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Memphis Grizzlies Trade Saves Tony Allen, For Now

dfavale January 22, 2013 Dan Favale No Comments

The Memphis Grizzlies have traded Marreese Speights to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a move that solidifies their future as an NBA title contender.

According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the deal will save the Grizzlies more than $6 million in salary and, most importantly, prevent them from paying any luxury tax penalties:

The Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a multiplayer trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, slicing more than $6 million off their payroll to get under the luxury tax threshold, league sources told ESPN.com.

A trade call to finalize the deal is scheduled for Tuesday.

The Grizzlies would send big man Marreese Speights, guard Wayne Ellington and guard Josh Selby to the Cavs for big man Jon Leuer. There are also believed to be a future draft pick involved in the deal.

Reducing payroll both short- and long-term has been a goal of the new Grizzlies ownership and led to other trade talks involving Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph over the past several weeks.

Speights averages 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds as a key big man off the bench for the Grizzlies but makes $4.2 million this season and has a player option at $4.5 million for next season. The Grizzlies owe Gay, Randolph and Marc Gasol nearly $50 million alone next year.

Ellington is averaging 5.5 points in 40 games off the bench.

The Cavs were able to make the deal because they had more than $10 million in cap space in which to absorb Speights. That would likely mean the Grizzlies would receive a trade exception of more than $6 million that would be good for a year.

Though the deal allows the Grizzlies to keep both Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, lost in all this is the future of Tony Allen.

Yes, Randolph and Gay are two of Memphis’ best players, but Allen is its best defender, and he’s one of the league’s best (if not the best) perimeter defenders. He’s also an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Even without Allen’s salary on the books next year, though, the Grizzlies were projected to owe more than $72 million in salary. This trade brings them down to around $65 million. And that’s without moving either Gay or Randolph—which is huge. Also huge is the fact that if the Grizz decline the $1.4 million team option on Hamed Haddadi, it gives them approximately $6.4 million in cap space to play around with.

Meaning?

That Memphis can now easily access $6.4 million to re-sign Allen and stay under the luxury tax threshold, while retaining both Randolph and Gay. And this is nothing short of spectacular.

The Grizzlies have emerged as one of the premiere teams in the Western Conference this season, a bona fide title contender if you will. Trading either Randolph or Gay put that very reputation and their title aspirations at risk. Not trading them, however, would have resulted in a battery of luxury tax fees and complicated Allen’s impending free agency.

So yeah, I feel the need to reiterate again how big this is. Not just because the Grizzlies saved money. And not just because Gay and Randolph can be removed from the chopping block. But because the Grizzlies accomplished all this while also preserving its chances of bringing back Allen, the heart and soul of their defense.

In other words, the future remains bright in Memphis.

Like championship-contender-for-the-foreseeable-future bright.

Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.

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