As the Green Bay Packers and San Fransisco 49ers battled late Sunday evening, news surfaced that Jerryd Bayless—sixth man and guard for the Memphis Grizzlies—had been traded to the Boston Celtics for guard Courtney Lee. More details may be released on Monday. Bayless had quickly become a fan favorite in Memphis through his sporadic shooting streaks.
So why did the Grizzlies complete this trade? In comparing the two shooting guards, Lee is the more physical, defensive attraction. He carries more size than Bayless and is respected for his defensive IQ. Looking at the statistics, Bayless is averaging 8.0 points per game, 2.0 assists per game, and 1.9 rebounds per game. Likewise, Lee is averaging 7.4 points per game, 1.1 assists per game, and 1.6 rebounds per game. Statistically, they are similar players. However, there are two reasons why the Memphis Grizzlies agreed to trade Bayless for Lee.
First, Lee has better metrics. The Memphis Grizzlies employ one the of the brightest basketball analytical minds in former-ESPN-writer-analyst John Hollinger. Hollinger is the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Memphis Grizzlies. Using his PER system, a system that measures players' per-minute statistical production, Bayless's PER is 11.24 compared to Lee's PER of 15.39. The league average is 15.00. Besides being a better player based on PER, Lee is shooting roughly 49 percent from the field versus Bayless's roughly 37 percent from the field. Additionally, Lee is shooting roughly 44 percent from the three-point-line versus Bayless is shooting roughly 29 percent from the three-point-line. Those are significant differences that could add wins for the Grizzlies this season.
Since being acquired by software billionaire Robert Pera, the Grizzlies' franchise has made cost cutting move after another. After the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay last winter, the Grizzlies obtained a valuable trade exception worth $7, 489,453. This trade exception allowed the Grizzlies to absorb a future player's contract without it affecting their salary cap. This particular trade execption was going to expire at the end of this month.
Although Bayless was on an expiring contract and only making $3.135 million this season, his salary directly impacted the Grizzlies' cap room. According to NBA.com, the 2013-2014 salary cap is $58.679 million. With huge contracts guaranteed to Zach Randolph ($18,238,333), Marc Gasol ($14,860,523), Mike Conley ($8,600,001), and Tayshaun Prince ($7,235,955), the Grizzlies' salary commitments total to roughly $69 million for the 2013-2014 season. That puts the small market Grizzlies at a competitive disadvantage.
The Grizzlies had to make this move to begin to avoid being taxed for their salary cap numbers. Also, Lee may be a better fit for the Memphis Grizzlies' defensive identity. The commonly known criticism about the Grizzlies is their lack of three-point-shooting accuracy. Lee may be able to mitigate that problem.
Now that we know why Jerryd Bayless was traded. Let's explore why Bayless is a victim of loyalty. Similar to Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, Jerryd Bayless has publicly expressed his love for the city of Memphis. After being physically pushed by former head coach Lionel Hollins in Game 4 of last season's Western Conference Finals, basketball enthusiasts assumed Bayless would leave Memphis. Additionally, ee was on a two-year deal worth $6.135 million—a respectable, resonable salary for a scoring guard with his offensive talents. Prior to his second year, he had a player option. Against conventional wisdom, he exercised to stay in Memphis. Bayless stated the following:
"All we did is add so I think we have a chance to duplicate some of the things that we did last year."
At only $3.135 million per year, there were a lot of potential suitors for Bayless's services. During the 2013 NBA Playoffs, Bayless played a vital role in helping the Grizzlies move past the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma Thunder averaging over 9 points per game.
- The Portland Trailblazers needed guards. They ended up signing Mo Williams for two years at $5.6 million.
- The Washington Wizards signed Eric Maynor for two years at $4.1 million.
- The San Antonio Spurs signed Marco Belinelli for two years at $5.6 million.
- The Memphis Grizzlies gave Tony Allen a four-year deal at $20 million.
- The Toronto Rapters, a former team of Bayless's, signed D.J. Augustin to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million.
- The Indiana Pacers, who are having a breakout season, signed CJ Watson to a one-year deal worth less than $1 million.
Arguably, Jerryd Bayless could have gotten a bigger deal than any of the aforementioned contracts above. He is a crafty, combo-guard capable of "heating up" and scoring bunches for a playoff-caliber or championship-level team. Instead of leaving for a bigger pay day or a better city, Bayless stayed in Memphis only to fall victim to advanced metrics and business as usual.
On behalf of the Grizzlies' fans, we wish Bayless well in Boston. Realizing that the Memphis Grizzlies have several more trade exceptions worth millions of dollars, the Grizzlies are just getting started.
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