One of the Memphis Grizzlies’ core players could have a new home before the NBA trade deadline.
After a long reluctance to talk trade on either, the team will listen to offers on both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Should the Sixers have any interest?
Let’s get this out of the way first: Gasol makes no sense here. You can’t play Embiid and Gasol together in today’s NBA and Gasol is way too good — and makes way too much money — to play off the bench.
Conley, on the other hand, could make sense (it's worth noting that there has been no indication the team is interested as of now). Conley is a solid perimeter defender, a shot creator and a shot maker. He’s played in almost 60 playoff games in his career and has been viewed as a high character player and a leader.
If his entire career wasn’t spent in the Western Conference, he likely would’ve been a multiple-time All-Star. He was an All-Defensive team pick in 2012-13.
There’s a narrative out there that Conley is “always hurt.” That’s not entirely accurate. From the 2008-09 season up until 2016-17, he played in 653 of 738 of his team’s games (88 percent). Last season, he was limited to just 12 games before undergoing season-ending heel surgery. This season, he’s played 46 of 47 games.
With that out of the way, let’s talk finances. Conley has a big cap hit at $32,511,623 followed by an early termination option — which Conley likely won’t exercise — at $34,502,130 for next season. The Sixers could still make it work — at least for this season.
A trade involving the salaries of Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala would get it done (they’d almost assuredly have to add a pick as well and Muscala also has the ability to block a trade). Obviously losing both Chandler and Muscala would hurt the team’s depth, much like the Jimmy Butler deal. But with buyout season coming, the team could pounce on a couple veterans to help fill the holes. Justin Patton's contract plus another small contract could get it done if Muscala blocks the trade.
The other issue is giving up on the 20-year-old Fultz. Since the Grizzlies are moving on from Conley, they could look at Fultz as a piece to help their rebuild alongside big man Jaren Jackson Jr. Fultz has become a polarizing figure in Philadelphia. It’s clear they won’t just give away the former No. 1 pick but is this a deal that makes sense?
The bigger issue comes if the Sixers have interest, are willing to move Fultz and pull the trigger on a deal. Conley is a point guard. He’s been a point guard his entire career. The Sixers already have a point guard and a pretty damn good one at that.
A starting five of Conley, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is insane. It’d be hard to argue that it wouldn’t be the second-best starting five in the entire league. Could Simmons and Conley coexist? Possibly … if Simmons is willing to play the four. But that’s a pretty big ask considering the guy is likely going to be named an All-Star at the one.
The idea seems a little short-sighted, like an all-in for 2019 move. With the Warriors looking unbeatable, is it wise to push all your chips to the middle of the table?
It might be smarter to let Simmons develop and work on his shortcomings as a point guard and find other pieces to complement the roster around the deadline and buyout market.
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