One thing is certain: This was not the plan all along. When Tyreke Evans made the trip to Indiana more than a week before the NBA trade deadline and was then pulled off the court before tip-off against the Pacers, the Grizzlies thought they were dealing Evans. Where? Unknown. When? Probably in the next 48 hours. Whatever was cooking at the time, it didn’t pan out. As recently as 24 hours before Thursday’s deadline, it was assumed that Evans would move. The team had not only shut him down in anticipation of a trade, but Evans had said his goodbyes. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, one of the most connected national NBA reporters, had four teams in pursuit. The night before deadline day, Wojnarowski’s chief rival, The New York Times’ Marc Stein, noted that Evans being dealt was considered a “lock” around the league. But the calculus was quietly changing in Memphis. Up until the 2 p.m. deadline itself, Evans still might have moved. But the Grizzlies were intent on getting a certain return. It was a game of chicken, but for better or worse, the Grizzlies weren’t bluffing. What was the likely rationale? Was it a sound one? Let’s walk through it. The offers Essentially, the Grizzlies wanted a first-round draft pick for Evans and did not want to take back unwanted salary for next season. It’s clear that the Grizzlies are intent on having access to their mid-level exception ($8.6 million) in free agency next summer while staying safely beneath the league’s luxury tax threshold. For that reason, they were apparently reluctant -- too reluctant, I’d say -- to take any unwanted salary in trades. As for draft picks, the Grizzlies seemed to value pick quality, but not quantity. The team’s roster already has a heavy contingent of young players with two draft picks in place this summer. The Grizzlies didn’t seem to want a 2018 draft pick unless it was a pick good enough to improve the team’s current draft position. A first-rounder. Despite Evans’ great season, the Grizzlies were disappointed to find offers they deemed no better, probably worse, than what they fetched for lesser guard Courtney Lee in a similar situation two seasons ago.
NBA Rumors: Why Tyreke Evans wasn't traded
Memphis Commercial Appeal | Feb 12