Join Today


The Luke Kennard Situation

With both Memphis and Kennard eager to reconstruct his deal, what will Luke’s fate ultimately be?
By Evan Hayes - July 3, 2024, 8:35 am - 0 comments

When the 2023-2024 NBA season ended, the Memphis Grizzlies had a few question marks going into the offseason. They had an upcoming lottery pick with many options to choose from. They had a gaping need at the center that needed to be addressed. There were rumors that Marcus Smart was in the trade market. Finally, there was the impending free agency of Luke Kennard.

A few of those questions have been answered. The Grizzlies stayed at number 9 in the draft and selected Purdue big man Zach Edey. There have also been numerous reports that Marcus Smart is staying in Memphis. Since he made it through the draft without being dealt, and the current construction of this roster, I feel it’s safe to say he’s on the team to stay.

Kennard’s fate has yet to be determined. This summer Kennard had a 14.8M team option on his contract. Grizz fans were wondering what the front office would do with that option. No matter if they picked up Kennard’s option or let his contract expire their decision would lead to multiple possibilities on what the Grizzlies can do.

However, on June 29, Adrian Wojnarowski gave us our answer. He reported that Memphis would decline his team option, allowing him to be an unrestricted free agent. Woj also offered the caveat in his report that both Memphis and Kennard are eager to reconstruct the deal. Currently, no deal has been made and we haven’t heard anything of note from either side.

Being that Grizz fans and everyone outside of the Memphis organization is stuck waiting for the news to break I will break down the different options Memphis has and what it means for the team.

Option 1: Memphis Lets Luke Walk

Let’s get the worst possible possibility out of the way first. Unfortunately, there is a real possibility that Memphis and Kennard can’t come to an agreement and he takes his talents elsewhere. Being that Kennard is a career 44 percent shooter from behind the arc his value will always be high.

Playoff suitors such as the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and others are always in the market for glue guys to sharpen out their roster and floor spacing is always a need in the NBA.

If Memphis’ picked up Kennard’s deal that would’ve forced them to dip into their luxury tax. This would have severely limited the flexibility of the rest of free agency, so it made sense to decline his option.

However, if Kennard doesn’t resign that runs the risk of Memphis having a hole in an area of need and gives another playoff competitor ammunition to combat this team with. Letting Kennard walk and depending on guys like Jake LaRavia and Ziare Williams to step up in his place doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Memphis is playing a dangerous game allowing Kennard to take calls from other teams which could potentially end up burning them.

The bright side if Kennard doesn’t resign is that there’s more money for the Grizz to play with in the offseason. They can sign guys like Malik Beasley or Buddy Hield. Two guys that are unrestricted free agents that are similar to Kennard’s skill set, but could potentially not cost as much money.

You can also use that extra money for financial compensation in trade deals to add value to your roster. You can move on from contracts like Santi Aldama and John Konchar in sign-and-trades that can raise the ceiling of this time if the right move is made.

The bottom line is that if Kennard walks, Memphis needs to find value in his replacement and fast.

Option 2: Kennard Resigns For Less

We go from potentially the worst-case scenario to the best-case scenario.

If Kennard believes that Memphis is his best bet to compete for a championship, and if the front office believes that he is a pivotal part of that championship puzzle, this is the best option for both parties.

An example of a contract that could work for both sides is 3 Years/30M. It brings down Kennard’s salary by almost $5 million, but it locks up Kennard for years to come. Which will give Kennard financial, and professional stability. Kennard, who is 28 and will be 29 by the start of next season, is in the prime of his career. It’s likely his level of play won’t dramatically rise for the rest of his career. As a result, this may be one of the last long-term deals he gets while being in the NBA.

It would make sense for Kennard to resign at a place where his role is established, won’t be asked to pay heavy minutes, weaknesses will be masked with the talent around him, and he’ll be competing for a championship every year.

This deal has a load of benefits for Memphis. Klieman and company lock up their shooter during this championship window, add another veteran leader to this core, and give a mentor for the younger wings at his position like GG Jackson II, and 2024 draft pick Jaylen Wells. On top of that, it gives you the flexibility to make moves during the rest of the summer for maybe another big man or to secure the backup point guard position.

It’s truly a win-win situation.

Option 3: Kennard Signs For More/Is Traded Down the Line

Out of the three options I see this as the least likely to happen.

In the situation, that Kennard resigns for even more, which will be in the 15M-18M range, that shows the abundance of belief Klieman and Taylor Jenkins have in this roster has presently been constructed.

Kennard resigning for more money would make him the fifth highest-paid player on the team. (Behind Morant, Bane, Jackson Jr., and Smart). Having Kennard as the fifth highest-paid player on your team when he’s maybe the ninth or tenth best player on the team doesn’t seem like the best bang for your buck move.

This potential deal would force Memphis into a corner to dip into their luxury talent and choose from the bottom of the barrel of free agent talent. It would lead Memphis to be in the same exact financial situation they are in now with Kennard. If they sign him to more money it can lead fans to ask: “Why did we decline his offer in the first place?”

If the front office decides to do this, a logical reason I could see being the cause of it is playing the long game with Kennard until the trade deadline. They could sign him for more money, wait until the middle of the year, and trade him away for more value for a late playoff push.

But again, the question comes up of “Why not pick up his option and then trade him during the summer?” I don’t have the answers to these hypothetical questions unfortunately. It’s a convoluted way to get to the final result, but we’ve seen in the past anything can truly happen in the NBA.

As presently constructed, Memphis can easily be a 50-win team and a top 4 team in the west. Although, allocating most of your resources to Luke Kennard, limits your ability to raise your ceiling from contender to championship favorite.

Luke Kennard is an extremely valuable member of this team, but almost every player has a limit for what is “too much” and this is that situation.

But, We Still Wait…

Grizznation is becoming restless with every passing day that they don’t see a headline with the Memphis Grizzlies making an acquisition. This high level of impatience is understandable. Memphis has the most talented roster in its franchise’s history, and fans want to see moves being made to improve this roster as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the NBA doesn’t work on the clock of fans and most importantly Zach Klieman doesn’t. Kileman has made it clear he intends to be aggressive this off-season and doing whatever it takes to make this talented roster a contender.

These deals take time. The NBA season is almost four full months away. Klieman has plenty of time to make the moves needed to make this team in his image. I advise all fans to trust Klieman and don’t get so worked up over a headline that doesn’t have Memphis in the headline.

We have a great basketball on our hands and no matter what happens with Kennard, fans should be excited for next season.


You can subscribe to more Insider content to get even more Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers coverage here.

Bluff City Media now covers every sport in the city of Memphis. Follow our Tigers, Grizzlies, and Soccer coverage on Twitter. 

Follow Bluff City Media on Instagram and TikTok - and subscribe to our Bluff City Media YouTube Channel

Make sure you check out all our podcasts that focus on Grizzlies, Tigers, Soccer, and more!

More From Bluff City Media


Leave a Reply