Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Griz, Tony Allen Agree to Four-Year, $20 Million Deal

Posted By on Tue, Jul 2, 2013 at 11:53 PM

The Grindfather Returns
On a day when wing players around the NBA were signing bigger-than-expected deals — four years and $27 million for J.J. Redick, four years and $30 million for Kevin Martin, three years and $16 million for Chase Budinger, and four years and $22 million for Martell Webster — the market for Grizzlies guard Tony Allen seemed to be moving in divergent directions.

On the one hand, the asking price for starting-caliber but non-All-Star wing players was coming in higher than the Grizzlies may have hoped to go for Allen. On the other, some potential Allen suitors — notably the Clippers and Pacers — seemed to be filling up roster spots or salary space needed to entice Allen.

In the end, the negotiation between Allen and the Grizzlies seems to have come down to years — a guaranteed fourth year for the 31-year-old guard with a sometimes balky knee. And Allen got his fully guaranteed fourth year in a four-year, $20 million dollar deal that is, nevertheless, still less on a per-year basis than any other wing player signing on Tuesday. This for the only player in the group that has made three straight all-defensive teams, the only player in the group who just started on a conference finalist, and, certainly, the only player in the group to have significant, tangible box-office and marketing value beyond his on-court merits.

According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, Allen's contract is set up with escalating salaries. Based on 7.5% raises allotted in the league's collective bargaining agreement, and my own algebra, Allen's contract should look something like this year-by-year:

2013-2014: $4.5 million
2014-2015: $4.8 million
2015-2016: $5.2 million
2016-2017: $5.5 million

My own educated guess is that the Grizzlies were willing to go higher on a starting salary but reluctant to agree to four fully guaranteed years. Starting out lower than the mid-level exception ($5.15 million) may have been a compromise to get that fourth year.

That fourth year could be a problem based on Allen's age, knee issues, and athleticism-dependent game, but at that number it wouldn't be a crippling one even in a worst-case scenario and if this contract feels like a slight overpay — and I'm not sure it's even that — the degree to which Allen outperformed his initial contract mitigates that. And no one in Memphis wanted to retire their gray grit-grind T-shirts quite yet.

Re-signing Allen wasn't the only business the Grizzlies conducted late Tuesday night. The team also reached a multi-year agreement with forward Jon Leuer with a starting salary a little lower than the qualifying offer the team declined earlier in the week. The three-year deal at just under $3 million gives the Grizzlies room to develop Leuer at a low risk, in the hopes that he can be a cost-effective stretch-the-floor option at the back of their frontcourt rotation.

With Leuer's salary likely to be around $900,000 next season, the Grizzlies estimated (by me) payroll is now about $66.3 million for 12 players. The Grizzlies still have the full mid-level exception (as well as several trade exceptions) at their disposal, though using the full MLE would likely take the team above the luxury tax threshold given potential contract incentives.

Barring an unexpected trade, the most likely course now will be to find a contributing perimeter shooter, probably in the $2-$3 million range, and then fill out the last roster spot or two with minimum-salary players.

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