Mike Conley: ‘Frustrating’ Grizzlies aren’t premier destination in free agency

Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
6 Comments

Nearly anytime we post a story with the general premise of “Team A is targeting in Star X,” it elicits a reaction like: “Of course, Team A is targeting Star X. Every team is targeting Star X.”

But not every team is committed to chasing stars. Sure, all teams want stars. But several teams believe they play in markets that can’t attract stars and therefore don’t waste their resources bothering.

Like the Grizzlies.

Mike Conley, via Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post:

“Yeah, it definitely can be frustrating,” Conley said. “Being in Memphis, being part of a smaller market, you have a tough time in free agency, and you have to build through the draft. With all the things teams have been able to accomplish through free agency, and through all the player movement, you kind of miss out on that.”

The Grizzlies’ biggest outside free agent signing – Chandler Parsons to a max contract in 2016 – flopped amid his injury issues (which contributed to reduced competition for him). But the Trail Blazers also reportedly offered Parsons a max contract, and Memphis got him.

But otherwise, the Grizzlies haven’t been heavy hitters in free agency. That they’ve often lacked major cap space mostly speaks to Conley’s point. They haven’t tried to open cap space, because it tends to be more meaningful in other markets.

So, Memphis is at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t make it hopeless. Smart drafting (like picking Conley) and trading (like acquiring Marc Gasol) can help.

And destination markets can change. We’re not far removed from the Warriors being an undesirable team. Everyone used to want to play for the Knicks. The Lakers have gone up and down in their ability to attract stars. I’m certainly not predicting stars will flock to Memphis, but if the Grizzlies win enough, they’ll change their reputation.

Of course, that’s harder to do in the first place without the aid of major free agents.