After starting the season looking like true championship contenders, the Memphis Grizzlies have slowed as of late and are reportedly shopping forward Rudy Gay in trade talks.
The Grizzlies went 7-7 in December and seem to be a tier below the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers in the tough Western Conference. With the new collective bargaining agreement set to enforce harsher tax penalties and Memphis having so much money invested in its top four players, the team may look to replace Gay’s role with more affordable alternatives.
With new ownership and a group of new front office staff including former ESPN analyst John Hollinger, it would come as no surprise if there were at least some changes to the Grizzlies lineup before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. The strength of the Grizzlies comes from their impressive frontcourt tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and while Gay adds immense talent to the equation, the team has showed they can have playoff success without the 6-8 forward.
In fact, he may not be the ideal fit alongside such a dominating front line.
Gay is earning more than $16 million this season and is on the books for a another two years with salary increases, so it won’t be easy for the Grizzlies to replace Gay’s production in a trade while improving their cap position.
Gay is averaging 18 points and six rebounds per game this season and at just 26 years old has a number of prime years still in front of him. There would be a number of teams who would love to add him to their roster, but the size of his contract may make many teams reluctant or, in fact, unable to put together a suitable deal.
Gay still has room for improvement, but after seven years in the league it appears that he is who he is at this stage. His production has been consistent since his second season, when he averaged 20 points per game and his stats across the board have remained relatively unchanged since that season. His consistent offensive output will likely draw interest from across the league.
However, with the new CBA in place and tax implications soon becoming harsher than ever, paying more than $15 million for a player who is not a franchise-level talent will become less and less appealing.
Memphis will not be forced into making a deal this season and could well ride this out, re-assessing after another playoff performance. But with Gay producing and healthy, they may be able to move him now, allowing enough time to form chemistry with any new additions.
There are a number of teams that could potentially be interested in the former University of Connecticut star, but finding a deal that allows Memphis to both save money and still maintain (or improve) their standing in the conference will be difficult.
There could be a number of suitors from the Eastern Conference including the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors. All of those teams could offer different packages of cheaper wing players and draft picks.
Out West, the Minnesota Timberwolves have long searched for a consistent outside scoring threat. Gay’s age would make him an ideal piece to put with point guard Ricky Rubio and All-Star forward Kevin Love.
No deal is imminent and general managers aren’t doing their jobs if they aren’t at least entertaining all offers during the season, but this situation with the Grizzlies and Gay seems one of the more likely to produce an outcome coming up to the trade deadline.
We will be watching this space in the coming weeks and expect the rumors to flood in the closer it gets to Feb. 21.
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