Jan 4, 2013, 3:01 PM EDT
Memphis is one of those “maybe if everything goes right” contenders. They are not as talented as Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Clippers, but they have a dominating front line with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. In the last couple weeks their elite defense has taken a step back, their already unimpressive offense has done the same, and they haven’t looked like much of a threat. But you look at that front line as a playoff matchup and you always think they have a puncher’s chance.
That may not be enough for the Grizzlies new ownership, which still runs a small market team over the luxury tax line.
All of this explains why Memphis, over the last few weeks, has made it known in preliminary talks with other teams that Rudy Gay could be available via trade, according to sources around the league. Memphis also has a brand-new ownership and a revamped front office; John Hollinger and Jason Levien are in, longtime personnel gurus the Barones are out, and Chris Wallace’s current level of power as holdover GM is unclear. They can also cite their exciting 2011 playoff run without Gay, though that run involved a superhuman performance from Zach Randolph, a very good matchup in San Antonio, and a much deeper wing core with actual shooters.
You should go read the entire article. Lowe goes on to look at what teams might be interested in Gay. Minnesota makes sense if Gay is willing to play more off the ball and get passes from Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. The Milwaukee Bucks are in the mix. Lowe lists the Boston Celtics, but good luck getting anyone to take on Jeff Green’s contract. The Rockets are open to just about anything. Toronto was interested in Gay in the past. There are options.
I don’t think it happens during the season for a couple reasons. First is the fact Gay is owed $37 million for the two seasons after this one. We have seen proven lately that no contract is unmovable (hello Gilbert Arenas and Joe Johnson) but that size deal makes it much harder, especially with teams afraid of the repeater tax and stiffer luxury tax penalties that kick in starting next summer. These larger, complex deals tend to be summer trades.
Second, if Memphis is serious about trying to make a playoff run they need him. When the Grizzlies roll out a lineup of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Gay, Randolph and Gasol they are besting opponents by 12.8 points per 48 minutes. That is their bread and butter lineup, they have it on the floor three times more than any other single lineup. There have been some limited lineups that have had success (and they would be getting some talent back in any trade, someone like Andrei Kirilenko could step right into major minutes) but they are trading away a key piece if they want to take their shot at a ring, slim though it might be.
It’s something to watch, and how it plays out gives you a sense of how the new ownership and management view this roster and what they plan to do going forward.
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