Friday, September 4, 2009

Wolves Ink Sessions; Griz Wait on Iverson

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM

The Grizzlies await an Answer that could come today.
  • The Grizzlies await an Answer that could come today.
While the Grizzlies continue to wait for an answer from free-agent guard Allen Iverson, the Minnesota Timberwolves today signed restricted free agent Ramon Sessions to a reported offer sheet of four years and $16 million. ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan suggests that the Bucks — with point guards Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour under contract and with luxury tax concerns — are unlikely to match the deal. Under this offer, Sessions' salary next season is likely to be very close to the $3.5 million the Grizzlies are reportedly offering Iverson for next season.

With the Grizzlies seeking a versatile ball-handling guard to give the team scoring punch off the bench, why wait for Iverson and not make a bid for Sessions, especially when the cost for next season would be roughly similar?

Iverson may well be the better player next season, but how far can the Grizzlies reasonably go next season? For a young team still at least a year away from playoff contention, what would bring more value? A 34-year-old Iverson (18 points and 5 assists per game last season, 15.89 PER) for one season or a 23-year-old Sessions (12 points and 6 assists per game last season, 17.65 PER) for four seasons? And this is without factoring in considerably less risk of turmoil from Sessions and less defensive liability. (Sessions is at least three inches taller)

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves might have gotten a free-agent bargain with Ramon Sessions.
  • Meanwhile, the Timberwolves might have gotten a free-agent bargain with Ramon Sessions.
The case for Iverson seems to be that he brings more publicity and ticket sales for next season and doesn't require a long-term financial commitment. Another rationale might be concern about Sessions creating counterproductive competition for the point-guard position, though I'm not sure why anyone is convinced that Allen Iverson would remain content to come off the bench for the Grizzlies.

Essentially it's a choice between short-term profitability and long-term sustainability, and the focus on the former over the latter is one of the reasons the vast majority of people who follow the NBA are questioning owner Michael Heisley's current stewardship of the team: Ramon Sessions at 4 years/$16 million is a free-agent bargain, but Heisley would rather take on the splashy, less costly one-year Iverson gimmick. A useful Hakim Warrick on a $3 million qualifying offer is a free-agent bargain, but not as cost-effective as a useless Steven Hunter with cash considerations (and, thankfully, a future draft pick) attached. David Lee now set to take a one-year deal from the Knicks, might have been a free-agent bargain, had the team pursued him, but not as cost-effective as a two-year commitment to Zach Randolph with deferred salary attached.

No reasonable person is asking Heisley to spend wildly or ignore the financial realities of running a small-market team in a bad economy. I was promoting financial restraint when the team was paying luxury tax and the economy was in better shape. But in order for the Grizzlies to succeed, they need strong, empowered management that reconciles frugality with basketball-centric decision-making — a difficult but necessary task.

The Grizzlies are better after this off-season — no doubt about it. But it's hard to ignore what has been a summer of missed opportunities due to short-term decision-making.

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