If you asked anyone around the NBA 24 hours before the trade deadline what one player was the most likely guy to get traded, the answer from executives to media members was always the same — Tyreke Evans. Memphis had pulled him away from the team in Indiana, sent him home to Memphis and told him he was out until they traded him.
Except they didn’t. Evans is still a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.
What happened? Everyone knows Memphis wanted a first-round pick for Evans, but first-round picks were not available at this deadline. The Clippers couldn’t get one for Lou Williams (and he’s playing at an All-Star level this season). The only first-rounders moved all deadline were for Blake Griffin (a legit star) and to the Lakers in the Isaiah Thomas/Jordan Clarkson trade — and Cleveland has taken heat for throwing in a first for that deal (even their own first, in the mid-20s).
Friday, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace spoke to the media and explained the decision to keep Evans past the deadline, via the Associated Press.
“Basically, we felt that the offers weren’t sufficient for a player of Tyreke’s caliber and potential,” Wallace said. “And particularly they weren’t sufficient when weighed against the potential benefits of having him here for the rest of the season. So, we decided not to do anything.”
Potential benefits of keeping him around? For what? The Grizzlies are not making the playoffs this season, so his play is not that big a benefit. Maybe Evans is excellent in the locker room, maybe he makes a killer Lasagne and brings it in for team potlucks, but is that reason to keep him around? Wouldn’t two second-round picks have benefitted the team more as they try to upgrade the roster talent and save money? Or, how about getting Emmanuel Mudiay and a second-rounder out of Denver for him (that was on the table, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN)? Both those seem like better potential benefits.
More than likely, the Grizzlies are hoping that with a depressed market — Williams just re-signed for the Clippers for less than the full mid-level exception, and a team option on the third year — they can get Evans back for the mid-level (whether they can offer the full mid-level or tax-payer mid-level depends on other moves). In theory getting Mike Conley back from injury, with Evans and Marc Gasol — who was not available via trade — can make Memphis a playoff team again. If everything goes right.
However, if Evans makes more than $4 million next season — and he certainly will — all the Grizzlies can offer is the exception, and other teams can offer that or more. Whatever is offered the Grizzlies have no financial advantage to keep him. Evans is free to choose whichever team he wants.
Evans very well could be gone from Memphis this summer, and Memphis will have blown the chance to get anything for him. That said, he didn’t want to go anywhere, and he’s back with the team now, providing his benefits.
“I always wanted to stay here. It wasn’t like I asked for a trade,” Evans said. “I have a bond with my teammates. I was put in a situation where I thought I was going to be traded, but it didn’t happen.
“Everybody knows this is a business.”