On draft night the Memphis Grizzlies added more depth at shooting guard and filled a need for a reserve big man with the selections of Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes. But with costless agency just getting underway the team still has holes to fill — and very little money to fill them with.
The Grizzlies are almost $24 million over the salary cap, leaving them with only the mid-level exception of a little over $5 million with which to sign costless agents.
The team has four unrestricted costless agents in James Johnson, Beno Udrih, Mike Miller and Ed Davis. Memphis already decided not to extend a qualifying offer to Davis, meaning that his time in the Bluff City has almost definitely come to an end.
Of the remaining three, Beno Udrih is probably the most likely to return to Memphis. Current Grizzlies backup point guard Nick Calathes is suspended for the first 13 games of the 2014-15 season, and recently informed the front office that he wants a release from his contract in order to return to playing basketball overseas. Memphis can probably sign Udrih for the veteran's minimum, and with the need for at least one, if not two, reserve point guards the move makes sense.
As for Miller, the veteran swingman just concluded his best season in several years for the Grizzlies. In an interview with John Martin from 92.9FM ESPN a few days ago, Miller expressed his desire to stay in Memphis, saying "They know how badly I wanna be here. That makes it very simple. If they feel the same way, and it's a fair deal, it'll be a done deal." However, as of right now reports say other teams are offering Miller better deals than Memphis. The Grizzlies want to retain Miller for his valuable three-point shooting, but with his shaky injury history, and the team not wanting to overpay anybody to preserve cap space next summer, his future in Memphis is unknown.
James Johnson is a bit of a wildcard. He received inconsistent playing time a season ago, but became a fan favorite with the fans clamoring for him to get more minutes. When he got a chance to play last season, he served as a spark plug off the bench, providing athleticism that the team typically lacks. If the Grizzlies are able to unload Tayshaun Prince before the end of the summer, Johnson will probably come back to provide depth on the wing. But if Prince is still on the team going into next season, the Grizzlies might decide to save the cash instead and let Johnson go.
If Memphis does decide to go after an outside costless agent, it will likely be a point guard. Depending on what happens with the Grizzlies' own costless agents, they could be looking at a player for a few million dollars (or even the full mid-level exception) or a player on a minimum contract. If it is the former they could be looking at players like Darren Collison, Devin Harris or Brian Roberts. If it is the latter it might be guys like Toney Douglas or Luke Ridnour.
No matter what direction the Grizzlies go in costless agency, the franchise is set up for a fifth consecutive playoff appearance in a stacked Western Conference. With the core of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol set to return, the team should be in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Last season Memphis received the seventh seed despite losing Gasol, Conley, and Tony Allen for large parts of the season. The year prior a healthy Grizzlies squad was the fifth seed and reached the franchise's first Western Conference Finals.