Even casual fans can identify some of the top players in the NBA today. Guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are the faces of the league and are involved in business and entertainment activities off the pitch as well. But the league’s less obvious inner workings are also interesting.
For example, competing teams often try to swap players with bad or expiring contracts. And the Memphis Grizzlies have become a target for these players. The teams send the expiring or violent contracts for cap relief to the grizzlies, who in return send draft picks or another role player who can help the other team in the immediate future.
However, the Grizzlies often don’t keep the players they receive. Memphis has paid four players $ 34.5 million to leave for the past three seasons. And a fun trend has developed: Each of these four players ended up with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In fact, the Grizzlies have subsidized nearly 13% of the Lakers roster over those three seasons. They paid Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters, and Rajon Rondo to leave the team. According to capologist Yossi Gozlan, The Grizzlies paid $ 34.5 million while the Lakers paid just $ 10.4 million to line up these four players.
The waiters’ deal is the most egregious. He was only with the Grizzlies for three days, but they paid him $ 12.1 million in the 2019-20 season and $ 12.5 million last year, despite being waived the previous season. The Lakers paid him $ 500,000 despite Waiters only playing seven regular season games. Waiters got a championship out of the deal so he’s probably okay with how things turned out.
Memphis is certainly not a free agent destination, so the team needs to work through the draft and trades. In many cases, this means that you are overpaying or accepting these contracts to get a player that they actually want. For example, the Grizzlies Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill traded primarily to the Miami Heat to get Justise Winslow, though they also had to take on the contracts of Waiters and James Johnson.
Gambling didn’t pay off; the Grizzlies turned down Winslow’s team option that season after playing for them in just 26 games. He came to the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent and, appropriately, found his way to LA
The Grizzlies are an exciting team, led by future superstar Ja Morant. But if they want to grow, they have to spend a lot of money – and sometimes that money goes to players who are no longer on the team.