With the draft over, the next step in the NBA offseason is the free-agent negotiation period, which begins tomorrow.
With 10 players — and four big contracts — already on the books, the Grizzlies don't have many roster spots to fill or much money left to fill them with.
Here's an estimate on where the team stands heading into free agency:
Zach Randolph $16,500,000
Rudy Gay $16,460,532
Marc Gasol $13,891,359
Mike Conley $7,180,000
Tony Allen $3,300,000
Dante Cunningham $2,090,000
Quincy Pondexter $1,234,320
Tony Wroten $1,200,000*
Jeremy Pargo $1,000,000
Josh Selby $762,195
Projected Tax Line: $70,307,000
Room Under Tax: $6,688,594
Marreese Speights $3,823,362
Darrell Arthur $3,006,216
*Not only is this salary figure on Wroten an estimate, it also hasn't been signed yet. The Wroten deal might be done soon, but given how close the team is to the tax line when including those qualifying offers, it seems like there would be a chance Wroten's deal might be delayed until the team goes through free agency.
It's possible the team could trade or even buy out Pargo to open up a roster spot, but the later would keep his salary on the books and would actually add to an already tight financial crunch by opening up a roster spot without opening up extra money.
If you assume the Grizzlies will try to keep 14 players and factor in Chris Wallace's suggestion that the team will pursue a shooter and a veteran point guard in free agency, then it seems likely that the four additional players might include two frontcourt players, a point guard, and a wing shooter.
Crucial to factor in: Based on discussions I had with team officials after the draft, the impression I got is that the team will be open to the prospect of exceeding the luxury tax to begin the season, and therefore will consider using their mid-level exception to pursue a shooter and/or point guard. [And since I wrote this, but just before I was set to post, Michael Heisley has now gone on the record to confirm the team's willingness to use exceptions and exceed the tax.]
A few tidbits I've picked up today in the aftermath of last night's draft. I'll have a fuller offseason speculation post up sometime this weekend.
*The Grizzlies extended qualifying offers to Marreese Speights ($3.8 million) and Darrell Arthur ($3 million) today, making them restricted free agents, but declined to do so for O.J. Mayo and Lester Hudson, making them unrestricted. No real surprises. The team seems committed to bringing back either Arthur or Speights, and could bring back both depending on how free agency pans out. More likely is that one of the pair will be retained, along with unrestricted free-agent center Hamed Haddadi. Mayo's qualifying offer ($7.3 million) was simply too big given the team's luxury tax situation. It's theoretically possible Mayo could be brought back at a lower figure or used in a sign-and-trade deal, but both of those seem very unlikely. As for Hudson, he could still be brought back at a minimum-type contract, but I suspect any additional backcourt signings would have to have either defined point-guard skills or a more reliable three-point stroke.
*Vanderbilt shooter John Jenkins, who went a couple of picks before the Grizzlies, would have been considered at #25 but likely would not have been the pick. Perry Jones III, the draft's biggest dropper, who went to Oklahoma City at #28, was not seriously considered. The most talked about options in addition to ultimate pick Tony Wroten Jr. seem to have been point guard Marquis Teague and forward Draymond Green. My understanding is that Green was the runner-up at #25.
Despite entertaining trade offers and witnessing a couple of unexpected frontcourt prospects — Memphis native Arnett Moultrie and Baylor forward Perry Jones III — remain on the board, the Grizzlies chose University of Washington freshman point guard Tony Wroten Jr. with the #25 pick in Thursday night's draft, sticking with one of the most likely picks among the players the team had worked out in the pre-draft process.
While I would have been very tempted to take the extremely talented Jones — who fell due to questions about his passive make-up and red-flagged knee issues — and was on record as favoring Michigan State forward Draymond Green among the players the Grizzlies worked out, I like Wroten as a pure prospect in this draft range.
A big guard with significant defensive potential and what seems to be natural playmaking abilities, Wroten was the highest-upside player the Grizzlies worked out. I went into more detail about his game here.
After yesterday's final workout, featuring Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague, Grizzlies Player Personnel Director Tony Barone Sr. was asked about the likelihood that the team's pick at #25 in Thursday night's NBA Draft would come from the pool of players that had been in for a workout. He put it at 60 percent. A few minutes later, I posed the same question to Scouting Director Tony Barone Jr., who put the odds at 70 percent.
With that in mind, I'm going to focus on the — by my count — 10 draft-worthy players that were brought in:
Because he's a tweener (a 6'7.5” college power forward) who played four years at Michigan State, Green's been promoted as the proverbial “guy who plays hard” with a “high basketball IQ” who “coaches love.” All that seems to be true, and it's all important, but I also think it short-changes Green's impressive and versatile skill-set: He rebounds at a very high level, which we know tends to translate. Along with Royce White, he's probably the best frontcourt passer in the draft. And he can shoot it: Connecting on 39% of his threes last season on 3.6 attempts per game. He showed all these skills in a very strong workout with the Grizzlies, including a demonstration that he should be able to extend that shooting range out to the NBA three-point length.
Physically, Green's over 7'1” wingspan and toughness allows him to play bigger than his 6'7.5” height suggests. He's in the ballpark, physically, with effective undersized power forwards such as Trevor Booker, Carl Landry, and Udonis Haslem, but with much better passing and shooting ability. His ability to score on the block in the NBA will probably be match-up dependent, but that's true of most frontcourt prospects. The real question is defensively, where Green's tweener status is a real issue: Is he too small to guard bigs and too slow to guard wings? But Green's steal and block numbers were good in college, and his combination of wingspan, strength, and smarts should make him at least a passable defender in most instances.
Time to hurry up and wait. As the week began, most of us had never heard of Robert Pera, the 34-year-old one-time billionaire tech entrepreneur who is now bidding to buy the Memphis Grizzlies.
Four days later, Pera has an initial agreement in place with current owner Michael Heisley, including a reportedly $10 million deposit, and has not been heard from beyond a canned quote in a team press release.
Pera's purchase bid is in the hands of the NBA, where a vetting process will lead to an ultimate decision by the league's Board of Governors on whether to approve the purchase. The league may not seriously begin the vetting process until after the Finals. The endgame isn't likely to come for another couple of months and if Pera's really not going to submit himself to local inspection for awhile, this story might not move much until then.
Like everyone else, I've got a lot of questions. And, like everyone else, I don't have much in the way of answers. But I'll give it a shot:
How seriously should we take the Pera bid?
The two names mentioned most frequently as a comparison for Pera have been the Brian Davis/Christian Laettner tandem that attempted to purchase the Grizzlies a few years ago and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. This makes sense to a degree: The Davis/Laettner duo is the only prospective buyer who has made it this far in the process in the all the years Heisley has been trying to sell the team, and Pera fits the rough Cuban mold of being a young self-made tech tycoon.
The Memphis Grizzlies this afternoon officially announced a sale agreement between Michael Heisley and prospective owner Robert Pera. The release reads as follows:
Michael E. Heisley, the majority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, announced today an agreement for the sale of the franchise to an entity owned by Robert J. Pera. Robert J. Pera is the founder and CEO of Ubiquiti Networks, a publicly-traded next-generation communications technology company. The sale transaction is subject to approval by the NBA Board of Governors, antitrust clearance and other conditions.
The Grizzlies were purchased by Mr. Heisley in 2000 when the team was located in Vancouver, Canada. In 2001, the Grizzlies were relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, and in 2004 moved into FedExForum, a state-of-the art NBA arena built by the City of Memphis and Shelby County. Since moving to Memphis, the team has participated in the NBA playoffs for five seasons, including the two most successful campaigns in franchise history, in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
“I have enjoyed my ownership of the Grizzlies and the support for professional basketball in Memphis,” said Heisley. “I am confident that the franchise will continue its development toward being a perennial championship contender and an important member of the Memphis community. I am particularly gratified that we have put together a team which is poised to continue its improvement. We have an outstanding team of players, coaching staff, and basketball and business management. In Robert, we have a new owner who has expressed a total commitment to build on our success in Memphis.”
“I am excited about the opportunity to build on the work that has made the Memphis Grizzlies a highly competitive NBA team,” Pera said. “I look forward to getting to know the Memphis community and to continuing the team’s success in Memphis.”
The purchase price is in the $350 million range, sources said. A formal announcement to publicize the agreement between the parties is expected this week, possibly as soon as later Monday, with NBA Board of Governors approval then required before Pera can be officially installed as successor to Heisley, who recently turned 75.
Sources say that Pera intends to keep the team in Memphis. The Grizzlies' lease at the FedExForum, furthermore, ties the team to the city until the year 2021, with steep financial penalties attached to breaking that lease.
More — much more — as the story develops. But we should all have learned from the Brian Davis/Christian Laettner debacle to proceed with caution on these matters and not to assume too much.