Memphis ownership and management have decided they’ve reached an organizational crossroads and are preparing to weigh deal scenarios on one or both of their cornerstone veterans between now and the Feb. 7 trade deadline — and perhaps into the offseason, league sources said.
The Grizzlies could decide to keep one or both players if no deals meet the threshold of a desired return, but the organization is motivated to begin reshaping the roster around its 2018 first-round pick, forward Jaren Jackson, league sources said.
The Grizzlies will be pursuing typical deal packages in dealing veteran stars, including some combination of young talent, draft picks and salary-cap relief, sources said. The advanced age of Gasol (33) and substantial money owed Conley (likely $67 million through 2021) could make it difficult for Memphis to get substantial trade packages in return.
The Grizzlies had hoped to contend for a return to the playoffs in the Western Conference, but they have lost nine of 10 games to drop to 19-28 overall and into second-to-last place in the West.
Memphis owes the Boston Celtics a first-round draft pick that is protected to No. 8 in 2019, No. 6 in 2020 and unprotected in 2021.
Gasol can become a free agent this summer by opting out of the final year of his $25.5 million contract for 2019-20. He has a trade kicker on his contract that would be valued at $1.2 million at the time of the February deadline.
Conley, 31, has an early-termination option for the 2020-21 season. The guard has $22.4 million of his $34.5 million salary guaranteed, with the balance becoming fully protected if he plays in 55 games this season. He already has played in 46 games.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have started 633 games together, by far the most by any two active players:
Marc Gasol, Mike Conley 633
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook 510
Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan 483
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson 471
— Elias Sports Bureau
Conley is guaranteed $32 million in 2019-20, so trading for him is likely to commit an organization to $67 million in salary over the final two years of his original five-year, $153 million contract.
Gasol and Conley have been the centerpieces of the Grizzlies, leading the organization to the playoffs for seven straight seasons before 2018, including two trips to the Western Conference semifinals and one to the conference finals.
Gasol and Conley recently met with owner Robert Pera in Memphis, but neither expressed a desire to be traded, league sources told ESPN.
The Grizzlies also are trying to trade forward Chandler Parsons, who has $35 million through 2019-20 left on his contract. Parsons and the organization have seemingly parted ways for the season, with Parsons returning to California to work out and wait on a possible trade. Memphis has discussed deals in which it would take on additional salary moving forward, but that’s a more unlikely scenario with Gasol and Conley on the trading block and a rebuild on the horizon.
Parsons has endured chronic knee problems since signing with the Grizzlies on a four-year, $93 million contract in 2016, but he has been cleared to return to the court this season.