Grizzlies Still Have Big Questions to Answer in Free Agency


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Tony Allen is one of the Griz veterans whose future has yet to be decided. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen is one of the Griz veterans whose future has yet to be decided.

As expected by most, the Grizzlies started the NBA's free agency period by making a couple of moves to shore up their wing rotation with younger talent, but the big names—JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Vince Carter—are all still uncommitted to any team for 2017-18.

On Saturday, the Grizzlies signed Wayne Selden, who played very well for them in an impossible situation in the playoffs, to a two-year minimum deal, a great way to place a low-risk bet on his future development.

On Sunday, the Grizzlies used a portion of the mid-level exception to sign former Kings shooting guard Ben McLemore to a two year, $10.7M deal (with no options, fully guaranteed), taking a sizable bet on a player whose time in Sacramento saw him struggle to develop past his initial skill set. By giving him that big of a deal, the Grizzlies' assumption appears to be that playing in a more stable situation than the turbulent Kings franchise will allow McLemore to shine, but the size of his deal and the lack of a partial guarantee makes it feel like more of a reach than I thought they would make for that kind of a player.

McLemore's deal is probably the size of the taxpayer mid-level exception, which makes sense, because with his contract on the books the Grizzlies are around $98M of guaranteed salary for next year. The roster spots are filling up fast, though:

The Selden and McLemore signings indicate to me that the Grizzlies are unlikely to offer Tony Allen a contract around what he is probably expecting; they may offer the veteran minimum or at this rate they may not offer him a contract at all. Allen's services will certainly be desired by other contending teams—teams where he's probably more likely to accept a diminished role and place of importance.

As for Green and Randolph, the front court rotation is already crowded, and especially so if the Grizzlies are bringing in Rade Zagorac and signing Ivan Rabb to anything other than a two-way deal with the Hustle. If they're not planning on trading away any of the other bigs they've amassed—Brandan Wright and Jarell Martin seem like the obvious candidates there—bringing back Green and Randolph seems like it would only clog up playing time the Grizzlies seem to need for their younger players.

Atlanta's loss of Paul Millsap to Denver last night leaves them with a pretty neat JaMychal Green-shaped hole in their roster, and a lot of money to throw at him if they so desire. There were rumors that the Cavaliers are interested in Zach Randolph, and that Z-Bo might share that interest. The future paths of those two players are very much in the air right now.

Vince Carter is reportedly taking a meeting with the Kings, which makes sense given his preference to play for a team where he can contribute, and his well-documented good relationship with Dave Joerger. At anything but the minimum, it also seems unlikely that Carter will return, and even at the minimum he would seemingly just become another roadblock to opening up playing time for the younger guys on the roster.

A culture change is in progress right under our noses. Whether any of the veteran guys will be back is still very much undecided, but as time goes on it becomes very likely that they could all be gone for somewhere else. These are no longer the "veterans over 35 only" teams of 2 and 3 seasons ago, even if Z-Bo or Allen return. Stay tuned as we find out exactly how young these Grizzlies will be next year.

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