The Memphis Grizzlies were looking to dump salary in order to sign star forward Rudy Gay to a long-term contract extension and avoid paying the luxury tax.
That was the impetus behind the deal that Tuesday sent young big man Jon Leuer to Memphis and brought power forward-center Marreese Speights, shooting guard Wayne Ellington and point guard Josh Selby to Cleveland.
The rebuilding Cavs also got a future first-round pick from Memphis, which will most likely be in 2017. The pick is protected 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015 and ’16 and 1-5 in 2017 and ’18. It’s unprotected in 2019.
“We said we were going to try to build through the draft,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said prior to a game against Boston at Quicken Loans Arena. “So far, that’s what we’re doing. It looks good to me.”
To make room on their roster for the three new players — they were expected to arrive Tuesday night, undergo physicals today, practice Thursday and be available to play Friday against Milwaukee — the Cavs waived point guard Jeremy Pargo.
“Marreese will strengthen our frontcourt, while Wayne and Josh will add depth to our backcourt,” general manager Chris Grant said in a statement.
“At the same time, we are adding a valuable asset with another future first-round pick while also maintaining our future flexibility.
“We wish Jon and Jeremy the best as they move on with their careers and thank them for their time with us here in Cleveland.”
Grant met with media members Tuesday evening at The Q, but didn’t want to be quoted because the players hadn’t undergone physicals and the deal wasn’t totally final.
The best player in the trade is fifth-year pro Speights, a 6-foot-10, 245-pounder who won a national title at Florida and was originally chosen by Philadelphia with the 16th pick in the 2008 draft (Cleveland took J.J. Hickson three picks later).
With Cavs center Anderson Varejao (knee, blood clot in lung) out for the season, Speights figures to see a ton of action immediately.
“He is going to get an opportunity to play a lot of minutes,” Scott said. “He’s going to get an opportunity to be part of something that’s going to get a lot better.
“Given a chance, I think he can produce for us. He’s going to get a chance.”
Speights, who is earning $4.2 million this season and has a player option that will pay him $4.5 million in 2013-14, was averaging 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds in 14.5 minutes a game with the Grizzlies. Last season he averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in a bigger role with Memphis.
If he exercises his player option as expected, the 25-year-old’s contract will come off the books in the summer of 2014, which is the earliest LeBron James can opt out of his deal in Miami and become a free agent.
Cleveland, which had been a league-high $10 million-plus under the salary cap, remains about $4 million below it, but has the flexibility to grow that number significantly in the coming years if it desires.
That could potentially start with Ellington, a 6-4, 200-pounder from North Carolina who spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with Minnesota, which took him with the 28th pick in 2009.
The 25-year-old is going to have a hard time getting minutes with C.J. Miles, Dion Waiters and Daniel Gibson at shooting guard, but there’s a chance Gibson could be dealt prior to the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
“Wayne Ellington is a guy who can stretch the floor,” Scott said. “He’s gotten better every year he’s been in the league.”
The fourth-year pro was averaging 5.5 points and 1.1 assists for the Grizzlies. He was also shooting .423 on 3-pointers this season and has a career mark of .385.
Ellington’s $2.08 million contract will come off the books at the end of the season unless the Cavs give him a qualifying offer, which would make him a restricted free agent. If they give him a qualifying offer and he accepts it, his deal will expire in the summer of 2014.
“He knows how to play basketball,” Scott said. “He plays within himself, which I think is good.”
Selby, whose $762,000 contract matches that of Leuer, is a 6-2, 183-pounder out of Kansas. The 49th player chosen in 2011, he played sparingly for Memphis and averaged 2.0 points and 0.4 assists this season.
Cleveland has the option of picking up Selby’s contract for next season, but he does not appear to be a big part of the team’s long-range future.
It’s Scott’s job to incorporate the new players in the middle of the season, but the veteran coach is not overly concerned.
“It’s part of the business,” he said. “It’s difficult if you make it difficult.”
Goodbye, hello again
The 6-10 Leuer, acquired off waivers from Houston in the offseason, appeared in nine games for the Cavs and averaged 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds.
The 6-2, 219-pound Pargo, who was acquired from Memphis over the summer, appeared in 25 games (11 starts) and averaged 7.8 points. A starter when Kyrie Irving fractured his finger, Pargo fell totally out of the rotation after the team signed veteran Shaun Livingston.
“It had nothing to do with what Jeremy did or didn’t do,” Scott said of releasing the veteran.
Also Tuesday, Cleveland recalled power forward Kevin Jones from Canton of the NBA Development League. Jones was sent to the Charge — for the second time this season — on Monday and had 25 points and 11 rebounds in a game that night.
- The Cavs will have two first-round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. One is their own and will likely be in the top five. The other will come from the Los Angeles Lakers if the Lakers make the playoffs, meaning it would be in the 15-16-17 range. If the Lakers don’t make the playoffs — they are not in them at the moment — Cleveland gets Miami’s pick, which will be later in the first round.
- The future first-round pick the Cavs acquired from Sacramento in the Hickson-Omri Casspi deal is protected for the Kings as follows: Sacramento keeps it if it is in the top 13 in 2013, the top 12 in 2014 and the top 10 from 2015-17. If the Cavs have not gotten the pick by 2017, they get the Kings’ second-round pick that year and the deal will be complete.
- Other than Cleveland, the only teams under the salary cap are Houston and Phoenix. Both of them have about $7 million with which to work.
Contact Rick Noland at (330)721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.