Following the Jimmy Butler acquisition, it can be safely assumed that some if not all of the Wolves remaining cap space will be used on a forward. Last week in “Forward Thinking” we took a look at Paul Millsap. This week’s Forward Thinking brings us Memphis Grizzlies’ JaMychal Green.
JaMychal Green is similar to Gorgui Dieng. Well, not really. Green is a stretch-4 whereas Dieng is a 4 trapped in a 5’s body. The stretch-4 label is thrown on forwards who shoot a high volume of threes, a test Green passes. Last season in Memphis, 29 percent of his field goal attempts were threes in which he converted at a rate of 37.9 percent. Comparatively, only 6.5 percent of Dieng’s field goal attempts were threes, converted at a 37.2 percent rate.
The players differing archetypes is also apparent on defense where Green is far more apt to scat on the perimeter, switch onto guards, and play the passing lanes. Dieng is a paint lurker, checking opposing bigs, while also a willing help-side defender.
The rationale in saying the two are similar is in the macro-scale picture of asset valuation—if the two were to receive an overall rating in Madden it would be 82 out of 100. Meaning; Green and Dieng represent a similar quotient of positive impact on the game, in their own unique way. Their skill sets may be uniquely differentiated, but as simple assets, they are not different. Both big men are 27-years-old, their impact is most felt on defense, on offense they are low-usage tools, and both are set to receive major raises next season.
Dieng’s four-year extension, worth $64 million, kicks off this season. His contract escalates year-over-year ($14.1 million, $15.2, $16.2, $17.3) and therefore this season’s figure will look very palatable as many other fringe starters sign for figures starting at over $15 million annually. One of those players will be JaMychal Green who will hit the restricted free agent marketplace this July.
Will JaMychal Green Leave Memphis?
Green’s status as a restricted free agent means the Grizzlies have the rights to match any contract Green is offered on the open market, ultimately retaining Green if they deem the deal fair. But in lieu of their other financial commitments, Memphis will not have inelastic demand when it comes to finding Green’s price point. The Grizz are already financially strapped having just committed long-term to Mike Conley ($30.5 million per year), Chandler Parsons ($23.6 million per year), and Marc Gasol ($22.6 million). Throw in the seven other cheap(ish) contracts Memphis already has and their requirement to fill out a full roster and their remaining cap space is negligible. The Grizzlies are in the difficult spot of being capped out before even beginning negotiations with current free agents; Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, and Green.
So, where is Memphis’ breaking point with Green? In speaking with Joe Mullinax, who is on the Grizzlies beat at GrizzlyBearBlues.com, I have come to gather $15 million annually is about the range. Memphis would probably decline to match a four-year, $60 million deal as that would leave the team nearly capped out for the entirety of that contract.
$30-plus million to Dieng and Green?
For teams with ample cap space, like Minnesota, Green makes a lot of sense at a 4-60 price point. Considering there will be other free agent power forwards—possibly all three of Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin, and Serge Ibaka—that sign contracts for literally double the price, Green seems to make even more sense.
But that is before considering Dieng.
Dieng’s 4-year, $64 million contract coupled with a similar contract for Green and the Wolves will have locked into four years and around $130 million to the power forward position. And this circles back to the idea of both players being similar. Why add another player who, theoretically, brings the same marginal value to Dieng? Green and Dieng would both be great third bigs on almost any team, but the issue of them both being in Minnesota is that one would need to be big number two.
Trading Gorgui Dieng?
If we are operating under the assumption that Green is worth 4-60 and that Green and Dieng are similar assets then Dieng would in theory be appealing to another team. If the Wolves are to sign Green (or any other big) there is potential for a corresponding Dieng trade.
The difficulty in trading Dieng is in sending him out the Wolves would likely take back some money in the deal. If the money they take back is similar to his $14.1 million for this season, the Wolves will be out of cap space if they turn around and sign Green. If Green is in fact a player similar in quality to Dieng, all of that maneuvering would be a side-step at best.
For me, sticking with Dieng at power forward makes the most sense unless you can make a major upgrade. Millsap, Griffin, and Ibaka where Green feels more like that side-step.
But maybe adding Green and dumping Dieng isn’t a side-step? Maybe he helps unlock the Wolves offense through the spacing Gorgui is unable to consistently provide. Maybe he evolves the defense in a better and more perfect support of Towns. Or best yet, maybe he does both of those things and Dieng stays. Maybe Dieng-Towns-Green is a three-headed monster that between the group can do every single thing you could ask for from a big man.
Bringing in Green would give the Wolves plenty of lineup options, and he fills numerous needs (defense, toughness, stretch 4). He is a fun player that would have no shortage of highlight reel plays featuring his athleticism. Green is a great put-back dunker and is tenacious in ripping down the rim. Adding his defense to the frontcourt would help immensely.
The Wolves had the fourth-worst defensive rating in 2016-17 and are yearning for an aware defender who has tremendous athleticism and length to defend the rim and perimeter. Even with Butler in the fold, versatile, defensive-minded players are still needed in Minnesota.
Green fits that mold as he not only defends vertically but also as a lateral defender. Green has springs to get up and quick enough feet to defend side-to-side. Many defenders are reliant on shot blocking, for Green he understands defense starts on the perimeter and is finished at the rim.
On offense, when he’s not dunking or shooting corner threes, his post-up game is pretty basic. Not a ton of fancy footwork, more so a player who gets into his opponents chest to finish through them or draw a foul. As he does here against Towns. Green was an 80.2 percent free throw shooter, last season.
It’s more of a herky-jerky offensive attack for Green. He won’t ever wow in the paint, but he does have a good-looking hook and often catches shot blockers off guard with a spin-to-finish move. Towns, again, the victim here.
Green is not a pure scorer at all, but he is a solid contributor through a bit of isolation and his ability to knock down open threes. If the Wolves were to sign Green, their need for shooting would not be solved. The Wolves need to add a player who can create shooting opportunities for themselves, Green is only a catch-and-shoot player. 96 percent of his threes were of the catch-and-shoot variety last season, per NBA.com/stats.
While there is much to like about Green, the team's other needs also should be considered. He would be a fine addition if the Wolves could address shooting elsewhere, but with the high price it will cost to pry him away from Memphis, and the presence of Dieng already on the roster, Green is not necessarily the best move if Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden are thinking forwards.