Thursday, February 8, 2018

Grizzlies keep Tyreke Evans at the trade deadline

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 3:06 PM

click to enlarge Tyreke back! - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tyreke back!

Despite sitting him out since before last week's game at Indiana while they pursued deals, the NBA's trade deadline came and went with Evans still on the Memphis roster. The Grizzlies apparently remained engaged with several Eastern Conference teams throughout the day, but they decided that trying to re-sign Evans this summer since they'd have his early Bird rights after one more year was worth more than whatever was being offered by these teams, none of whom seemed to be willing to part with a first round pick.

I don't think it was that they wanted to get a deal done and couldn't; I think it was a calculated gamble that the Grizzlies felt was worth taking. I disagree.

If the Grizzlies win more games as a result of having Evans on the team between now and the end of the season, and move from the 5th pick to the 9th pick, and then lose Evans this summer anyway, the failure to trade him for a pick and/or young player is bad. If the Grizzlies pick 9th instead of 5th but keep Evans this summer—and I'm sure they wouldn't have rolled with the idea of keeping him at the deadline unless they thought he might want to return—and then he returns to being injured and plays 25 games, that's still the same level of failure.

It comes down to this: do I legitimately think the Grizzlies will be good enough next year to need Evans as a key piece of scoring on a good/playoff team? I think it's possible, but I also think given their injury history over the last 3 years it's unlikely. In that situation, I'd rather have young talent to evaluate the rest of this year, and still have the full mid-level exception to throw at Evans or whoever else this summer. If keeping him at the deadline was the only way to guarantee keeping him in free agency, I still would have traded him, probably. Let him find the money if it's there, or return for the MLE if it's not.

As it stands—optics aside, and the optics are extremely bad, just like they were extremely bad when the Grizzlies fired David Fizdale hours after he had a public spat with Marc Gasol—I'm just not sure hanging on to Evans is a gamble that was worth taking. It looks like a failure to capitalize on a good decision and turn it into future potential. The second another team (and the Kings proved today there are still teams making bad decisions) overpays Evans this summer, and he takes the money, the Grizzlies have gotten nothing at all for a 20-point-a-game scorer on an expiring deal, and that's extreme malfeasance (almost like trying to trade OJ Mayo but turning it in too late). Even if that doesn't happen, I'm just not sold that it was the right call.

There's another side of this, too. Is the 27th pick in the draft worth not winning a playoff series? For a team like Boston or Philadelphia, where Evans' scoring could be the difference between missing the playoffs and a 6 seed, why the reluctance to give up more? Money is tight for free agency, so picks and young players on rookie deals are worth even more, but it's frustrating to see the Grizzlies, who can't win this year, worry more about winning than about assets, while playoff teams who need a player like Evans are more worried about assets than about winning. This was a strange trade deadline—and the Clippers' extension of Lou Williams may have been a signal that this summer is going to be just as jammed up.

If Evans is back on the Grizzlies, wins 6th Man of the Year, and they're good, I will come back to this reaction and admit I was wrong. But this is not the path I would have chosen, were I the one making the decisions.


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