA career, he still has yet to make it to an All-Star game. Knowing that Gay was owed nearly $40 million over the next two seasons and with an earnest desire to get under the salary cap, the team decided to move on, trading Gay in late January. It was a real win-win for the Grizzlies: not only did they save a lot of cap space, dropping Gay's huge contract, they also picked up some quality players in Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye. Mike Prada of SB Nation broke down the trade after it went down, saying the Grizzlies "made out like bandits" for getting the best of both the financial and basketball sides of the deal.
Although the Gay trade had definite basketball reasons, a deal the team made a few weeks earlier — trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, and a first-round pick for rarely-used center Jon Leuer — was purely for cap reasons.
So that leaves the Grizzlies in a weird transitional state. Although they're no longer in luxury tax hell after those two trades, they're still pressed right up against the wall of the salary cap. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will each make about $15 million a year through 2015. They're going to try to win with those guys — the team has gone on record saying it won't trade Randolph — and with Gay no longer on the team, its tough to wonder if they'll get any better.
Minor trade options
There's not a lot out there for the Grizzlies — ESPN-analyst-turned-front-office-man John Hollinger said the team had no intentions to do anything else before the deadline while praising the team's direction without Gay — but they still could do something. The team's most attractive trade assets right now aren't players, but rather trade exceptions — over $10 million worth in the wake of the two trades they made. They could serve as the third member in another team's salary-based move and pick up a player without having to give up much. After declining to renew Chris Johnson's 10-day contract, they have only 12 players on roster — under the league minimum — so they could be on the market to pick up a piece from somewhere as they try to build depth for the playoffs. They'll likely look to the free agent market, however.
What's the gist
There was some displeasure after the Gay deal, with Lionel Hollins talking candidly about how he wouldn't have made the trade and that the team was asking him to win "on a beer budget" with "champagne taste". But they're still going to be good. They're 4-3 since the trade, and although they're almost certain to make the playoffs, its tough to see them seriously contending for a spot in the NBA Finals over the Spurs, Thunder, or Clippers. With their current roster and the trades they've already made, there's nothing out there that can get them to that level before the deadline.