The perception among some fans is that with Zach Randolph in Sacramento and Tony Allen sitting on the free agent market too, the “grit ‘n grind” era in Memphis is over and the team is about to tear it down and rebuild. And without Allen (who could still be re-signed, depending on what happens with JaMychal Green, the restricted free agent who is in a bit of a standoff with Memphis) that era does die.
But the Grizzlies are not about to dump assets and rebuild. Not even close.
The Memphis Grizzlies consider All-Star center Marc Gasol “untouchable” and have refused to enter his name in any trade conversations, two sources close to the situation told CBS Sports this week. Gasol has been the subject of rampant speculation this summer that he could be dealt, despite being just two years into a five-year max contract signed in 2015 that doesn’t make him eligible for free agency until 2019….
Typically, the idea that Gasol could be available stems from the perception that Memphis has lost momentum and “needs” a rebuild. The Grizzlies, in reality, have made the playoffs the past seven years, and their decision to re-sign both Gasol and Mike Conley (who is also considered “untouchable” according to sources) was made with the intention of building around the duo long-term.
For Memphis, the concern is beyond simple wins and losses, however. For a small market, the Grizzlies may not have a center of Gasol’s quality for literally decades. Other teams can make moves with an idea toward mobility and flexibility. A team like Memphis has to pursue discipline in retaining its stars because of the challenges the team faces in obtaining big-name upgrades. The Grizzlies’ best path toward contention isn’t to trade Gasol, even for a high-value draft pick.
There’s another factor at play: Memphis the city has embraced this roster and this team. The physical, grinding, hard-working style of play is something the fans relate to, and they fill the building. The fans love Gasol and Conley. In a small market, that matters. It’s easy from the outside to take a “they can’t win a title with this roster, tear it down and rebuild” attitude, but that would not sit well with the Memphis fan base. Tearing it down means years and years of losing, years and years of largely empty buildings, and a lot of work to re-connect with fans. Why would they throw a successful business model away?
Gasol has said if the Grizzlies aren’t going to try to find a path forward he might reconsider his position, but right now he’s not asking for a trade. This is a Grizzlies team that won 43 games last season, will not miss Randolph as much as some fans think, will get more out of Green, has to get more out of Chandler Parsons (he can’t give them less), and made some smart gambles on guys like Ben McLemore. The bottom of the West is stacked, but if the Grizzlies stay healthy, they likely make the postseason.
Bottom line, Gasol is not on the block. Sorry Celtics fans. While we’re at it, Anthony Davis is not on the trade block right now, either.