Free Agent Targets for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019

Free Agent

The Memphis Grizzlies traded Mike Conley and officially ended the “grit n grind” era. They have ushered in a new youth movement, with Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson, and Brandon Clarke leading the way. The Grizzlies, despite getting rid of Conley, still won’t have much cap space to work with. They have a few holes on their team, particularly at the backup guard and backup center positions. The Grizzlies should target free agent players that can shoot and defend to fit with the young players. They also have quite a few free agents, most notably Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright.

Free Agent Targets for the Memphis Grizzlies

How Can They Create More Cap Space

They will have just over ten million dollars if they renounce the rights to all their free agents but this also includes rookies. After signing rookies, the Grizzlies will have -900,000 dollars if they renounce all of their free agents. However, it is unlikely they do this because they are likely to bring back Valanciunas and would need his bird rights to do so. If they renounce everyone except Valanciunas, they will be left with -25.7 million dollars. However, they can make some moves to acquire more cap space. The easiest way is to cut Avery Bradley. Bradley’s $12.96 million is only partially guaranteed at $2 million. However, even with this, they are still over the cap by $14.7 million. The only way they can realistically get under the cap is by trading Chandler Parsons, which is not easy at all. The Grizzlies would have to give up an asset to get rid of Parsons, which wouldn’t be smart, especially now that they’re rebuilding.

When a team doesn’t have cap space, the mid-level exception often helps a lot. The Grizzlies, though, will not have it this year. That is because they used it all on Kyle Anderson last year. They will have the bi-annual exception to use. However, the bi-annual exception can only be used if a team is over the salary cap but under the Luxury Tax Apron, which is 23 million dollars over the salary cap. The Grizzlies can get under the Tax Apron by cutting Bradley, or by cutting Kyle Korver or any two of Bruno Caboclo, Dillon Brooks, and Ivan Rabb. With these options, it’s likely the Grizzlies do one of these and take advantage of the bi-annual exception. The bi-annual exception is the smallest of the cap exceptions though, coming in at approximately 3.6 million dollars in the first year with a limit to two years maximum. A two year deal on it would be a total of 7.4 million dollars. The rest of their roster will have to be filled out by players the Grizzlies have bird rights on or minimum contracts.

Guards the Grizzlies Should Target

Seth Curry

What Seth Curry lacks on defense, he more than makes up for in terms of shooting. He shot 45% from three this past season on 3.4 attempts per game. This would give the Grizzlies some nice spacing which would certainly help in the Morant-Jackson pick and roll. Of the 154 players who shot at least 3 three-pointers per game in 2018-2019 and played 1000 minutes, Curry ranks third in three-point percentage. The main issue with Curry, though, is that he is a very poor defender and lacks size. He is just 6’2 and 185 pounds. Curry is also likely going to get a contract worth more than the Grizzlies can offer, making him a somewhat unrealistic option.

Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin struggled this past season, but it was his first season back from injury. He missed all but one game in the 2017-2018 season with a ruptured patellar tendon. Previous to his injury, he was a good shooter and scorer, posting 14.5 points per game while shooting 37% from three on 4.3 attempts per game in the 2016-2017 season. If he can return to his pre-injury form, he would be a great signing for the Grizzlies. However, it’s unlikely he becomes that good in this upcoming season. Still, he should be a risk the Grizzlies are willing to take, considering there aren’t many negatives if he doesn’t pan out well. Lin may get just the minimum, so the Grizzlies should target him with the bi-annual exception to make sure they sign him.

Wings the Grizzlies Should Target

Darius Miller

Darius Miller, like the previous players, is a very good three-point shooter. Over the past two seasons, he has shot 39% from three on 4.8 attempts per game. While Miller doesn’t excel at anything else, he’s a solid playmaker and a below average defender. He averaged 2.1 assists to 0.9 turnovers per game this past season. He uses his 6’8 225-pound frame to be able to switch between small forwards and power forwards. Miller may get a little more than the minimum, so the Grizzlies should target him with all of the bi-annual exception.

David Nwaba

David Nwaba is a completely different player than the previous three. Instead of being a shooter or scorer, Nwaba is a good defender. While he isn’t a good shooter, he isn’t a non-shooter either. Over his career, he has shot 33% from three on 0.9 attempts per game. His defensive impact is pretty good though. Per the bball-index, Nwaba has a defensive player impact plus-minus of 0.7. Amongst shooting guards that matched or exceeded his minutes played, he ranks eighth. Per ESPN, Nwaba has a defensive real plus-minus of 0.54. Amongst shooting guards that matched or exceeded his minutes played, he ranks ninth. These impact stats measure how a team performs with and without a player on the court. These stats show that the Cleveland Cavaliers were a much better defensive team with Nwaba on the court than off the court. The raw data also supports this. The Cavs had a defensive rating that was 3.6 points better with Nwaba than off the court. Nwaba also may get the minimum, meaning the Grizzlies have a good chance of signing him with their bi-annual exception.

Centers the Grizzlies Should Target

Luke Kornet

With Jackson, Clarke, and Valanciunas in the frontcourt, the Grizzlies don’t need to target a big with their bi-annual exception. Instead, they should use the minimum to sign these players. Luke Kornet isn’t very good and probably isn’t suitable for a backup position, but he can shoot. He has shot 36% from three on 4.1 attempts per game in his two seasons in the league. While he is a poor rebounder at 6.5 rebounds per 36 minutes over his career, pairing him with Clarke should be okay. Clarke averaged 11 rebounds per 36 minutes in his final career in college. Kornet will almost certainly get just the minimum so the Grizzlies shouldn’t have much trouble signing him.

Joakim Noah

While Joakim Noah possesses essentially no ability to space the floor, he had a very solid season last year with the Grizzlies and could get another contract. He had per 36-minute averages of 15.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. Noah would also be another good defender in the frontcourt. He had a defensive player impact plus-minus of 1.5, which ranked 21st amongst centers that matched or exceeded his minutes played. Noah had a defensive real plus-minus of 2.89, which ranked 13th amongst centers who matched or exceeded his minutes played. The Grizzlies also had a defensive rating that was five points better with Noah on the court than Noah off the court. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies do not have his bird rights, meaning they can’t go over the cap to re-sign him. Thankfully, Noah is unlikely to get too many offers so the Grizzlies should target him with the minimum.

Who Should they Target?

While the Grizzlies won’t be major players for free agents, that shouldn’t stop them from trying. They’ll be able to sign one player for two years and 7.4 million dollars with the bi-annual exception. However, besides that, they’ll just have to sign players to minimum contracts or re-sign the players that they have bird rights on. Two key free agents that the Grizzlies have bird rights on are Valanciunas and Wright. Both of which will likely be re-signed. This offseason, the Grizzlies should try and sign players that will bring the best out of their young trio in Morant, Jackson, and Clarke.

Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images