Next up: Washington Wizards
Where they are now: The Wizards are a middle of the road team in the inferior conference. What makes them so interesting is that they have a significant amount of talent, but they have serious problems with meshing. The surest thing they have is Caron Butler, who is a SF with All-Star talent and the right mentality. Of course, Gilbert Arenas is Gilbert Arenas, but being a Free Agent and his unpredictable nature (coupled with the question of whether he makes his teammates better) makes him a different animal. Probably the coolest thing about the Wizards is their young talent: Andray Blatche and Nick Young are both legit young players and Dominic McGuire could be a role player of value in the long term. Their biggest problem is that their other talent is that they’re significantly older than that core. Luckily, Antawn Jamison is a free agent and still holds value to the right team (or the Wizards for a few years). Unfortunately, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas are close to the fringes of relevance and are still under contract for two more years.
The Timetable of Contention: Basically, the Wiz have to make their decision now, because this coming off-season is their last chance to make serious moves since both Gilbert and Jamison are expiring, which gets them a little under the cap (around $15m). Since they have Bird Rights on both, they could make a meaningful signing if they wanted them both in the long term, should their owner be willing to pay the luxury tax for a year or two (until Haywood and Thomas come off the books). Basically, they can re-sign Gilbert, Jamison, and add some salary in the short term or send those assets to contenders and build around the young’ns.
How to Utilize that Timetable: Working under that logic, I’d say the best plan for Washington is to go after the long-term brass ring. There aren’t many teams in the East that have a good core for the future and the Celtics and Pistons have better squads for the next few years. As such, the optimal timeframe for them is from about 2 years from now (enough time to amass a little more quality than they have now) for 3-4 years from that point.
Implementation: This strategy centers around the two potential free agents: Gilbert and Antawn. With the long-term vision, Antawn’s case is much clearer: he should be sign-and-traded to a contending team, ideally in the West (considering they have more contenders), but it really doesn’t make a difference- it’s about the offer. The Wizards should look for a young guy and/or picks. However, there aren’t many good teams that need a PF like Jamison that have expendable talent like that. At the present time, the Bulls and Hawks are the best fits. As for Mr. Arenas, he could go either way. The guy has talent, but he’d be better off as a supporting player on a great team than as a dominant player on a mediocre one. Luckily, his value is still high and I’m sure some team sees him as a potential #1 scorer. Interestingly, the best compliment is Shaun Livingston, and that can happen either by letting Gilbert sign with the Clippers (or sign+trade) or to just sign Livingston as a free agent to the Wiz. Bringing him to the Wiz would solidify them at the 1, 2, and 3 slots in terms of starters, so the draft could just be taking bigs, which other than Blatche are a blank slate in terms of potential.
- Trade Antawn Jamison to the Chicago Bulls for Aaron Gray, Joe Smith, and Adrian Griffin (Smith and Griffin expire in 2009)
- Sign Shaun Livingston as a free agent
- Trade Darius Songalia and DeShawn Stevenson to Indiana Pacers for Jeff Foster and Stephen Graham (expire in 2009)
- Re-Sign Gilbert Arenas
- Draft Richard Hendrix and DeMarcus Nelson in 2008
- Draft JaVale McGee and Rodrique Beaubois in 2009
The 2009-2010 Washington Wizards:
PG: Shaun Livingston / Gilbert Arenas / Antonio Daniels (expiring)
SG: Gilbert Arenas / Nick Young / DeMarcus Nelson (2008 2nd Round Pick)
SF: Caron Butler / Dominic McGuire (expiring)
PF: Andray Blatche / Richard Hendrix (2008 1st Round Pick)
C: Aaron Gray / JaVale McGee (2009 1st Round Pick) / Brandon Haywood (expiring)
IR/Inactive: Etan Thomas (expiring), Oleksiy Pecherov, Rodrique Beaubois
This team would have approximately $40m committed to the 2010-2011 cap (including the draft picks and signings listed), so they’d probably have around $26m to spend under a $66m salary cap, which is where it would be if the cap keeps on growing at the same rate it has for the past few years.
As always, comments/suggestions are appreciated and encouraged