Shane Battier isn’t quite the defensive force he once was; even the plus-minus data that illustrated his worth to teams like the Houston Rockets — not to mention made him the subject of Michael Lewis’ renowned piece for The New York Times — has turned on him of late, leaving Battier as merely a competent defender with an above average three-point stroke. He simply isn’t suited to defend elite players on a nightly basis anymore, even though his skills certainly warrant a regular place in a high-level rotation. Some playoff club out there will do well for themselves by giving Battier minutes, but that club may not be his most recent team, the Memphis Grizzlies.
I’ve heard (and this is not fact) that Battier is seeking a contract starting at the mid-level exception (or around $5 million). I’ve also heard the Griz aren’t willing to pay that. So Battier is absolutely right when he says we’ll have to wait and see what the new CBA looks like. No one knows what the exceptions will be if there are any at all.
Battier was a nice fit in Memphis, but he’s not essential there. Tony Allen can do a lot of the defensive heavy lifting, and O.J. Mayo and Sam Young are competent defenders 0n the wing. Plus, Rudy Gay…well, there’s always room for improvement, right?
So the fact that Battier and the Grizzlies aren’t quite seeing eye-to-eye on this rumored annual salary isn’t the greatest tragedy, nor is it in any way the downfall of last year’s fun and surprising Memphis team. All of the core pieces are still in place, and with Gay returning to the rotation in the coming season, minutes for the remaining wing players would be slashed anyway. Allen is due regular burn as one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, while Young and Mayo sop up what’s left of the minutes in reserve. Gay led the Grizzlies at 39.9 minutes per game when healthy last season, and accounting for that amount of playing time requires concessions elsewhere. Battier — as a non-essential component and an unrestricted free agent — is the logical choice.
Meanwhile, every club with a need for a 3-and-D wing player (and really, who couldn’t use an extra one coming off the bench?) will likely be calling up Battier once free agency officially begins. It remains to be seen whether $5 million is an appropriate figure for Battier on this year’s market, but it’s not a ridiculous mark for a solid complementary player.