The Memphis Grizzlies have taken another big step toward rebuilding their roster, trading center Marc Gasol and leaving Mike Conley as the lone remaining piece from the core four of the franchise’s best success.
The trade, which was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, will send Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick to the Grizzlies for Gasol. The 34-year-old Gasol is averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists over 53 games with the Grizzlies this season. Gasol has spent his entire 11-year career with the Grizzlies.
The Raptors (39-16) currently sit in second place in the East. The addition of Gasol should help them keep pace with the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, who both made moves before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Jonas Valanciunas had been sidelined since Dec. 12 with a dislocated left thumb. Prior to the trade, Valanciunas was expected to return to the Raptors’ lineup against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night.
The Grizzlies traded Gasol, more than two weeks after owner Robert Pera told both Gasol and Conley that they would be listening to offers for two of the league’s longest-tenured teammates.
Trading Gasol at least got Memphis something out of a 34-year-old center, who holds a $25 million option he can exercise this summer.
Conley had been linked to Utah, Detroit and even Toronto along with Gasol in a handful of reports, though $67 million over the final two seasons of the max contract Conley signed in July 2016 didn’t make a trade easier to piece together. Conley said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace called him around 15 minutes before the deadline saying the guard would stick around.
“I was prepared for either,” Conley said Thursday night after a 117-95 loss in Oklahoma City. “What happens, happens, and I’m here. No matter where I was going to be, I’m all in. No hard feelings. I’m just going to do my job and try to do my best for this team and the guys we have here because they pay me to play, and that’s what we do.”
Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game he didn’t expect all the trade rumors to be an issue with Conley.
“With him, just knowing his personality and who he is, I never got the sense that he didn’t want to be here,” Bickerstaff said. “Again, another guy that’s meant a ton to this organization. Memphis is home for him and his family, those types of things. He understands the nature of this business and how it can impact everyone from All-Star caliber players on down.”
Instead, the point guard whose 771 games played is a franchise-high – just ahead of Gasol’s 769 – is preparing to play without Gasol and with new teammates after a handful of other moves by the Grizzlies. Conley said he thought he was ready for this but found himself dealing with an unfamiliar locker room.
“It’s a completely different feel,” Conley said. “You get out there to play and you’re bringing the guys in the huddle and there’s no Marc.”
Memphis sent Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green to the Clippers for guard Avery Bradley and confirmed Thursday night both swapping Shelvin Mack to Atlanta for Tyler Dorsey and waiving forward Omri Casspi, who’s recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The Grizzlies let Zach Randolph and Tony Allen leave in 2017 after the franchise’s seventh straight postseason appearance.
They tried to rebuild around Conley and Gasol, who had been among just six active NBA players to spend their entire NBA careers of at least 10 seasons with one franchise. They won just 22 games last season without Randolph and Allen, and Conley out most of the season with an injured heel.
After insisting they could be a playoff team this season, they matched the 22 wins from last season on Tuesday in a game Gasol left the arena early after being benched without explanation. Two days later, Memphis traded away its career leader in points, rebounds, and blocks to at least get something in case Gasol opted out this summer.
Valanciunas had been expected to return to the court Thursday after missing 25 games with an injured thumb. Now the center gets to try to replace Gasol.
“There is no replacing what Marc has done here, and what he’s meant to this team,” Bickerstaff said.
It’s just the latest off-court drama for a franchise involved in a failed three-team trade in December over confusion about which Brooks (MarShon or Dillon) was included in the deal. MarShon Brooks finally was traded away Jan. 3 along with Wayne Selden Jr. to Chicago. Then the Grizzlies announced Jan. 6 that Chandler Parsons would continue rehab in Los Angeles after reports both sides had agreed to a split.
Now Pera has to decide if he wants to rebuild around Conley and rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., or simply try to get a better offer this summer.