The Memphis Grizzlies will finally listen to trade offers on Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the last two dominoes of the Grit ‘N Grind era before the franchise pivots to build around rookie sensation Jaren Jackson Jr. The news comes on the heels of a remarkable skid in which the Grizzlies lost 23 of their last 30 games.
Memphis should be able to find a trade for each of its two veteran stars, even with Conley’s remaining two years worth $67 million after this season. Gasol will make $24.1 million this season with a $25.6 million player option next year.
The 2019 NBA Free Agency Class is loaded, and teams will be stingy with their cap space to have room a max contract with a $32.7 million Year 1 salary. But depending on how much Memphis values each player, there are suitors out there for Conley and Gasol. It’s just a matter of finding the right deals.
Here are nine we like:
1. Indiana Pacers, for Conley
Indiana has started Darren Collison at the point guard slot during their playoff run, so an upgrade at that spot would make this already dangerous team even more lethal.
This, though, creates a two-pronged conundrum:
- The Pacers are already good, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Indiana is the No. 3 seed in the East, boasting an impressive record that’s a byproduct of the depth they’ve added over the summer. Indy will have to forfeit a chunk of that depth to land Conley.
- The Pacers are also projected to be players in next summer’s free agency pool, and they’ll have a chance at a superstar point guard like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker. It’s unclear if any of those players, though, want to go to Indiana. Even if not, Indiana may want to pivot to re-signing key players like Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic.
Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are untouchable, so is a combination of the expiring contracts of Collison and Tyreke Evans, along with another player (Doug McDermott?), a prospect (T.J. Leaf or Aaron Holiday?), and a first-rounder or two enough for Memphis?
2. Dallas Mavericks, for Conley or Gasol — or even both
The Mavericks now belong to Luka Doncic, so everything Dallas does from this day forward will be in service of putting the best possible team around their rookie sensation.
Yet Dallas is also in a win-now posture, and even though Dennis Smith Jr. has rejoined the team, it’s still unclear whether he and Doncic can make it work long-term. Center could be a need, too: earlier this year, some Mavericks teammates reportedly felt DeAndre Jordan was being selfish by snatching every rebound coming off the glass.
The Mavericks could trade for one of the two Grizzlies pillars, or both.
Mavericks receive: Marc Gasol
Grizzlies receive: DeAndre Jordan, straight up (or with draft consideration)
3. San Antonio Spurs, for Conley or Gasol
First it was Tony Parker, who left San Antonio for Charlotte over the summer. Then it was Lonnie Walker IV, the explosive rookie point guard who tore his meniscus in the preseason. To add insult to injury, Dejounte Murray tore his ACL in the very next preseason game.
With all three out, the Spurs have started Derrick White and Bryn Forbes at the point and have given Patty Mills minutes as their backups. They’re all decent basketball players, but the Spurs are missing a true floor general on the court. Conley would be a perfect fit: a playmaker who can relieve DeMar DeRozan of his offensive load while playing cat-and-mouse with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Trading for Conley, though, would certainly cost San Antonio one of Murray or Walker, and other assets they may not want to surrender. The deal here looks like Conley and Omri Casspi for Mills, Walker, Rudy Gay and Dante Cunningham. A protected first can be included, as well.
As for Gasol, could we see another Spanish brother-for-brother swap, like when the Lakers traded the draft rights to Marc Gasol in that famous 2008 deal that sent Pau to Los Angeles? To take on Marc’s contract, the Spurs would have have to match his $24 million salary. They’re not giving up DeRozan or Aldridge, so Pau has to be included.
Even still, there’s an $8 million pay gap between the two brothers that’ll be hard to bridge. Bu how fun would it be if they either a) played on the same team, or b) were traded for each other again.
4. Philadelphia 76ers, for Conley
The Sixers hoped Markelle Fultz would be the point guard that tied everything together, but his shoulder issue — Thoraccic Outlet Syndrome, to be exact — has kept him off the court much of the season with little-to-no productivity while he was on it. Ben Simmons has been the primary ball-handler, but his unwillingness to shoot from the perimeter will give an edge to defenses when guarding him in the postseason.
Bringing Conley in would establish order in Philly. He’s a player who is capable of creating his own shot, but doesn’t look to do so until it’s absolutely necessary. He’s the definition of a floor general, and can still play off Simmons as well. He’s exactly what the doctor ordered in Philly.
The Daily Memphian’s Chris Herrington suggests a trade of Conley and Omri Casspi to the Sixers for Fultz, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and draft assets. If Fultz fully recovers from his TOS and is the player we saw at Washington, he and Jaren Jackson Jr would be a scary combo.
5. Charlotte Hornets, for Gasol
The Hornets remain a fringe playoff team, with an All-Star point guard in Kemba Walker who has little help and is in the final year of his contract. Gasol is not in his prime, but he’s still capable of contributing on a team trying to win games.
Would the Grizzlies trade one more season of Gasol for two more seasons of Nic Batum, plus Charlotte’s protected first-round pick? Or, maybe a deal of Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s expiring contract for Gasol and Omri Casspi (plus the pick) gets this one done.
6. Miami Heat, for Conley or Gasol
The Heat are another team that will find it difficult to sign free agents outside of rookies and their taxpayer’s mid-level and minimum contract exceptions next summer. Unlike the Pistons, though, Miami has players other teams might want.
If the Grizzlies are going to rebuild, it won’t be fast. They can deal Conley and Shelvin Mack to Miami for Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson and a pair of first-round picks in 2019 and 2023.
There’s also a straight-up swap: Gasol for Hassan Whiteside.
The Grizzlies, though, will want attractive draft assets and/or salary relief in any deal for either of their veterans. Trading straight-up for Whiteside doesn’t help their rebuild.
7. Detroit Pistons, for Conley
The Pistons have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but just can’t seem to get over the fringe playoff hump, which is a testament to the importance of guard play. The Pistons are also in luxury tax hell, so it won’t be players in a class that includes Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Eric Bledsoe. If the Pistons want to win now and improve their guard position, the best bet is to make a trade now.
The deal will cost the Pistons a future first-round pick and young player Stanley Johnson, but Detroit has to do something.
That’s not an attractive trade for the Grizzlies, so Detroit may even need to include Luke Kennard — and even that might not be enough
The Pistons are in tough place: they need a point guard, they can’t sign one, and they have few trade assets anyone else wants.
8. Orlando Magic, for Conley
The Magic are a legitimate point guard away from playoff contention out East. Enter Mike Conley: legitimate point guard.Pairing Conley with Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic would certainly propel Orlando to the postseason.
The only issue is who does Orlando give up to match Conley’s $30 million salary? Would Orlando offer its own pick and Oklahoma City’s 2020 first-rounder to land Conley? If so, this is the kind of deal that could vault them into the postseason.
9. The wild card option for Conley: Milwaukee Bucks
Hi, this is Kristian’s editor, Mike Prada, hijacking this post with a controversial take: the Bucks should trade for Mike Conley. (Kristian does not endorse this message):
I get why the Bucks wouldn’t want to rock the boat. They have the league’s best net rating and are pushing first place in the East, with a system that makes more out of the sum of its parts. But with just 18 months until Giannis Anteteokounmpo must decide on a supermax extension, Milwaukee’s window is now.
Conley is a definite upgrade on Eric Bledsoe, despite being older and having a long-term contract. Though Bledsoe has fit in well in Mike Budenholzer’s system, teams will be more daring leaving him open in the postseason, given his 31-percent three-point mark and career-long issues with turnovers (though he is averaging a career low in turnover percentage this season). Conley, on the other hand, is clutch and sure-handed, which holds extra value in the postseason.
Conley also allows the Bucks to avoid a tricky offseason dilemma: how much to pay Bledsoe as a free agent. Bledsoe will command a large, long-term contract this summer, whereas Conley’s deal, while hefty for the next two years, aligns perfectly with Antetokounmpo’s window.
The Bucks don’t have a first-round pick to trade until 2023, but they do have stuff to offer Memphis. I propose offering ...
- Eric Bledsoe
- George Hill, once he becomes trade-eligible again on Feb. 6.
- One, maybe two of the following: D.J. Wilson, Thon Maker, Sterling Brown, and Donte DiVincenzo.
- The 2023 first-round pick (top 10 protected)
It’s a risky move for the Bucks, but if it means cementing yourselves as the favorites to make the Finals, it’s worth it.