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Proposing 3 potential trades that could spark the Memphis Grizzlies

Proposing 3 potential trades that could spark the Memphis Grizzlies

The trade deadline is fast approaching and the Memphis Grizzlies have to make an important decision.

Grizzlies general manager and executive vice president Zach Kleiman has been doing his best Marvel impression by living in a multiverse, attempting to walk out two timelines: contending and developing.

The core of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane is in its third year together and, when healthy, is one of the top trios in the entire NBA. More importantly, only Jackson is beyond his rookie contract, as Morant and Bane are both still on rookie deals. This fact has led to a polarizing debate surrounding the Grizzlies.

When Memphis knocked the Golden State Warriors out of the first NBA Play-In Tournament, everyone raved at the "ahead-of-schedule" nature of this team. Last season, the team traded away Jonas Valanciunas for Steven Adams and a shot at developing Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama. Kleiman was trying to develop ancillary pieces while still putting a competitive product on the floor.

Morant and the Grizzlies surprised everyone, finishing with the second-best record in the league and pushing the eventual-champion Warriors to six games in arguably Golden State's toughest series last year. The "ahead-of-schedule" Grizzlies were still given a pass because they were young and overacheiving. 

Memphis is still the second seed in the Western Conference despite losing eight of their last nine contests. Injuries have been a huge factor as Jackson (17 games), Bane (22), Adams (10) and Morant (8) have all missed time due to injury. With the NBA trade deadline on Thursday, the question is whether Kleiman will push the chips in and go for a title piece this year or continue on his multiverse timeline.

Re-signing Adams and Tyus Jones suggests Memphis is interested in contending. Trading away De'Anthony Melton, who struggled mightily in the postseason, suggests the same. Playing Ziaire Williams, David Roddy and Jake LaRavia is the organization attempting to sneak in development. It makes sense, as you have to find the right role players on affordable deals (in this case, rookie contracts) who can have winning impact around your big three. 

But even if it makes sense, there is also the flip side. At some point, you are no longer ahead of schedule and overachieving. At some point, the schedule and timeline eventually readjust to the progress that has been made, and a new schedule begins. The Grizzlies are no longer up-and-coming. They are here and the league has adjusted, and so must Memphis.

There have been social-media posts circling that the Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans both do not want their counterpart to land O.G. Anunoby, and that Memphis would be a perfect fit for OG. This Grizzlies front office has historically moved in silence, and nothing suggests it will overpay in a bidding war for a player who might move the needle toward a title.

Over the next few days, Kleiman will have to decide what is most important for the franchise entrusted to his leadership. The Grizzlies clearly need shooting (still) and perimeter defending — two things every team is looking for at all times. 

Morant, Bane and Jackson are non-starters in any trade conversation (as they should be). They are a core that meshes beautifully. It's the pieces surrounding them that Kleiman has to be willing to part ways with.

One of the most polarizing players in the NBA is Dillon Brooks; you either hate him or you love him. He is on an expiring contract, with his days in Memphis possibly winding away. Brooks' antics on the court and refusal to accept his spot in the pecking order offensively at times have led many to wonder whether he is a long-term fit with the Grizzlies.

With Bane due for a near-max payday, Brooks could be traded at the deadline for assets or given the Kyle Anderson treatment, using his contributions for this run and letting his deal expire at season's end.

Then, there is Jones, who is often lauded as the best backup point guard in the NBA and basically a health-insurance policy for Morant. Memphis needs to send Tyus somewhere he can start and bring in a bigger combo guard who can help Bane run the non-Morant minutes. 

Adams and Danny Green are the veterans on the roster who also have extremely tradeable contracts if Kleiman were to do some type of big-game hunting. Adams' presence has allowed Jackson to develop into the Defensive Player of the Year candidate he has become, but at some point, JJJ needs to become the full-time starting 5. 

Williams and Xavier Tillman are pieces that Memphis should be willing to include to upgrade their roster. And as well as Memphis has done drafting the last few years, they should now be at the point in this process where first-round picks are on the table. 

OUTLINING POTENTIAL TRADE IDEAS

I'm no trade-machine guru, but something along the lines of this framework makes sense for both teams:

Memphis gets to keep its primary defender in Brooks while adding a 24-year-old scorer to come off the bench. If the Toronto Raptors begin a fire sale, they get an expiring contract, two second-round picks (Trent's reported projected value) and a player who fits their mold of lenghty wings.

The Grizz bench unit is currently 12th in the NBA in scoring at 35.5 points per contest, but is a minus-313 in scoring for the season. They are also 25th in three-point percentage (32.4%) in the league. Adding Gary Trent Jr. could bolster a glaring weakness if Memphis is to be a legitimate contender. 

In the interest of getting assets in return for Brooks, Kleiman would likely be choosing to remain on the course of developing players, as Morant, Jackson and Bane are not yet in their primes. Memphis can recoup cheaper, more controllable assets by moving Dillon:

In this scenario, Memphis takes a shot on Cam Reddish while finding the eventual Jones replacement in Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks get a perfect-fit player to go with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle in Brooks as they attempt to make a run in the Eastern Conference this postseason, plus a lottery-protected first-rounder from the Grizzlies via the Warriors (from the Andre Iguodala trade in July 2019.)

Speaking of replacing Jones, Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins could use a defensive upgrade in the backcourt as well someone with a little more size:

The Chicago Bulls are at a crossroads, and if they decide to start rebuilding the makeup of their roster, bringing in Jones as their starting point guard would not be the worst idea. The Grizzlies get two combo guards in Alex Caruso and Coby White in this trade framework.

White is playing the least amount of minutes of his career this season, and could afford a change of scenery. Caruso is a perfect fit for Memphis, as an athletic guard who can defend on the perimeter. This move also fits Kleiman's desire to flirt with two timelines.

These three trades could be a sequence of moves done at once, but there's a next-to-zero chance Memphis makes multiple moves at the deadline, if any. However, there are peripheral moves to be made for Memphis because it seems clear that standing pat and riding it out is no longer the right choice for this franchise. 

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