Monday, December 18, 2006

Grizzlies' Payroll Shows Reason for Optimism

(All salary information from this article was taken from

Last week CNNSI obtained the salary information for all teams. The Grizzlies' payroll for the next few years leaves many reasons to be excited.

First, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry are tied up for the next four years, and Hakim Warrick for three. All except Gasol have bargain contracts. (Gasol's is also worth the money.) The Grizzlies have a talented core with a lot of potential.

Second, two bad contracts are coming off the books this year: Jake Tsakalidis and Eddie Jones. I still don't know why Jake gets any playing time. Jones may still be able to contribute, but not at 13 million. I'm glad he got his pay day. He deserves it. I just wish it wasn't at the Grizzlies' cost since they didn't get (much of) the benefit.

Third, the questions long-term contracts aren't too bad. There certainly aren't any Allen Houston/Mike Dunleavy contracts. The first that stands out is Brian Cardinal's. He certainly hasn't contributed 5 million this year, but he also hasn't given reason to believe that he can't earn a good portion of the money left over the next 4 years.

Similarly, Stoudemire may not be able to contribute enough to justify the remaining two years on his contract. However, there's no reason to believe he can't give 20 valuable minutes and win a few games. At 4 million/year, that won't break the Grizzlies' bank.

Mike Miller is one of the best three-point shooters in the league and has demonstrated both that he can handle the ball and that he's a team player. He's a defensive liability and I'd like to see more offensive output at 8 million per year. However, his contract isn't bad.

The best characteristic of Stromile Swift's salary is that it could have been so much worse. Swift wanted a huge pay day when he left the Grizz last year. However, to say his second run in Memphis has been a disappointment is an understatement. He's a solid back-up veteran, and while he's overpaid, his salary doesn't badly restrict the Grizzlies' flexibility.

All four of these players have enough talent to more than earn their salaries on any given night, but so far are probably not meeting expectations. Still, none of their salaries are so huge the the Grizzlies couldn't work them into trades or, if necessary, buy them out.

One concern raised by the Grizzlies' payroll is that three strong contributors all become free agents this summer. Dantay Jones, Chucky Atkins, and Lawrence Roberts have all out-performed their contracts. Jones started slowly, but has proved to be the defensive stopper that Eddie Jones hasn't been (even if he couldn't guard Dwayne Wade).

These three players all stand a good chance of getting a raise. However, none is the missing piece the Grizz need to build upon the first round playoff team the Grizzlies have been the last three seasons. Therefore, the Grizz should only resign these players if it it doesn't prevent them from adding a star talent with the money they'll have summer.

The Grizzlies will probably add another bargain player with their lottery pick this year. Therefore, they should have a good amount of money to pursue a not quite maximum contract free agent to support the solid players who are already locked up.

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