Early in the season, Memphis were touted as title contenders and after comfortably handling Miami, they appeared unstoppable. So, have Memphis fallen from being a title contender to being a mere pretender after their recent trades?
After their both of their trades Memphis have lost Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights and Rudy Gay. In return they received Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis. It appears that they have given up considerably more than they have received, however that was the idea, the owners did not want to have Gay’s expensive contract on their books next season and needed to reduce their pay check.
After the Grizzlies hot start which saw them blow out Miami, beat Oklahoma, the Warriors, the Knicks and the Lakers in the space of a month, they slowed down. Their record since November however is a less than impressive 17-14. It could be argued that Memphis never were a contender and their impressive start was a fluke or a one off.
With Rudy Gay the Grizzlies had 3 stars in Gasol and Randolph, and one potential star in Conley. Without Gay, Memphis still look like a great team. Rudy’s favourite and most effective operating area on the court was below the three point line and posting up players, similar areas that Gasol and Randolph like to occupy. With these three players in the starting line-up the floor can be jammed and lack spacing for effective pick and rolls and drives to the basket. With the acquisition of Prince and Daye, Memphis has two three point threats to stretch the floor and create space for Randolph and Gasol to work in. Conley also has perimeter threats to kick out to when driving to the basket. The Grizzlies lacked three point shooters and in this trade they have acquired two.
Prince brings veteran leadership to a team that lacked one and will bolster the Grizzlies’ already elite defence. Ed Davis is a young player who has improved greatly this season and could become a key player in Memphis in the future. Austin Daye is also young player who could become a decent player in the future.
Ultimately both trades were money decisions by the Grizzlies to avoid luxury tax and having to pay three very pricey contracts next season. Memphis may have believed they were not legitimate title contenders anyway, and be happy making a short run in the playoffs. Even though it may feel like Memphis has a worse team without Rudy Gay, it may prove to benefit the team. It will be fascinating to see whether how good the team is with the loss of a talent such as Gay and how far they can go in the playoffs.