Andre Iguodala’s hope of joining a contender this upcoming season took a hit when Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Memphis Grizzlies, who acquired him in a July trade, of his contract. They want him to report to training camp, ideally to serve as a mentor to their young players before eventually serving as a trade chip, but Iguodala would prefer to pick his own team now.
“What the Grizzlies are doing, it is to be expected,” one league executive told Heavy.com. “They’re looking at him as an asset and they want to get something in return for him. He’s under contract, so they hold all the cards. The worst he can do is not show up and it is not like Memphis is going to be playing for a playoff spot. Him not showing up wouldn’t help anything. But if you’re on the outside, those teams, they’re just waiting it out.”
Iguodala may have trade value, but Memphis is going to encounter several logistical problems in trying to trade him. The three most prominent teams that have been linked to him — the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers along with the Houston Rockets — are all prevented from trading first-round picks by the Stepien Rule. Other teams could offer such picks, but they might encounter the same problem Memphis has. If Iguodala doesn’t want to play for a team, he may not report.
The other major hurdle is salary. Iguodala is set to make nearly $17.2 million in 2019-20. That means that matching his salary in a trade would require an acquiring team to send out over $13.7 million just to make the trade legal. The Lakers, Clippers and Rockets don’t have $13.7 million in salary that they are willing to move. The expensive players on their rosters are valuable contributors.
There are creative alternatives that these teams could potentially take. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported in July that the Rockets explored one Iguodala deal through a potential sign-and-trade with two of their own free agents, Iman Shumpert and Nene. They did not make any progress there. Shumpert remains unsigned, but the complicating factor of base-year compensation makes sign-and-trade deals like this nearly impossible to pull off. For the purposes of a trade, Shumpert’s new salary would count for its entire amount as an incoming figure for Memphis, but only half as an outgoing figure for Houston.
If Iguodala is truly desperate to escape Memphis, there are steps that he could take to hasten his departure. Chauncey Billups, a veteran of similar stature around the league, notably threatened teams interested in claiming him off waivers in 2011 by giving Adrian Wojnarowski, then of Yahoo Sports, several incendiary quotes to scare them off. “A leader can be as disruptive as he can be productive. This is about me now,” Billups told Wojnarowski. It worked. Billups went unclaimed and was able to sign with the team of his choice, the Clippers.
Jimmy Butler seemingly took a similar approach with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, as stories of his behavior at his first training camp practice after demanding a trade quickly became public. Iguodala is a well-regarded veteran, the sort of consummate professional who probably wouldn’t engage in such behavior, but so was Billups. As Charania reported, this might be Iguodala’s last season in the NBA. He does not want to spend that season on a lottery team, and whether or not he takes them, more drastic steps are available in potentially escaping that situation.
The Grizzlies are not willing to offer Iguodala a buyout now, but as Deveney reports, contenders are willing to wait. They want Iguodala for May and June, not October and November. Perhaps one of Iguodala’s preferred destinations realizes that it needs him and is willing to sacrifice assets it would not currently, or perhaps the deadline passes without a move and the Grizzlies no longer have any incentive not to offer a buyout. Either way, Iguodala is probably not going to end this season in Memphis. He will land on a playoff team eventually. It is just a matter of when.