By all indications, the free agency period for the Memphis Grizzlies will be much more about keeping players in the Grind House rather than looking for help from afar.
Zach Randolph is already taken care of, having agreed to a two-year deal last week to remain with the Grizzlies, and veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller has been vocal about two things so far this offseason—he wants to play three or four more years and he wants to finish his career in Memphis.
Miller told Memphis’ 92.9 FM-ESPN on Monday afternoon that his free agency approach will be a simple one.
“They know how badly I wanna be here,” Miller said. “That makes it very simple. If they feel the same way and it’s a fair deal, it’ll be a done deal.”
Miller was second in the NBA last season in 3-point shooting at 45.9 percent, with the specialist taking more than half his shots (233 out of 443 attempts) from the deep part of the floor.
If one were to take Miller’s shooting out of the Memphis equation, the Grizzlies’ somewhat grisly 19th-place finish in 3-point shooting (35.3 percent as a team) looks much, much worse.
For perspective, every Memphis player not named “Mike Miller” shot 32.6 percent, which would have been the 28th in the NBA, ahead of only the brick-layers from the Detroit and Philadelphia NBA locals.
One factor that will help the Grizzlies from the inside will be the return to health of swingman Quincy Pondexter, who was limited to just 15 games before being shut down for surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot.
The Grizzlies are looking for Pondexter to be a much bigger contributor, a player who could add offense to the lineup in place of journeyman Courtney Lee at the 2 or the rusted-out shell of Tayshaun Prince—still on the books for another year at a little more than $7.7 million—at the 3.
In his last healthy season in 2012-13 (OK, somewhat healthy season in 2012-13), Pondexter shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range in 59 games (he missed 23 contests with a sprained knee).
Pondexter was a key contributor off the bench in the 2013 playoffs as Memphis made its first-ever trip to the conference finals, averaging 8.9 points and shooting 45.3 percent from 3-point range in 23.8 minutes a game.
One free agent decision the Grizzlies did make on Monday was to not extend a qualifying offer to big man Ed Davis, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Davis would have required a $4,361,789 qualifying offer in order for the Grizzlies to retain their right to match any contract offers for the 24-year-old big and for a team that is projected to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.5 million below the luxury tax threshold next season, that was a bit too large of a piece of pie to swallow.
Davis was a part-time starter in Toronto before coming to Memphis in the Rudy Gay to Toronto trade in January 2013 and he’s averaged only 15 minutes a game since coming to Tennessee, down from the 24 minutes a night he was getting with the Raptors.
He’s been efficient in his opportunities, shooting 53.4 percent and averaging 13.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, but the club also drafted Tennessee power forward Jarnell Stokes last week and he could be a cheaper alternative for backup minutes at the 4 behind Randolph—an important consideration for a team that is always trying to be cap—or at the very least, tax—conscious.
There are a couple of options out there to bring in help at the shooting guard spot if the Grizzlies want to hedge on first-round pick Jordan Adams.
Even at 37, Vince Carter could provide some scoring for the Grizzlies or, if they want to go younger, C.J. Miles had a quietly effective season for the Cavaliers and could be had for a relatively cheap price.