In parts one and two of this series, I explored the Mike Conley Trade Tree as the final member of the Core Four to leave the franchise. Conley was traded under the regime of Zach Kleiman outright and while Marc Gasol was technically traded by Chris Wallace, there were rumors flying around that by that point Kleiman was calling the shots because the decisions regarding the front office shake up had already been made.
Whether it was Wallace or Kleiman, Gasol was traded on February 7, 2019 to the Toronto Raptors for Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles, Delon Wright and a 2024 2nd round pick. Marc had one year and $25 million remaining on his contract at the time, while Jonas and Delon were on expiring deals and CJ had one year at $8.7 million dollars remaining. Kleiman did right by the former franchise cornerstone, sending him to a team he eventually won a championship with while creating cap flexibility and gaining draft capital.
In the next two pieces, we will explore the wide reach of the Gasol Trade Tree.
Branch 1: CJ Miles
CJ Miles had a fun but brief stint on Beale St, averaging 9 points on 36% shooting from deep in his 13 games played for the franchise. He was interesting wing piece that would have fit in the Core Four era, but as the franchise was headed into the next iteration of Grizzlies basketball, getting what you could for him made more sense. On the same day Memphis dealt Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz, Miles was shipped to the Washington Wizards for Dwight Howard.
Howard was eventually bought out by the Grizzlies on August 24, 2019 in a move that ultimately saved Memphis roughly $5 million dollars. This was perhaps the first instance in the Kleiman era where paying attention to the contracts involved mattered more than the names being swapped. Miles was not a part of the future and Howard and Memphis did not have interest in each other. Kleiman did right by a league veteran by buying him out and allowing him to pursue a championship, which he won the next season.
In the end, the CJ Miles branch cut $5 million from the Memphis books, which would come in play later in the offseason.
Branch 2: Delon Wright
If there was any player that made Grizzlies fans fall in love quicker than Delon Wright did during his 26 games in Memphis, I would like to know. Wright burst onto the scene as Mike Conley’s back up and even started 11 games, putting up the only three triple doubles of his career thus far. He sky rocketed amongst the imaginary ranks of best back up point guards in Grizzlies history. Due to his phenomenal play, he seemed destined to re-sign and be the backup point guard for the foreseeable future.
We may never know how the drafting of Ja Morant played into the decision to choose Tyus Jones over Delon Wright, but when Tyus was signed on July 7, 2019, Kleiman conducted a sign-and-trade with the Dallas Mavericks that sent Wright in exchange for Satnam Singh, a 2021 second round pick and a 2023 second round pick. Singh has never seen a minute in the NBA, but both second round picks have already been used for something more.
The 2021 second round pick became BJ Boston out of Kentucky, who became a part of the Jonas branch of this tree in the New Orleans trade, who then traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The 2023 second pick was combined with Memphis’ own 2025 second round pick and cash to acquire Desmond Bane and Mario Hezonja. So while some may have preferred Wright over the signing of Tyus Jones, the Wright S&T led to a bright young prospect in Desmond Bane that had an All Rookie season last season.
All in all, the departing money of Wright, left room to sign Tyus Jones, the current best back up point guard in Grizzlies history and brought in a draft pick used to acquire Desmond Bane. One of the more fruitful branches in any tree.
There is no need to speculate on the use of the 2024 second round pick that Memphis still possesses from Toronto. There is almost no chance Memphis will keep that pick in the slot it is assigned unless the Raptors are terrible team that season and its in the early 30’s. It is just another example of Kleiman grabbing any asset he can, stockpiling for future moves.
Part 4 will take the Jonas Valanciunas branch that has become it’s own tree within the last few months.