Memphis Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman has been named NBA Executive of the Year this season, but the upcoming offseason will mark his toughest challenge since taking over in 2019.
The Grizzlies face at least four key personnel decisions that will determine whether the core of a roster that won second place in the regular season remains intact. Kleiman said owner Robert Pera will spend whatever it takes to retain the players the franchise wants.
“We’re not concerned with little notions of the market or any of this or that,” Kleiman said. “We’ll have no problem keeping together whoever we ultimately decide along the way as we continue to prioritize continuity.”
A decision is obvious. Ja Morant has assured that he will sign his rookie max extension which is worth at least $186 million over five years. If Morant makes his second All-NBA team next season, the contract becomes a supermax extension worth $223 million.
But what can the Grizzlies offer Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson, both unrestricted free agents? How much will Brandon Clarke’s rookie extension be worth, knowing that if Desmond Bane maintains his production next season, Bane could receive a max extension in 2023?
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Keith Smith, an NBA salary cap analyst for Spotrac, a website that details sports salary information, detailed the likely contract costs for Jones, Anderson and Clarke in an interview with The Commercial Appeal.
PF Brandon Clarke
BLACK-SMITH: I think the challenge with Clarke is to first answer this: is he the guy whose jump shot regressed in years 2 and 3 and sort of stagnated in the regular season? Or is he the guy who played a big role in the team’s playoff success? If you think he’s second and you think the jumper could show the promise he showed in his rookie year, a 4-year, $48 million extension seems fair.
That’s pretty much what the Celtics’ Robert Williams III got, and they’re similar players. Williams has more upside due to his ability to be a top defender, but Clarke could/should be a better attacking player. Also, you have to be careful not to have a list that is too heavy with a bunch of guys on max bids and everyone else on min bids or short term bids via exceptions.
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PG Tyus Jones
BLACK-SMITH: I think Jones is the best backup point guard in the game. If the Grizzlies only wanted to do a two-year contract, I guess two years, $20 million is the place to start. I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes a little higher. In fact, I wouldn’t have a problem if Memphis wanted to invest something like four years, $40 million in Jones.
I think there’s a chance that Ja Morant will miss some time every season, given the way he plays and his slight build. I would like to be covered if/when this happens, and no one offers better coverage for this than Jones.
SF Kyle Anderson
BLACK-SMITH: Anderson seems to be the guy the Grizzlies are most likely to lose. It might not be this summer because the market is so tight and he is clearly important to the team. Given the growth you’re hoping to see from Clarke and (rookie) Ziaire Williams, I wouldn’t do more than a two-year contract with Anderson. If they can do something like two years, $20 million tops, that’s great.
Even if they went a little higher and made like two years, $24 million, but the second year was unsecured or a team option, it would work. You just can’t lock yourself into a guy like Anderson, given the makeup of the roster as it is, the younger guys behind him, and his age (28).
What this means
The Grizzlies have 12 players under contract next season. If Jones and Anderson leave, the team has just under $20 million in cap space this offseason, making them key players in free agency.
Based on Smith’s analysis, keeping Jones or Anderson still gives the Grizzlies $10 million in cap space. However, signing both removes that option and signals that the team could explore potential trades or trust this roster to repeat their success from this season.
If the Grizzlies keep Jones, Anderson and their two first-round picks, which would net $4.8 million in 2022-23, they’ll exceed the projected salary cap of $122 million. This allows them to have a $10.3m mid-level exception and a $4.1 semi-annual exception to use on free agents, but with 16 players under contract, that’s unlikely to be in play. .
As for Clarke, he’s been a valuable sixth man, but is he worth $12 million a year? He is arguably a top 10 player in his draft class and brings valuable energy around the rim. However, the Grizzlies could delay his extension and explore his trade value the same way they would with Dillon Brooks.
Continuity may be a priority for Kleiman and Pera, but it doesn’t come cheap. It’s risky, and their decisions on Jones and Anderson won’t just affect next season, but how the Grizzlies improve their fortunes over the next two to three years.
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This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: How much will it cost to keep the Memphis Grizzlies roster together?