About a week ago, I got into an e-argument with a guy on a message board which will not be named because he argued that the Pau Gasol trade was not as bad of a move because it led to them getting OJ Mayo. Obvious logical problems aside (the trades were 100% unconnected player-wise), it got me thinking about how different this Memphis team would look if the trade had never happened.
We start with this:
Their roster at the time was
PG: Juan Carlos Navarro / Mike Conley / Kyle Lowry / Damon Stoudamire
SG: Mike Miller / Juan Carlos Navarro / Tarence Kinsey
SF: Rudy Gay / Brian Cardinal
PF: Pau Gasol / Hakim Warrick / Brian Cardinal
C: Darko / Pau / Stromile Swift (traded the next day for Jason Collins)
And that team was at 13-33, with some injuries. If you take that winning % (28.2), increase by 5% to account for better health and extrapolate it over the remaining 36 games, that would mean a 25 win season. If you increase their winning percentage by 10%, that would leave them at 27 wins. Anything between 26 wins and 32 wins would put that Grizzlies team in the #7 draft slot between Milwaukee and Charlotte, so I’ll use that as a ballpark. As such, we can let the other pieces fall as they did, with the Grizz team falling to the #8 pick because of Chicago getting the #1 and using it on Rose.
Of course, the draft would have gone differently with picks 3-8 jumbled, so I’ll do my best to make an accurate hypothetical:
Unquestionably, Rose, Beasley, Mayo, Love, and Westbrook would be off the board. I would assume that Gallinari and Gordon would be as well, but that isn’t as important.
Essentially, Memphis would have been sitting at the 8 pick with some combination of Brook Lopez, DJ Augustin, Joe Alexander, and Jerryd Bayless on the board. By far, the best pick for them would have been Brook Lopez, and with competent management that is what would have happened. Their 2nd round pick was already gone in a previous trade, and they would not have gotten Darrell Arthur because of the Lakers pick never coming their way.
The Spanish Inquisition:
The other two questions that would need to be answered center on two of Pau Gasol’s fellow Spaniards. Juan Carlos Navarro left Memphis after just one season, and it is hard to say whether or not he would have returned if Pau was still on the team. My gut says yes, but we cannot be sure.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies would have had a major reason to try and trade for the rights to Marc Gasol and could have easily swung Hakim Warrick to do it (or Kyle Lowry, but Warrick is a better fit for a Pau-less Lakers squad).
As such, here is my version of the 2008-2009 Memphis Grizzlies:
PG: Mike Conley / Kyle Lowry / [possibly Juan Carlos Navarro] / Damon Stoudamire
SG: Mike Miller / [Juan Carlos Navarro?] / Tarence Kinsey or Q. Ross
SF: Rudy Gay / Mike Miller / Brian Cardinal
PF: Pau Gasol / Brook Lopez / Darko Milicic / Swift or Collins
C: Marc Gasol / Brook Lopez (could start too, especially if Warrick for Marc doesn’t happen) / Darko / Swift or Collins
Anyone take the current Grizzlies over that team?
What’s more, that Memphis team would actually be viable in the long-term in the salary cap context. Their 2008-2009 salary would be $56,279,413 (including a $3m estimate for Juan Carlos Navarro), with Miller, Cardinal, and Swift acting as 2010 bait if management thought they could pull better talent that offseason with trading those guys for longer contracts. Since they have to give their next non-lottery pick to Washington thanks to Navarro (since the Crittenton trade never happens), I assume they would not have a 2009 draft pick.
So you’d be looking at a long-term core of the Gasols, Rudy Gay, Brook Lopez, and Conley/Lowry with either cap space in 2010 or additional talent.
It just goes to show you how different things can be if teams with poor management had competence.