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Dillon Brooks may have spent the past few weeks regrettably poking a rather large bear in Los Angeles, but after LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers knocked him out of the playoffs, it was the words of another Brooks foe that seemed to ring the most true. Last season, Brooks infamously claimed that the Grizzlies were "building our dynasty" after a blowout win over the Golden State Warriors. A year later, one of the central figures of those dynastic Warriors disagreed. 

"The dynasty starts after you," Draymond Green said in March. "Not with you."

Green may not have known just how right he was. A few weeks after his latest dust-up with Brooks, the NBA and the NBPA finalized a new collective bargaining agreement. While the deal didn't explicitly create rules to prevent teams from retaining their own players, it did add a second luxury tax apron that inflicts enormous penalties on the league's biggest spenders. Teams that cross that line will lose flexibility in free agency, pay higher tax rates, face severely restrictive salary matching rules on trades, and in some cases, even see their first-round pick drop to the bottom of the round. The days of handing out extensions first and asking questions later are gone. The NBA is about to enter a new period of fiscal responsibility.

The timing is less than ideal for a Grizzlies team that is about to get pricey. Ja Morant's max rookie extension kicks in after the season, and Desmond Bane will be eligible for a similar deal this offseason that will being during the 2024-25 campaign. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke have also been locked into long-term deals, and Steven Adams, Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard are all set to earn eight figures next season. As it stands, they currently sit around $25 million below the projected tax line for next season.

That figure does not include a new deal for Brooks, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and was reportedly informed this week that he will not be back with the team "under any circumstances." 

Memphis could have easily afforded to re-sign Brooks and still duck below next year's tax line, but once Bane's expected new deal kicks in a year later, keeping Brooks would have surely push the Grizzlies deep into the tax. Memphis has already shed De'Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson in service of their future finances.

Paying Brooks might have been more palatable if he were coming off of a better series. He talked a big game about defending James, but through five games, the player Brooks made a point of calling "old" shot 18-of-31 with him as his primary defender, according to NBA.com tracking data. James saved his best for last in Game 6, though. After Game 2, Brooks claimed that he doesn't respect anyone until they score 40 on him. James didn't quite do that in Game 6, but his team did. The Lakers won Game 6 by exactly 40 points: 125-85.

Offense was a far bigger issue. Brooks shot 24-of-77 from the field and 10-of-42 from 3-point range in six games against the Lakers. Darvin Ham's defense barely paid attention to him, and he couldn't punish the Lakers for it. This is especially problematic for the Grizzlies considering the way defenses treat Morant as a shooter. They already go under screens against him prioritizing stopping his drives while letting him fire away from deep. Memphis can barely space the floor with a traditional big next to their star point guard. Put Brooks in the mix as well and the Grizzlies can't score consistently in the half-court.

The Grizzlies had seemingly already begun exploring a post-Brooks future during the season. ESPN's Zach Lowe reported that Memphis offered three first-round picks for Raptors wing OG Anunoby at the trade deadline, and HoopsHype's Michael Scotto reported that they were willing to go as high as four first-rounders for Mikal Bridges. Brooks may or may not have been offered in those negotiations, but even if he wasn't, such an acquisition would have cemented his eventual ouster. Bridges and Anunoby fill the same theoretical role as Brooks. They're both just better at it than he is.

The cost of such a move would have been significant in both dollars and draft picks. The benefits of paying such a price likely would have extended off of the court. Anunoby is notoriously quiet. Bridges was recently announced as a finalist for the NBA's Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award, which is saying something considering he had two different sets of teammates this season. Neither are likely to poke the bears Brooks does.

He was not the only Grizzlies player to make enemies in the press. Ja Morant infamously said that Memphis is "fine in the West" when asked in December about teams the Grizzlies might have to face in the playoffs. Desmond Bane guaranteed a Game 7 that never came. Impertinence is this team's identity. It might just be one they're ready to outgrow. Green had quite a bit more to say during that prescient March podcast. "I know dynasty-like players," Green said. "They aren't clowns."

He might be an ironic source for such commentary, but he knows from personal experience just how much a single player's antics can cost a potential champion. His suspension during the 2016 NBA Finals may have swung the title to Cleveland. Brooks was suspended for one game last postseason. He was ejected from another against the Lakers this time around.

Memphis might be able to overlook these offenses for the right player. Golden State certainly has for Green. But Brooks just committed the cardinal sin of NBA distractions against the Lakers: he didn't back up his high jinks on the court.

The Grizzlies have spent years searching for a big wing that can both shoot and defend credibly. They've missed at every turn. Bridges and Anunoby slipped through their fingers. Justise Winslow never panned out, and Ziaire Williams couldn't even get on the court during the playoffs. Brooks was given a golden opportunity to secure that role for himself this season. He responded by shooting 32.6% on a career-high six 3-point attempts per game in the regular season before losing his war of words with James in the playoffs against a Lakers team that barely acknowledged his existence offensively.

In the free-spending world of the 2017 CBA, the Grizzlies might have been able to justify a hefty contract extension for Brooks anyway. But now, given the mountain of expenditures coming in their future and the lofty trade ambitions they displayed at the deadline? Brooks became a distraction that the Grizzlies were literally not be able to afford.