Four weeks into the NBA season and there’s been little movement on the winter’s one potential free-agent situation that could help swing the championship race in June: the stalemate between guard Andre Iguodala and the Grizzlies.
Memphis plans to wait on a buyout with Iguodala until February’s trade deadline. The Grizzlies are still holding out hope that a trade can be worked out and have been holding firm on their asking price of a first-round pick. If not, Iguodala will be cut loose from Memphis and free to sign with whomever he chooses—around the league, that’s expected to be the Lakers.
But there are still teams in the mix. All, according to speculation from league executives, are in the Western Conference.
“He’s got more value in the West,” one GM told Heavy.com. “I can’t see a team in the East moving for him. He has the experience guarding LeBron and that’s what you want out of him. That and you want to keep him off the Lakers, you want their bench to be a weak spot. He doesn’t have those same kinds of good matchups in the East. You don’t want to put him on Giannis (Antetokounmpo) in a seven-game series, for sure.”
Probably a good idea: Antetokounmpo, in his last four games against Iguodala’s former team, the Warriors, averaged 25.3 points on 58.2 percent shooting.
The problem for the Lakers has been that they can’t make the outgoing money match for a trade with Memphis and they won’t include a near-term first-rounder for Iguodala. They owe first-round picks to New Orleans in 2021 and 2024, meaning they can’t trade picks between those years, or in 2025 because of the NBA’s “Stepien Rule.”
The Lakers also owe their second-rounders for the next three drafts to other teams. There’s just no trade package that would make sense for Memphis.
Of course, there are not a lot of trades out there from other teams that do make sense. To make a deal work, a team needs a contract (or combined contracts) that can come close to the $17 million that Iguodala makes plus a draft pick. Maybe Memphis could be tempted by a young player in place of a pick, but they’ve given no indication of that yet.
“The Lakers are still the favorite,” the GM said. “Someone’s going to have to make a risky move for a 35-year-old to make a trade work. Who’s going to do that?”
Iguodala’s Potential Suitors Have Issues
Who, indeed? One team that has made an offer is the Mavericks, eager to put together a push to the playoffs and hopeful of adding help for burgeoning sophomore Luka Doncic who has already had three triple-doubles this season.
The Mavericks have one chip—the contract of Courtney Lee, at $12.8 million—that can get them close to matching salaries with Iguodala. But, like the Lakers, they can’t give the Grizzlies a first-rounder until pretty far down the line, in 2025, having dealt away picks in 2021 and 2023 to acquire Kristaps Porzingis last February.
And they’re not eager to give up that pick because they could need it if a younger player than Iguodala comes available on the market. They’ve offered Memphis a second-rounder, which was rejected back in the summer.
Dallas’ best bet would be a package of Lee and wing Dorian Finney-Smith, and a second-rounder or two. The Mavs have the rights to the Warriors’ second-round pick this year, which could prove to be valuable given Golden State’s troubles.
But the Grizzlies have yet to show interest in that deal and whether the Mavs would revisit the offer is a question. Sources indicate that the Mavs’ intent as the season progresses is to hunt for a piece with the trade exception they hold from the Harrison Barnes deal, worth $11.7 million. The Mavs can take on a player with a contract less than that value without giving up anything in return.
The two darkhorses that have lingered on the fringe of the Iguodala mix are the Nuggets and Blazers, but each may be unlikely suitors.
Portland could swap wing Kent Bazemore for Iguodala and has its full slate of first-round picks available. There are also valued young players—Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, Gary Trent Jr.—on the roster if the Blazers wanted to exclude picks from an offer.
The Blazers might be inclined to more seriously consider a move if things had gone as planned here in the early season, as they wait for Jusuf Nurkic to return from a broken leg (which might not happen until the All-Star break, if then). But things have gone sideways in Portland thus far, with C.J. McCollum mired in a shooting slump, Zach Collins out with a shoulder injury and a 4-7 record.
For the Lakers, the Nuggets are the biggest threat to insert themselves into the Iguodala discussion. Denver owes this year’s first-rounder, but has the rest of its first-round picks intact (their second-rounders are owed for the next three years, though.) Denver is intrigued by the notion of adding Iguodala to help with potential playoff challenges like James or Kawhi Leonard.
Denver would have to give up a valuable player, though, like backup center Mason Plumlee, to make the contract math work. Adding a first-round pick or a young player (Malik Beasley? Juan Hernangomez?) is a steep price.
That’s the case for just about every West contender that has considered Iguodala. There’s some desire there, but no real way to make a deal work. So both he and the Grizzlies just wait. As important, the Lakers wait, too. There’s not much else to be done.