Grizzlies Rumors

Community Shootaround: Will The Grizzlies Make The Playoffs?

Led by stellar seasons from Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ja Morant and second-year big man Jaren Jackson Jr., the 28-26 Grizzlies have a solid lead in the race for the West’s No. 8 seed in the 2020 playoffs.

Burly veteran center Jonas Valančiūnas has proved to be a perfect frontcourt complement to Jackson. Young players like rookie power forward Brandon Clarke, third-year wing Dillon Brooks and second-year point guard De’Anthony Melton have all shown promise too.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies will also be up against the NBA’s toughest post-All Star break schedule, per Tankathon, as they wrap up what has to this point been an exciting season. Schedule strength is determined by combining the winning percentage for all of a team’s upcoming opponents.

Among Memphis’ most intimidating future combatants down the home stretch are the 46-8 Bucks, the 41-12 Lakers (twice), the 40-15 Raptors (twice), and the 38-16 Celtics.

The No. 11-seeded Pelicans, with a 23-32 record, have the easiest schedule remaining in the league. The No. 9-seeded Trail Blazers (25-31) have the sixth-hardest road ahead. The No. 10-seeded Spurs (23-31) boast the 11th-easiest schedule. Memphis is currently in the No. 8 seed, but maybe these more favorable schedules (and the health of a certain rookie in New Orleans) will give one of the teams breathing down the Grizzlies’ necks an opportunity to snatch the seed.

We want to hear what you think. Can the new-look Grizzlies continue their recent string of success and hold off the Blazers, Spurs and Pelicans to secure a 2020 playoff berth? Or will one of these other teams make a playoff push of their own?

Weigh in with your thoughts below!

Latest On The Dunk Contest Controversy

The judges at Saturday’s dunk contest intended for the event to end in a tie, but their plan failed when three of them awarded nines on Aaron Gordon‘s final jam, according to Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

After Derrick Jones Jr. and Gordon both received 50s on their first dunks in the dunk-off, Jones finished his night with a running slam from just inside the foul line that received a 48. Gordon sought to clinch the trophy in dramatic fashion by jumping over 7’5″ Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, but after a long wait the judges awarded him three nines and two 10s for a final score of 47.

“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” said hip-hop artist Common, who served as one of the judges. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”

A second judge, Candace Parker, confirmed Common’s comments, saying the intent was for the dunk-off to end in a tie, which would have meant a poll of the judges to determine a winner.

“I really felt it was an even battle, and we, as judges, felt the scores should be even and they should just have a judge-off,” Common said after a breath-taking series of dunks from both competitors. “We had the cards. Put your card up for who had the best dunks.”

Gordon started the event with perfect scores on his first five dunks. He expected a sixth after dunking over Fall, and he and the crowd at the United Center in Chicago were visibly dismayed when the final results left him a point behind Jones. It was a familiar experience for Gordon, who also lost the 2016 dunk contest to Zach LaVine in a controversial decision.

“We’re here to do four dunks,” Gordon told reporters afterward. “It should be the best of four dunks. I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s. That’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it’s over. But I don’t know. Who’s running the show?”

There’s more on the wild finish to All-Star Saturday Night:

  • Despite the controversy, Jones believes he was the rightful winner and was unhappy with the score he received on his final dunk, relays Andre Fernandez of The Athletic“When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school,” Jones said. “I know that’s 50-worthy. There’s no way I should have gotten a 48.”
  • Jones also said he could have kept dunking as long as the contest remained tied (video link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I just turned 23,” said Jones, who had a birthday cake wheeled onto the court before his first dunk. “I’ve got legs for days, bro.”
  • Fall tells Shelburne that his role in Gordon’s final dunk wasn’t pre-arranged (Twitter link). After a night that saw several dunks over other people, Gordon picked out the tallest man in the building. “I was scared for my life,” Fall admitted.
  • Dwyane Wade, one of the three judges who gave Gordon a nine on his final attempt, denied that the score was a favor to Jones, his former Heat teammate. “I wasn’t the only one who gave him a 9, let’s talk about that!” Wade said in a video tweeted by Complex Sports.
  • Several commentators suggested that the controversy may affect the league’s ability to get elite dunkers in future competitions. After watching the event, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, who many wanted to see participate this year, tweeted, “Y’all just made my decision easier,” then later sent out a video of American Idol judge Randy Jackson saying, “Yeah, it’s a no from me dawg.”
  • Dwight Howard offered a tribute to Kobe Bryant with his second dunk, taking off his shirt to reveal a Superman jersey underneath, then taking away the S logo to to show a number 24. He told Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that Bryant had agreed to be part of the dunk before his tragic death last month (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Kleiman, RoCo, Melli, Grizzlies

Grizzlies executive vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman spoke with select media on Monday about an exciting Memphis season. Part of the gathered scrum included Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I think the secret’s out on the Grizzlies at this point,” Kleiman said. “Just watching them night in and night out, these guys really like playing with each other, and from our perspective, that’s great to see.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The early returns on the fit of new Rockets power forward Robert Covington are encouraging, at least to Covington and defensive coach Elston Turner, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko“Still getting comfortable with everything but I feel really confident and we’ve been playing well the past couple [of] games,” Covington said.
  • Rookie Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli will be joining his teammates Zion Williamson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker in tomorrow’s All-Star Rising Stars Game, according to an official NBA release. Melli will replace second-year Suns center Deandre Ayton, out with a sore ankle. Since Ayton was representing the World Team, his replacement had to come from that group as well.
  • With a 28-26 record heading into the All-Star break, the Grizzlies are rounding into form with a four-game lead for the West’s No. 8 seed, per Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. They have become one of the NBA’s best defensive teams this month. Their exciting youth movement will be well-represented in the All-Star weekend’s Rising Stars game.

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Butler, J. Robinson, Embiid

Justise Winslow is thrilled about his new start in Memphis, but in an interview with Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel he offered little insight into an injury that has forced him to miss all but 11 games this season. Winslow has taken the court just once since December 6 because of a lower back bone bruise. “The (Miami) coaching staff thought I was able to play,” Winslow said without further explanation.

After being taken with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, Winslow developed into a versatile forward for the Heat and often handled play-making duties. However, the lingering injury and the development of young talent in Miami made him expandable in last week’s trade for Andre Iguodala.

“I’m not going to give any dates (for a possible return), I’m sorry,” Winslow said. “But it’s been an ongoing thing this season. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure the Miami Heat did everything that they thought was right to try to help me. Things didn’t work out. I’m here now. I wish I could tell you a date that I’m expected to be back, but there isn’t one.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jimmy Butler has finally found a team that views the NBA the same way he does, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Butler clashed with teammates, coaches and management in his previous three stops, but his ultra-competitive attitude is welcome with the Heat“When [Butler] was in other places, he got knocked for (speaking his mind),” Iguodala said. “He was disruptive toward his other teammates, but you put him around some guys that actually want to get to the grind, what did he do for them? He upped their level of play, right?”
  • Jerome Robinson sees the Wizards as an ideal fit and is ready for the opportunity he never got with the Clippers, relays Chase Hughes of NBA Sports. Robinson was a lottery pick in 2019, but often languished on the bench as L.A. focused on challenging for a title. He’s hoping for more playing time in Washington after being traded there last week. “Experience, that’s what you really learn from,” Robinson said. “To grow as a player and a person, I think this is a great step for me right here.”
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer believes the Hornets should pounce on the opportunity if Sixers center Joel Embiid ever goes on the trade market.

Forbes Releases 2020 NBA Franchise Valuations

The Knicks have had a miserable 12 months, finishing the 2018/19 season with a league-worst 17 wins, missing out on their top free agent targets, and then firing head coach David Fizdale and president of basketball operations Steve Mills during the 2019/20 season.

None of that seems to have had a noticeable impact on the team’s market value though. Once again, the franchise is considered the most valuable of any of the NBA’s 30 clubs, according to a report from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. The Lakers and Warriors aren’t far behind, having both surpassed the $4 billion mark for the first time this year.

For the first time, all 30 NBA teams have a perceived worth of $1.3 billion or more, per Forbes’ annual report. Every team’s value increased by at least 6% since Forbes put out their 2019 valuations last February, with a handful of franchises jumping by 20% or more.

The NBA-wide average of $2.12 billion per team in 2020 is also a new record — that league-wide average surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time. NBA franchise values are up almost sixfold over the last decade, according to Badenhausen.

Here’s the full list of NBA franchise valuations, per Forbes:

  1. New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: $4.4 billion
  3. Golden State Warriors: $4.3 billion
  4. Chicago Bulls: $3.2 billion
  5. Boston Celtics: $3.1 billion
  6. Los Angeles Clippers: $2.6 billion
  7. Brooklyn Nets: $2.5 billion
  8. Houston Rockets: $2.475 billion
  9. Dallas Mavericks: $2.4 billion
  10. Toronto Raptors: $2.1 billion
  11. Philadelphia 76ers: $2 billion
  12. Miami Heat: $1.95 billion
  13. Portland Trail Blazers: $1.85 billion
  14. San Antonio Spurs: $1.8 billion
  15. Sacramento Kings: $1.775 billion
  16. Washington Wizards: $1.75 billion
  17. Phoenix Suns: $1.625 billion
  18. Denver Nuggets: $1.6 billion
  19. Milwaukee Bucks: $1.58 billion
  20. Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.575 billion
  21. Utah Jazz: $1.55 billion
  22. Indiana Pacers: $1.525 billion
  23. Atlanta Hawks: $1.52 billion
  24. Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.51 billion
  25. Charlotte Hornets: $1.5 billion
  26. Detroit Pistons: $1.45 billion
  27. Orlando Magic: $1.43 billion
  28. Minnesota Timberwolves: $1.375 billion
  29. New Orleans Pelicans: $1.35 billion
  30. Memphis Grizzlies: $1.3 billion

The Raptors are among this year’s big “winners,” with their value rising 25%, from $1.675 billion a year ago to $2.1 billion this year following their first NBA championship. The Clippers also had a noteworthy bump, moving from ninth place on Forbes’ list to sixth after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer.

Although every franchise’s value increased, the Nets had the smallest jump, just 6%. The Magic‘s modest 8% increase resulted in the team slipping from 23rd on last year’s list to 27th this year.

It’s worth noting that when a franchise has been sold in recent years, the price often exceeds Forbes’ valuation, so these figures are just estimates.

Southwest Notes: Winslow, Grizzlies, Mavs, Gordon

The Grizzlies faced some criticism for last week’s trade with Miami and Minnesota, which saw them trade away veteran forwards Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill for Justise Winslow, Gorgui Dieng, and Dion Waiters.

The price for acquiring Winslow was taking on a pair of pricey multiyear contracts that – along with a Dillon Brooks extension – eliminated Memphis’ projected cap room for the summer of 2020. However, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman said today that the team feels Winslow is worth that price, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian relays.

Kleiman referred to Winslow as a player who will be a “very strong fit” both on and off the court for the Grizzlies, praising the forward’s work ethic, basketball IQ, and defensive tenacity.

“There were several options that were on the table at the end of the day,” Kleiman said. “… We’re well aware that we leveraged our cap space (for 2020), pulling ourselves out of the free agent market. There’s an opportunity cost to doing so. None of that is lost on us. But to be able to add one player that we believe in as a key piece to fit what we’re building, that was Plan A. That was the deal that we were hoping to get.”

Of course, Winslow’s health is the question mark that looms over the deal, but Kleiman said today that Memphis fully expects the former lottery pick to return to the court this season and is confident his back injury won’t be a long-term issue, per Herrington.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • By insisting on finding a trade for Andre Iguodala instead of simply buying him out, the Grizzlies aimed to send a message to the rest of the NBA that they shouldn’t just be viewed as a “feeder system for the league’s glamour destinations,” writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.
  • Despite a little drama leading up to the trade deadline, both Iguodala and the Grizzlies said they were on the same page when it came to having the swingman stay away from the team. Iguodala told Sam Amick of The Athletic that the Grizzlies actually approached him about the idea. “We were in communication with Andre’s camp,” Kleiman said today, per Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. “The communications were fine and we were on the same page throughout.”
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic shares some Mavericks-related trade deadline leftovers, reporting that the team inquired on Alex Len before the Hawks sent him to Sacramento. Aldridge also says there was “scuttlebutt in the air” that Delon Wright and/or Justin Jackson were available.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon is expected to be sidelined with a left shin contusion until after the All-Star break, head coach Mike D’Antoni said today (Twitter link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston).

Grizzlies Waive Dion Waiters

3:57pm: The Grizzlies officially confirmed that they have waived Waiters, via a team press release (Twitter link).

3:39pm: The Grizzlies have waived Dion Waiters, acquired from the Heat in a three-team deal that also sent Justise Winslow and Gorgui Dieng to Memphis, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter link). A prior report had suggested that Waiters would not be long for Memphis.

The 6’3″ shooting guard, 28, was taken with the No. 4 pick by the Cavaliers in the 2012 NBA draft. He had productive, albeit erratic, seasons with the Cavaliers, Thunder and Heat before injuries and off-court issues marred his output. Waiters has not played more than 46 games since the 2015/16 NBA season. He has suited up for just three games this season.

The 26-26 Grizzlies are prioritizing youth and upside as they build around promising young stars Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant. While Waiters had to be included in the deal with Miami for salary-matching purposes, he wasn’t in Memphis’ long-term plans.

Charania notes that Waiters will be paid in full by the Grizzlies for the remainder of this season and his complete $12.6MM salary for the 2020/21 season, the final year remaining on the four-year, $52MM deal he signed with the Heat in 2017.

23 Trade Exceptions Generated In Deadline Deals

As we explain in our glossary entry on the NBA’s trade rules, teams that complete a “non-simultaneous” deal can create what’s called a traded player exception. These are salary cap exceptions a team can use anytime during the following calendar year to acquire one or more players whose salaries are no greater than the amount of that exception (plus $100K).

A number of the traded player exceptions created at the 2019 trade deadline expired this week without being used, but nearly two dozen new TPEs were generated as a result of the trades completed at this year’s deadline. They’ll expire next February, so they could be used during the offseason or sometime next season.

The full list of traded player exceptions created this week is below, sorted by amount. The player whose departure helped generate the TPE is noted in parentheses. The full list of available trade exceptions can be found right here.

In addition to the traded player exceptions from the deals completed on February 6, this list includes the exceptions created on February 5 in the four-team trade involving the Hawks, Timberwolves, Rockets, and Nuggets.

It doesn’t include trade exceptions generated in deals earlier this season, such as the $7,069,662 TPE the Trail Blazers got when they sent Kent Bazemore to Sacramento in a five-player trade. Again, the full list of current TPEs can be found here.

If you have any questions or corrections, please let me know in the comment section below.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post.

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots After Trade Deadline

The 2020 NBA trade deadline has come and gone, so teams that had been holding open roster spots in case they needed them before a last-minute deal can now fill those openings, if they so choose. The Nets did exactly that today — after holding their 15th roster spot open through the deadline, they signed Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to a multiyear contract today to fill it.

While Brooklyn no longer has an open roster spot, a number of teams around the league still do. Here’s a quick breakdown of which clubs fit that bill and what their roster situations are, with their roster openings noted in parentheses:

  • Golden State Warriors (3): The Warriors initially had six roster openings, but signed Juan Toscano-Anderson and promoted Ky Bowman and Marquese Chriss to fill three of them. Zach Norvell and Jeremy Pargo are expected to sign 10-day deals, allowing Golden State to get to the league-mandated minimum of 14. The Dubs will probably keep their 15th slot open as they attempt to stay below the tax line.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (2): Alfonzo McKinnie agreed to a long-term contract with the Cavaliers and will fill one of their two open spots once his deal becomes official. However, the team could re-open that second slot this weekend when Marques Bolden‘s 10-day contract expires.
  • Houston Rockets (2): The Rockets figure to keep a close eye on the buyout market as they look to reinforce their depth. They’ll have up to two weeks to get back to at least 14 players.
  • Atlanta Hawks (1): The Hawks opened a roster spot by trading Jabari Parker and Alex Len to Sacramento for Dewayne Dedmon. They’re not anywhere near the tax, so I’d expect them to fill that opening soon with a young player, either on a 10-day deal or a rest-of-season contract.
  • Los Angeles Clippers (1): The Clippers opened up one roster spot by trading Derrick Walton. They’re expected to open up a second by waiving Isaiah Thomas, a move that isn’t yet official. Like Houston, the Clips figure to scour the buyout market in an effort to fill its roster. Darren Collison is also an option if he decides to make a comeback.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (1): The Thunder stood pat at the deadline and seem unlikely to fill that final roster spot anytime soon, since a 15th man would increase their projected tax bill.
  • Portland Trail Blazers (1): The same goes for the Trail Blazers, who remain in the tax even after moving Skal Labissiere for nothing at the deadline.
  • Denver Nuggets / Memphis Grizzlies / Orlando Magic (0): The Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Magic don’t currently have roster openings, but likely will soon. Denver is expected to waive Gerald Green, Memphis reportedly doesn’t intend to keep Dion Waiters, and Gary Clark‘s 10-day contract with Orlando will expire tonight.

Note: These roster counts are up to date as of the time of publication. This list is just a snapshot and won’t be updated to reflect subsequent moves, but our roster counts page will be.

Rockets, Grizzlies Swap Jordan Bell, Bruno Caboclo

7:18pm: The trade is official, the Grizzlies and Rockets announced in a pair of press releases.

12:22pm: The Rockets have agreed to trade newly-acquired center Jordan Bell to the Grizzlies in exchange for Bruno Caboclo, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Grizzlies will receive a potential second-round pick swap as well, with Memphis having the choice to trade the least favorable of the Mavericks’ and Heat’s 2023 selections for Houston’s 2023 second-rounder as long as the Rockets’ pick isn’t No. 31 or 32, a source tells Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Bell, 25, came to Houston in the four-team trade that was completed last night. He appeared in 27 games for the Timberwolves this season, averaging 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per night.

Caboclo, 24, was in his second season in Memphis, averaging 2.8 PPG and 2.0 RPG in 22 games. He was in training camp with Houston in 2018, but was waived before the start of the season.

The Rockets have been targeted Caboclo for a while and believed they had a good chance to acquire him on the day Gary Clark was waived last month, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Both teams will generate trade exceptions for their outgoing players and add their incoming players under the minimum exception, tweets Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights. Bell is making $1,620,564 this season, while Caboclo earns $1,845,301.