Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Four Paths: Trading Up

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 7:50 AM

In order to avoid a single 2500 word tome of a post, I'm going to break up my initial post-lottery analysis into multiple entries that will go up throughout the morning.

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With the ocean of possibility that is the second overall pick, there appear to be four main rivers the Grizzlies could take, each with many tributaries heading toward myriad draft-day scenarios.

The first thing the Grizzlies should do is put in a call to the Clippers about snagging that top pick and getting Blake Griffin.

The Clippers are one of the few teams I thought were a candidate to move off the top pick. (Minnesota was another.) The Clippers are on the hook for $33 million over the next two seasons for Zach Randolph and $33 million over the next three seasons for Chris Kaman, so the frontcourt is a little clogged up for Griffin. Also, the Clippers desperately need a player that can change the tone on the court and encourage more team basketball — and the pass-happy Ricky Rubio would fit the bill. Further, if the team were able to move Baron Davis, a Rubio-Eric Gordon backcourt would be one of the best young guard combos in the league.

So, let's entertain, for a moment the possibility that the Clippers might be willing to move the pick. What would it take?

Presumably, if the Clippers are moving down to #2, it's to take Rubio, so they wouldn't be interested in Mike Conley. With Kaman, Randolph, and Marcus Camby ($7.6 million next season) all under contract, Marc Gasol wouldn't make much sense and the Grizzlies wouldn't want to deal him anyway. And O.J. Mayo is clearly not an option.

It would be great if the Grizzlies could use Darrell Arthur or the #27 pick as sweetener to swap picks with the Clippers, but I don't see that being enough to get a deal done. That leaves two possibilities — Rudy Gay and a future, lightly protected pick.

The #2 (Rubio) and a future #1 (say top five protected next season) for the #1 (Griffin) would make some sense, but the more I think about it the more I think the Grizzlies should be open to moving Gay in a bid to go after Griffin.

The deal would likely be #1 and Al Thornton for #2 and Gay. I'm not much of a Thornton fan, but I would do this deal from a Grizzlies perspective because of the long-range implications.

Set Gay aside for a moment and think about adding Griffin to the current roster: You would have a Mayo-Griffin combo as your core with Marc Gasol at center and, for now at least, Mike Conley at point guard. Even if Gay is still on the team, he's probably at best your fourth most important player going forward after Mayo, Griffin, and Gasol (whose toughness and skill at the center position is harder to replace than Gay's wing scoring).

And yet Gay would need to be re-signed before any of those players. Do you want a big deal for Rudy Gay on the books when you're looking at similar or bigger deals for three players you deem more important to your long-range plans? There's an argument to be made — and I guess I'm making it — that if the Grizzlies can add Blake Griffin to a core of Mayo, Gasol, and Conley, then the team would ultimately be better off without Rudy Gay, especially with the cap space to sign or trade for tougher, role-player-type small forward (Trevor Ariza, maybe?).

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