The Memphis Grizzlies came up with a solution on Tuesday to get their payroll below the luxury-tax threshold while also holding onto swingman Rudy Gay and center Zach Randolph, but the move did come at a cost.
According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Grizzlies have agreed to a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers that would trim more than $6 million off their payroll and get the Grizzlies out of luxury-tax territory.
The deal would send backups Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to Cleveland in return for seldom-used Jon Leuer. The Cavaliers will also receive a future first-round draft pick as part of the trade. ESPN.com reported that a trade call is scheduled for later on Tuesday to complete the deal.
Speights has been a key frontcourt reserve for Memphis, averaging 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds while logging 14.5 minutes per night. Ellington averaged 5.5 points in 16.9 minutes per game and was tied with Quincy Pondexter for the team lead in 3-point shooting at 42.3 percent, taking 2.4 attempts per game from deep.
Selby had only played 10 games for the Grizzlies, averaging two points and 5.9 minutes in those appearances.
Speights’ departure likely means increased minutes for Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi, who has only played in 11 games this season. He hasn’t seen any action since logging three minutes in Wednesday’s 103-82 loss at San Antonio.
Ellington, meanwhile, takes a shooter out of the Memphis rotation in favor of keeping Gay, who had been the subject of many trade rumors in recent weeks as the Grizzlies deliberated on how to avoid getting hit with the luxury-tax penalty.
But Gay is only a 30.4 percent shooter from 3-point range and, according to 82games.com, has an effective field-goal percentage (eFG) of 44.4, much lower than Ellington’s mark of 51.4 percent.
Pondexter seems a logical choice to take up Ellington’s lost minutes. But the 6-6 swingman hasn’t played since Dec. 29 because of a strained medial collateral ligament. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on Jan. 14 that Pondexter was still on crutches and hoped to be able to resume some basketball-related activities in two weeks.
Leuer played in only nine games for the Cavaliers, averaging 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. He only got off the bench twice in Cleveland’s last five games, playing six minutes Jan. 13 at the Los Angeles Lakers and logging one minute in Saturday loss to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City.
“I like our team,” Hollins said during the interview. “I like the way we’ve grown the last few years, our maturity, and I would certainly as a coach like to keep our team together and see where we go this year. If management decides after the season is over that they want to move somebody for whatever reason, we’ll deal with that. But in the middle of a season, as successful as we are, it would be a big letdown.”
The Grizzlies are currently fourth in the Western Conference at 26-14, but are only 6-4 over their last 10 games. Memphis was ousted in the first round last season by the Los Angeles Clippers as a No. 4 seed and the previous year as a No. 8 seed, the Grizzlies stunned the San Antonio Spurs in the first round before taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the Western semifinals.
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