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What Memphis may regret about the Rudy Gay trade

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English: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City T...

English: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder during the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, game 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Memphis Grizzlies are playing like a true title contender. Right now, the advanced stats supporting side of the Rudy Gay trade looks more on point than those who claimed the Grizzlies would miss him.

I criticized the Grizzlies for the Gay trade when it happened, but my concern isn’t that they traded Gay, a likely wise move. It’s whether what they received in return is the best they could do.

It’s clear the Grizzlies believed they could improve and contend this year trading Gay and they’ve been proven right about that. For this reason, they took on Tayshaun Prince’s long term contract – when if solely building for the future, an expiring contract like Jose Calderon may have given them more flexibility.

However the Grizzlies also had an eye on the future by acquiring Ed Davis, a young, promising PF. In other words, the Gay trade was the Grizzlies trying to have their cake and eat it too. They’d improve now, while also acquiring a young player to transition to the future.

But this may be the regret the Grizzlies have that keeps them up at night, if they don’t win the title this year. Because while Ed improves their future, he is not in the rotation or making them better now. Instead of taking Ed Davis, the Grizzlies have the option to flip him to another team for a win-now veteran who’d be in their rotation and producing now. There may have also been offers for Gay on the table from teams other than Toronto, who were offering more solely win-now production than Prince and Davis are.

In other words, the Grizzlies didn’t go all-in on winning the title this season, by choosing Davis over more immediate production. But they could’ve.

Even if just flipping Ed Davis to Atlanta for Kyle Korver – a no-brainer deal and heist from Atlanta’s side considering Korver is 32 and a UFA this summer, that gives Memphis one more player in a 3pt shooting specialist role they desperately need. That one more player may be what separates Memphis from a title and a near miss in the end. At the trade deadline flipping Davis for Korver looks insane. But with what we know now? It may be worth it. This is the year the Thunder are a lame duck. The year other young franchises who may contend in the future like Golden State, Houston, Denver, the Clippers aren’t ready yet to make the Finals (seemingly for the Warriors). Zach Randolph is in his 12th season, he may not be the same player long after this year or the next. Memphis may not get a better chance than this and every inch will matter if they want to win the title.

Of course, the Grizzlies ownership may have expected the advanced stats friendly Davis to be a productive, important part of their title run. A disconnect between ownership and Lionel Hollins may the main reason Davis isn’t producing for Memphis right now, not that he lacks the ability to.

In addition, the other argument can be made as well. That if no trade could make the Grizzlies beat the Miami Heat this year, it may end up their chances of winning a title with this core by improving the future by acquiring Ed Davis, if their real chance is later, never destined to be this year.

Finally, maybe the perfect mix is what the Grizzlies have now, for reasons that go beyond talent to fit and chemistry. If the Grizzlies win the title this year, there will be no reasonable criticism of the Rudy Gay trade. But in the chance they don’t, “what if” may hang over them. Not necessarily the what-if of keeping Rudy Gay, but the what-if of not going all-in this season, of having a young asset on the bench in Ed Davis that had the trade value of one more win-now veteran.

Written by jr.

May 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm

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