By now you probably heard about the three team trade that took place yesterday. The Pistons, Grizzlies and Raptors agreed on a multiplayer trade that sent Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto, Jose Calderon to Detroit and Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis to Memphis. You'll find analysis on how the trade affects those team on RaptorsHQ, Detroit Bad Boys and Straight Outta Vancouver but what I'm more interested about is how this trade affects the Spurs and their possible playoff matchup against Memphis.
Just like it happened with the Thunder and James Harden, one of the Spurs' direct rivals had to make a cost cutting move; sending out a very good offensive player and getting back a slight downgrade in the process. Rudy Gay might be overpaid, but what he can do on offense (get to the line, create his own scoring opportunities, rescue dead possessions late in the shot clock) is valuable. While Tayshun Prince is no slouch on that end, his role will be likely quite different. The Grizzlies needed shooting from the wing badly and Prince, a career 37% shooter from outside and currently hitting threes at a career high 43%, will give them some of that. You could say that as a defense-first, spot up shooter Prince is exactly what the Grizzlies needed.
But the move puts a lot of pressure on Mike Conley. As of now the Grizzlies have no one else that can function as a scoring threat from the perimeter. Tony Allen should never try creating for himself or others and while Prince can work on isolations from the top of the key (or IsoTayshauns, as our DBB brethren would call them), he is not nearly the threat Gay is. That leaves Conley, Bayless and rookie Tony Wrotten to carry the load of the shot creating responsibilities for the entire team. Prince can post up some, but the paint will likely be crowded by Gasol and Randolph, and sending Tayshaun to the block negates the floor spacing he would otherwise provide. Gasol will also likely get more shots and will need to deliver consistently for the offense to hum, no small request for a player that has been largely inconsistent on that end.
Offensive rebounding, one of the Grizzlies biggest strengths, should not be affected very much, but it's important to point out that Prince is not particularly good at crashing the offensive glass and his role on the offense will probably place him far from the basket. Ed Davis, however, is exceptionally good at it, as his domination on the boards against the Spurs earlier this season shows. That should even things out during any limited runs he's likely to get.
Perhaps where Gay will be missed the most is in transition, where his otherworldly athleticism and finishing ability made him a terror. The Grizzlies rank near the top of the league in fast break points and Gay is far better suited for that type of play than Prince. Then again, having a proper floor spacing spot up shooter might allow the Grizzlies to execute better on half court sets and diminish Memphis' dependence on easy buckets. Not having Gay to isolate against a smaller defender might allow the Spurs to employ a three guard lineup of Parker-Neal-Ginobili if the team needs scoring, as Prince isn't likely to be as difficult to defend as Gay was.
So to sum up, if Prince can keep up his three point shooting percentage the Grizzlies will get some much needed outside shooting from the trade, but this comes at the cost of their primary perimeter scoring threat and a deadly fast break weapon in the process. It's similar to what OKC went through in swapping Martin for Harden, and their offense is doing fine for the time being. But come the playoffs, not having Gay to throw the ball to is likely to put extra pressure on their point guards.
On defense, Prince is, even at this stage in his career, an upgrade over Gay. It all comes down to BBIQ. Prince has been a good system defender for his entire career and his length and anticipation make him a scary one-on-one defender as well, even if he has lost a step. Any lineup featuring him and Tony Allen will likely give everyone in the league fits on the defensive end and the Spurs will not be an exception.
One area where Gay excelled and Prince never has, is in getting steals. Disruptive defense is one of the staples of Grizzlies basketball under Hollins, and has been a scourge for the Spurs stretching back to their meeting in the 2011 playoffs. It could be good for our guys that Gay's aggressive ball-hawking has been replaced by Prince's containment D. Come playoff time, though, having someone with the experience and versatility of Prince can only help them defend, and adding a mobile big with a knack for blocking shots like Davis, at the expense of the lumbering Haddadi, is definitely an upgrade.
The young guys
You might have noticed I haven't mentioned Austin Daye at all, and have only made some general remarks on Ed Davis. While placing an extra combo forward on the deep bench is never a bad thing, the Grizzlies will have Allen, Prince, Pondexter, Arthur and Davis ahead of Daye. The Gonzaga product has disappointed after being a lottery pick and while a change of scenery could help him, I doubt he cracks the Memphis rotation this season.
Davis, on the other hand, could turn this trade into a clear win for the Grizzlies. By now we all know what Prince can do but the addition of Davis could spell trouble for a number of teams, including the Spurs. Paired with Darrell Arthur, who can hit from outside, he could be a matchup nightmare for a Spurs' second unit that struggles to keep long, high energy players off the offensive glass. Davis averages 9.9 boards per 36 minutes, doesn't turn the ball over, gets to the line at an acceptable rate and currently has a true shooting percentage of .549, which makes him the most efficient scorer on the Grizzlies roster. His shooting numbers might come back to earth but I expect him to be a solid back up for Marc Gasol, making an already scary front line even more well rounded.
So this trade changed the dynamics of the Grizzlies somewhat but I think it didn't really hurt their chances against San Antonio. Prince has the championship experience and defensive acumen to take on the Battier role from the 2010/11 playoffs and the floor spacing he provides ought to make life easier for Zach Randolph. I still have doubts about how Gasol and Conley will respond to the additional responsibility, and I'll need to see how the Grizzlies create good looks at the end of games. Ed Davis is the wildcard of it all. Depending on how much he gives them off the bench, you could say the Grizzlies actually improved as a result of the trade. It will be interesting to see how team chemistry is affected, but the Grizzlies will likely remain a team no one wants to meet in the playoffs. I still believe the Spurs can beat them but this trade didn't make that task any easier.