The following is a response to the very well put-together and as usual, excellent piece on why the Grizzlies should not trade one of their nineteen point guards. That it allows me to address something I’ve wanted to for a while is an especial convenience, and I thank Chip for taking a position supporting keeping Jaric and Lowry and Crittenton and Conley and Mayo all on roster.
It comes down, basically, to supply, demand, and relative value. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to ignore salaries and statistics. Both are heavily skewed by top-end outliers, and this is more of a topical discussion regardless.
When we look at this point in the league’s evolution, we notice there are two positions with more value than the others. Point guard and power-forward. The difference between the two is startling in terms of supply, demand, and relative value. According to Yahoo!, 62 players got a spell at point guard last season. 21 were considered “qualified leaders” statistically. Compare that with 8 qualified leaders for 21 power forwards. But the gap between the great point guards and everyone else is really wide. Of the final eight teams in the NBA playoffs, only Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Orlando were comparatively weak at point, LA compensated with depth. Cleveland and Orlando might have gone further if they had a better point guard. The value is at an even higher premium than usual with players like Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Deron Williams being difference makers on their teams. Lack of a competent guard makes you largely incapable of even being competitive (*cough, Clippers, cough, Minnesota*). Power Forward on the other hand is the kind of position that solidifies you at a level in areas you need it, in rebounding and interior defense.
The Grizzlies don’t have a superstar at point guard. Not yet, anyway. But what they have is considerable depth, and young depth at that. What they have that separates them from most of the prospective trade partners is a set of assets that other teams want, that they can’t get elsewhere.
I’m as much a fan of big, athletic wings as the next guy. But they are everywhere, and they’re all on the trading block half the time. In contrast to 1s and 4s, you can find 3s practically laying on sidewalks in this league. Richard Jefferson, traded. Carmelo Anthony, on the trade block this summer, supposedly. Lamar Odom, on the trade block. We’re not running out of 6-5+, athletic tweeners.
The Grizzlies obviously already have this, with Rudy Gay being a premier small forward. But they are woefully short at power forward. Hakim Warrick is good. But he’s 6-9, 219. He’s athletic and can get up and down the floor. But they need more size. Darko’s not someone they need to give up on yet, especially not with the acquisition of Marc Gasol.
Conversely, they have three players in Conley, Lowry, and Crittenton who’s combined value is probably at the highest it will be. While Conley is likely to work out well, especially with the improved strength and conditioning he’s shown in summer league, and Crittenton’s combo-guard ability to play at the 1 or 2, you’ve still got Lowry. Lowry is 22, talented, athletic, and has upside. Are you telling me a package of Lowry and Warrick isn’t valuable?
Sure, you can play it safe and stockpile. But when the value of these players go down, you’ve wasted an opportunity. What are you going to do with three mid-20s point guards who all have talent, but two of which haven’t gotten significant playing time in order to evaluate their worth, because you’re set at the position? Let me tell you how that ends. In free agency and that player making a lot of money and you getting nothing. Or worse, the player flames out and is never heard from again because he never got time.
Depth at point guard is a great asset if you’re a contender. But the Grizzlies need pieces. Everywhere. Scoring. Defense. Rebounding. They need draft picks. They need superstars. So holding onto a valuable commodity on the market just doesn’t make sense at this point.
Maximize your assets. Or ask the Knicks how that turns out.