MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies enter an opportunistic May – the first full month of their offseason – with significant traction toward addressing some of the biggest questions looming over the franchise.
They’ve already resolved the ownership issue, with Robert Pera maintaining controlling interest in the franchise and a commitment to keeping the Grizzlies in Memphis.
They’ve already conducted exit interviews, with key players, veterans and young prospects set to distance themselves from a 22-60 season and embark on a summer of healing, conditioning, development and improvement in hopes of a return to playoff contention next season.
And they’re also solidifying a front-office plan that includes formalizing a multi-year contract this week to remove the interim tag and name J.B. Bickerstaff head coach. Now, the Grizzlies are just days away from learning their fate in the May 15 draft lottery, where they are assured of a top-five pick in the June 21 NBA Draft as well as the No. 32 overall pick in the second round.
Expect the Grizzlies to be active in league-wide trade discussions surrounding the draft and July free agency, with key decisions looming on several of their own players.
So after covering the coaching situation, returning roster veterans and young/developing assets the past few weeks in Grind City Media’s ‘Offseason Outlook,’ we conclude with my personal analysis this week on the Grizzlies’ pending free agents and veterans set to enter expiring contracts.
Player: Tyreke Evans, 28
Measurables: 6-6, 220 – 9th NBA Season
2017-18 Stats: 19.4ppg, 5.1rpg, 5.2apg in 30.9mpg, shot 39.9% (career-high) from three-point range.
Status: Unrestricted free agent this summer after earning $3.3 million for the 2017-18 season.
Based on scoring, rebounding, assists and three-point shooting numbers, Evans posted his most productive and efficient season since he won NBA Rookie of the Year for the 2009-10 season.
Through the first half of the season, there was arguably no better bargain from 2017 free agency than what Evans provided the Grizzlies while playing on a one-year, $3.3 million deal. When available and healthy, a strong case can be made that Evans was the Grizzlies’ best player this season. At one point in the season, Memphis was 0-18 without Evans, whose scoring, passing, rebounding, ability to take over games down the stretch and clutch three-point shooting kept Memphis in far more games than the team probably had a right to be in after Mike Conley’s season-ending injury in November. Even in a lost season, Memphis gave Evans a platform to resurrect his once-promising career and prove he’s still an elite NBA talent when healthy and motivated. His all-around game is a great fit for the Grizzlies.
There might not have been a bigger mystery in the league than what unfolded down the stretch with the Grizzlies and Evans. From being pulled off the court before a game at Indiana a week before the February trade deadline, to the flu and a ribcage injury that sidelined him for separate stints to leaving the team for undisclosed personal reasons the night of that franchise-worst, 61-point loss in Charlotte, there was no shortage of puzzling issues with Evans. It’s obvious he’s talented. But is Evans reliable, especially at a steeper cost and on a team that hopes to be back in the playoff hunt? Will he buy into a team concept once he’s no longer in a contract year? Those are legit questions that Evans was on the verge of answering before he was pulled off the court that night in Indiana. Then it all got weird.
The quote from Evans above came from a February interview, and he hasn’t been heard from publicly since he left the team in March. He was reportedly back in Memphis recently to work out, so it’s tough to get a read on Evans right now. General manager Chris Wallace indicated after the season that a pitch would be made to Evans in free agency, but Wallace didn’t sound as convincing as he did when Evans was retained at the trade deadline. Memphis hedged some, in case Evans walks, by locking up late-season signee and scorer MarShon Brooks for next season. The Grizzlies have the full midlevel exception to use, and would welcome Evans back at the right price. But free agency can be fickle. Evans is just as likely to pull a Lou Williams-type move (three-year, $24 million extension with the Clippers) as he is one like vagabond Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one year, $18 million last summer with the Lakers).
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.