Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Life After Gasol

It's been almost a week after Gasol was traded for cap space, so here are a few reflections.

First, Gasol needed to go. Few were sorry to see him go. He's been a true professional in Memphis with the exception of his ill-advised trade request halfway through a season he started late due to injury. He's also a offensive big man. However, he's not the leader the Grizzlies need to get to the next level. Last year, sports writers said that the Grizzlies awful start was the result of Gasol missing the first 20 games. But when he cam back, they didn't improve, did they?

I've been back and forth about trading Gasol over the years, but I'm convinced now (after reading analysis and Wallace's own comments) that it was the right thing to do.

Gasol will be a great 2nd or 3rd man for the Lakers.

With that said, was this a good trade? There are two parts to the trade: Aaron McKie and Kwame Brown's expiring contracts, and 4 young prospects.

First the young prospects - Wallace has said that he got 4 first rounders out of this deal. What he's not saying is that these are four late first rounders, which aren't that difficult to come by. The Grizzlies have no trouble acquiring solid contributors like Crittenton. In order to turn those four prospects into a great value, one of those four players will have to emerge as a very good player, and it's difficult enough turning high draft picks (read: Brown and Milicic) into very good players.

Turning low draft picks into good players requires exceptional scouting and a lot of luck (though there are numerous examples of All Stars coming out late in the first round).

The expiring contracts are also valuable to the extent that Wallace is skilled and lucky. Wallace has given himself flexibility by giving up a valuable trade asset. Now, the onus is on him to turn that flexibility into more than just help with the bottom line.

The two big challenges now are for Wallace to identify what players will help Memphis win, and get those players in a Grizzlies uniform. For whatever reason, Wallace thought financial flexibility would allow him to do that more easily that brokering a trade involving Gasol.

Now he's got to prove it.


bkatz said...

Unfortunately for Memphis, Wallace is not the guy we want to go find the "right players". Wallace's strengths are reducing payroll and creating financial flexibility. He has always been a poor judge of talent highlighted by his recent draft picks when he was GM in Boston (i.e. passing on Tony Parker). Yes he did draft Rondo in the later part of the first round, but Rondo more or less fell to Boston, so I wouldn't clasify that pick as a steal.

Bottom Line: Wallace is doing what needs to be done, and he's been decently successful in the first stages of his rebuilding efforts. However, he can only go so far. He's not an evaluator of talent, and I believe that if the Grizz want to become a dominant force in the Western Conference, we need to bring in a GM who can go find and acquire that talent!

Justin said...

I think it's unfair to say that Wallace is a "poor judge of talent" and immediately point to his passing on Tony Parker. As previously highlighted by David, if "passing on TP" is the standard for "poor judge of talent," then every other team who had the chance to draft him were also poor judges of talent. In fact, one of the selling points for Wallace was that he was a tireless talent evaluator. This excerpt was taken from the press release announcing his hire:
"Wallace’s basketball knowledge extends to the collegiate world where he served on the selection committee for the Nike/ABCD and Converse ABCD national high school camps evaluating scores of future college and NBA stars. In addition, he founded the award-winning Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and in 1991 he was named one of the most influential members of the college basketball media by Sports Illustrated."
Ainge, who I understand started making all the basketball decisions, was hired in 03, and the same article stated that Wallace was GM for the Celts 10 years prior to joining the Grizz, so it only seems fair to see what other players the Celts drafted from 97 or so to 2003.
For example, in the same year as the Tony Parker draft (2001), he drafted Joe Johnson, probably one of the top 5 players in the draft.
In 2002, he drafted Darius Songaila - still in the NBA - in the late 2nd round, sandwiched between basketball luminaries Peter Fehse and Federico Kammerichs.
In 2003, we drafted and traded Kendrick Perkins and Marcus Banks to the Celts for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones. 1/2 of those guys are still in the league, and it ain't West's.
I don't know for sure if he was around for it (it would seem so, according to the article), but Paul Pierce was drafted in 98 and there was no draft pick in 99. Granted, he did take Jerome Moiso in 2000, but the top 5 picks were Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, and Mike Miller, so I'll give him a pass.
I don't know how many cooks go into making draft pick soup, so it would be wrong of me to attribute either good or bad picks to one guy. But, Wallace definitely has a reputation for doing his scouting homework, and that alone makes me have some confidence in him. I think you can point to almost every GM's good and bad selections (Amazingly, Isiah Thomas has an impressive draft record). Even the talking heads for the major sports networks hail future busts and trash future all-stars. After hearing cool stories about the guy (see meeting fans at a Buffalo Wild Wings) and hearing his weekly radio chat, I'm wiling to give the guy a few years, especially given the pressures from Heisley. I'd love to hear other thoughts.

John said...

So here is my to sense, wallace and the rest realized that Pau will never be a
franchise type player (though he commands that kind of
money) and won't lead a team deep in the playoffs as
seen by our inability to win a playoff game. So they
wanted to rebuild. Two ways to do that, through the
draft and free agency. We have had horrible draft
luck, but maybe this year with such a deep draft we
will get lucky. You need cap space for free agency.
Think of the hornets the year baron left (again for
little or nothing like gasol). We luck out and get
chris paul in the draft (which is what we hope conley
turns into) as well as david west as a number 2 (rudy
gay would fit here for us as he has shown improvement
and hopefully as the number one scoring option he only
gets better) then you look for some free agents like
peja and chandler and mo pete and bobby jackson and
viola you have a damn good team. So the grizz looked
at their offers and nobody really stepped up with
anything that fit our needs. Now we get a young guard
who we have some time to evaluate, throw in some huge
expiring contracts like Kwame and two first round
picks. SO the hope is by 2009, gay is going into his
4th year conley his third, you get a monster pick this
year and another young guy from the lakers pick and
you can actually entice a big free agent to come join
the nucleus. It sucks as a fan since the grizz have
basically been rebuilding forever, but I guess thats
the way it goes.

grayblue said...

So, just so I'm clear, because I don't like to think for myself, my correct response to all of this is:

"Yay. Pau is gone and we got rid of him while he still had value,"

followed by,

"Dang. He was valuable and we traded him for a 50-50 shot of getting to the second round of playoffs in 5 years."

How do I get a trade for all these Grizzlies games that come on CSS for the Tigers beating high school girls' teams by 70 points?

David Jones said...

Brian and Justin, I think Chris Wallace is unproven at best. I think we have no reason to think he knows what he's doing.

He traded our biggest asset for financial flexibility, and got no asset - that's right not one single asset - the Grizzlies can use to improve their team in return. There's almost no chance anything received in the trade will directly turn into something useful.

John, I think you're overly optimistic. The Hornets were never bad for this long. They weren't last in the league when they traded Baron. They had other pieces in place.

We have about 3 players who should crack a top 8 rotation and two of them are too young to lead a team.

Andy, I think you're right on the money. Watch the Tigers, and forget about the Grizzlies. I just watch the Warriors come back from 23 down to beat the Wizards. That is was a basketball team is supposed to be.

John said...

I hope you caught at least some of the grizz game last night in our win over Sac. But you are right about the stark difference between a good and a bad team as I watched the hornets blowout the Grizz in New Orleans on Saturday. It is also amazing to see how easily a good product translates into a good fan base. The hornets soldout the grizz game and attendance has been steadily on the rise since the turn of the year. I have heard some rumors floating around that we are shopping Lowry? Looking for a 3rd first round draft pick for 2008? I know Miller is in most rumors and we are looking to dump cardinal (why did we pay him so much money? can't we find a goofy 6'8" guy who will get us hustle points for the league minimum?) BUt the lowry trade came up b/c we have crittenton(sp?) now. I can't imagine doing that unless we are sure we are getting another lottery pick, even then are we that confident in conley and crittenton?

David Jones said...

I don't know if we're that confident in Conley, but he looks more like a point guard than Lowry.

As for good teams, I watched the second half of the Suns / Warriors game tonight. All I can say is that it was a lot of fun...