Remember when the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol for the cents on the dollar back in 2008? The trade that was so lopsided that it led Gregg Popovich to say the NBA should create a trade committee to "scratch all trades that make no sense." Although Popovich admitted he was wrong about the trade last year, he's still picking crow feathers after getting bounced from the playoffs by Memphis.
Marc Gasol and Greivis Vasquez -- two of the prospects the Grizzlies wound up with from the trade -- both came up big for Memphis in the upset. Marc Gasol punished San Antonio inside, averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds during the series (while his brother Pau averaged 13 & 6). Vasquez delivered 11 points off the bench in Game 6 to help the Grizzlies wrap up the series and avoid going back to San Antonio for Game 7. And let's not forget about Zach Randolph. He wasn't a direct asset from the trade, but dumping Gasol's salary allowed Memphis to absorb his cap hit in exchange for Quentin Richardson a year and a half after the Gasol trade.
When a team goes into a rebuild, everyone talks about patience, but rarely do we see a team willing to invest in a long-term rebuild like the Grizzlies have. It takes guts to move your best player for assets that are not only in development, but off the NBA radar completely. Marc Gasol, and the two picks they received from the Lakers, didn't come to Memphis right away, but they're making a big impact now. The only two assets Memphis received from the trade right away were the two smallest pieces: Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton. Brown's expiring contract was gone at the end of the season and Crittenton wound up in Washington just a few short months later as part of a three team deal between the Grizzlies, Wizards and Hornets.
You might remember as part of that three-way trade, the Wizards gave Memphis the first round pick it received from Grizzlies in exchange for the rights to Juan Carlos Navarro. The Wizards didn't have much of an issue letting go of the pick because there were some heavy restrictions on when the Wizards could actually claim the pick. According to Ivan Carter, the pick was top-19 protected in 2008, top-16 protected in 2009, top-14 protected from 2010-12, top-12 protected in 2013, and it would have turned into a second round pick and cash in 2014 if not claimed at that point.
At the time, the move made sense for the Wizards, since they needed some guard depth and it didn't look like Memphis was going to be giving up that pick for a while, given the state of their franchise. So rather than wait it out for a pick that would eventually help the team down the road, the Wizards opted to trade for a first round pick from the year before with less upside but a quicker payoff.
Over the past few weeks, we've seen the Grizzlies long-term personnel moves, beginning with the Pau Gasol trade, finally bear some fruit. If the Wizards had simply shown the same patience, they could have benefited from the Grizzlies' patient rise to playoff contention. If Washington had held on to the pick they received from Memphis, they would be holding three of the top 20 picks in this year's draft. With that extra pick, the Wizards could be adding another young talent or packaging that pick with the pick they received from Atlanta to get a second lottery pick.
Is it too late to set up that trade committee?