The Deal: The Grizzlies essentially took on the $3.6 million contract of center Steven Hunter from the Nuggets in exchange for a first-round pick in 2010, with the Nuggets covering part of Hunter's salary in "cash considerations." The Nuggets save money via reduced luxury tax burden and the Grizzlies now have three first-round picks in what is projected to be a good 2010 draft. The Grizzlies have gotten grief for all of their recent cash-considerations deals, including, occasionally, from me, but if the team wasn't going to use that cap space to sign a significant player, then this was a pretty good use of it even though the team has no use for Hunter.
The Vet Guard: The Hunter acquisition brings the team's roster to 13 players, which is the minimum, but I've been told that the team is highly likely to carry 14 players and it looks like a veteran guard of some sort is likely to be signed for that 14th slot. Though Allen Iverson seems unlikely to be signed by the Grizzlies at this point, until he signs somewhere else he probably can't be ruled out. Three more likely names mentioned by the Commercial Appeal today: Jamal Tinsley, Flip Murray, and Tarence Kinsey.
Of these, I don't like Tinsley, who has proven to be a problem child during his Pacers stint. As a subscriber to the Lone Knucklehead Theory, I don't think Tinsley is talented enough to warrant the risk of adding him to an already unsettled and potentially fragile locker room.
Kinsey I like: I always thought he got a raw deal with the Grizzlies when an ineffective Casey Jacobsen was played ahead of him and he was then cut mid-season presumably to keep the coaching staff from having to answer questions about him. I think Kinsey is a legit NBA player and he still has fans in this organization. With Marko Jaric coming off a terrible season and Sam Young both unproven at the NBA level and trying to make a position switch from the college three to the pro two, I think adding another option at two guard is desirable. But I would still label Kinsey a secondary option.
Flip Murray — who I've mentioned in multiple previous posts — would be my clear choice of the available free-agent options. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of Murray's game, but the Grizzlies' biggest need right now isn't positional; it's a player with proven NBA scoring ability to bring off the bench. Murray has that, along with the versatility to play both guard positions.
But I'll throw out another name as well: Antonio Daniels. The veteran combo guard is on the hook for $6.6 million next season with the New Orleans Hornets, who are well over the luxury tax threshold. The Grizzlies could flip Hunter to the Hornets for Daniels and get the Hornets to cover the salary difference in "cash considerations." The Hornets would save real money on the deal and the Grizzlies would flip a player they don't need for one who could play a significant role. Perhaps a draft pick — if not a first, then a second — could also come back in the deal.
The Follow-Up: Chances are, whatever guard the Grizzlies acquire, that transaction will end the team's off-season. But I'd like to see one more move — understanding that the team is wildly unlikely to carry 15 players — dependant on which guard the team acquires. Let's take my two favored scenarios:
Daniels: Adding Daniels would give the team four players — Daniels, Mike Conley, Marko Jaric, and O.J. Mayo — capable of playing the point, not including summer-league signee Marcus Williams. Since Williams' contract, as I understand it, is only partially guaranteed, then I'd rather see Williams waived in this instance and another player added to give the team depth, perhaps Kinsey or even former U of M player Rodney Carney.
Murray: Murray is less a pure point than Daniels, so I might be inclined to keep Williams and then look to buy out Hunter to make room for another minimum salary player, such as Kinsey.