Vince Carter and Zach Randolph are gone. Tony Allen, still a free agent, isn’t far behind them. But that doesn’t mean the Memphis Grizzlies are ready to bust up what remains of their Grit ‘n’ Grind core.
Trade-market buyers won’t want to hear this, but according to CBS Sports’ Matt Moore, the Grizzlies consider both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol untouchable in swap-meet talks:
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.
The Boston Celtics are for Gasol, but notably, those reports have indicated interest from the Boston side, not from parties aligned with the Grizzlies or Gasol himself. Sources indicated that there has been no change or shift in the team’s approach to retaining Gasol, nor is there a sense of any relationship being significantly strained with Gasol, despite his comments to Spanish news outlet Catalan that if the team doesn’t continue to grow, the two sides may have to “revisit things” which caused a stir over the summer.
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.
It’ll be interesting to see whether this stance holds. The Western Conference is as deep as ever, and the Grizzlies join the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers as candidates to drop out of the playoff picture.
If it becomes clear around February or earlier they’re miles away from contention, the Grizzlies could look to change course. That wouldn’t be considered jumping the gun. They don’t have a clear path toward improved. They probably won’t have meaningful cap space until 2020 at the earliest, and their roster lacks the asset punch to make a worthwhile splash via trade.
Neither Gasol, 32, nor Conley, 29, is getting any younger either. The Grizzlies could still move them for a peak return before next season is out. They may not have that option next summer, when Conley is on the wrong side of 30 and Gasol has the option of exploring free agency in 2019.
Which isn’t to say the Grizzlies have to blow things up. They’ve built a reputation on exceeding expectations since roughly 2011. Maybe they won’t be one of the teams that bows out from postseason bubble. Maybe head coach David Fizdale’s contemporary offensive model will stick. Maybe Chandler Parsons stays healthy and performs up to snuff. Maybe JaMychal Green returns and makes another leap. The Grizzlies have the talent to be more than afterthought steppingstones—hence why we’re talking about Gasol and Conley being untouchable in the first place.
As for whether that designation will last beyond next season, not even the Grizzlies know. Not for sure anyway. So much—everything, really—depends on how they begin the 2017-18 campaign.