Today's Washington Wizards-related trade deadline links

UPDATE: CNNSI is reporting Cleveland is showing interest in Antawn Jamison, dangling Wally Sczcerbiak's expiring contract.  Predictable.  Now, let's try to get them to give us J.J. Hickson back as well.

No, I'm not back permanently.  I'm just on break and have some time to post. -PM.

As you've probably noticed from my comments recently, I firmly believe we've reached the point where we can't afford to be picky with trade offers for Antawn Jamison.  The economy is tanking and nobody is willing to trade too much to take on salary past 2010.  Meanwhile, among the sellers out there, we're in about as bad shape as you can be.  The luxury tax problem we identified a month ago has been picked up elsewhere and it's now common knowledge that we need to cut costs.  To put it bluntly, the franchise's ability to compete long-term is at stake right now. 

This is where Antawn Jamison comes in.  Much has changed since Jamison signed a four year, 50-million dollar contract extension this summer.  The economy has tanked, making it more difficult to justify paying the luxury tax.  The team has also tanked, further making it more difficult to expect Abe to pay the tax.  Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, our young pivot duo of the future, have both developed to the point where we may actually be able to replace Jamison's contributions.  Finally, we're heading to a lottery pick that we can no longer afford unless we either get under the cap or hope Abe pays the tax.

Without any of these developments, you could justify Antawn's new contract and his status on the team.  Sure, he's a bit old, but we were ready to compete with a healthy roster.  Sure, his contract was a bit much, but we could still make upgrades because you'd think Abe would pay the tax for a contender.  And while we'd certainly have more flexibility if we let him go, how could we use that flexibility to get someone better than Jamison?  Unfortunately, times have changed.  We aren't competing, we can't rely on Abe paying the tax two straight years and we are in position to replace Jamison long-term with some combination of Blatche, McGee and a top-five pick. 

Ergo, trading Jamison in a straight salary dump is not only appealing, but it's also essential.  It is no longer a question of whether Jamison's veteran leadership and consistent production is worth his cost.  It is now a question of whether keeping Jamison is preferable to keeping our draft pick, keeping Brendan Haywood in 2010 and/or hoping Abe pays the tax for two years.  In some ways, you can add keeping Caron Butler to that list.  Jamison's good, but he's not good enough to justify all the ways we may have to sacrifice elsewhere to keep his salary.

Now, Ernie Grunfeld is going to get killed for dumping Jamison in a straight salary dump, so I doubt it'll actually happen.  But Ernie needs to heed the lesson of Marcus Camby.  Camby was jettisoned for nothing, and everyone killed the Nuggets for being cheap.  In point of fact, it made the team better, because it allowed Nene to shine, it put them under the tax and it gave them more flexibility to add Chauncey Billups' long-term contract to the mix.  A short-term loss led to long-term gain.  Denver wasn't afraid of a short-term loss.  Neither should we.

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Alright, your links of the day.

-Ivan Carter comes through with a must-read about our current situation.  The title?  A Plan Gone Awry.  There are tons of relevant segments, but this is the big one.

However, because the Wizards already have such huge financial commitments, there is a decent chance Grunfeld will consider trading the pick.

The team has about $75.9 million committed to contracts for next season, which would put them over the luxury-tax threshold (it typically rises slightly each year but may not go up next year, depending upon league revenue) before signing a lottery pick.

First-year salaries for players taken at the top of the lottery are between $2.7 million and $4.2 million, and that would place the Wizards significantly over the threshold, something Pollin has avoided in the past. Teams that go over the threshold must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax after the season.

But there are other reasons Grunfeld might try to trade the pick. It could allow him to shed an otherwise difficult-to-trade player -- such as Thomas, who is on the books for $7.4 million next season, or James, who holds a player option for $6.5 million next season -- while adding a valuable veteran.

This is really disappointing and exactly what I was trying to hit on up above.  It's bad business to consistently trade away a top-five pick for veterans help, but it's even worse business to not use the pick just to cut costs.  Top draft picks are the cheapest of labor.  You can get an impact player if you do things right, all for the cost of less than Darius Songaila.  The relative weakness of the draft this year is irrelevant because you never really know.  Everyone thought the 2008 draft was weaker than the 2007 draft, but you'd be hard-pressed to make that argument now that so many rookies are performing so well.  The bottom line is the draft offers you the chance to get a franchise player, or at least an impact player, cheapely.  Any veteran that is any good makes significantly more than a top-five pick, so that doesn't help you cut costs at all.  And if you're cutting the costs of the pick itself, well, that's just silly, because the draft pick doesn't make much money. 

You want to cut costs?  Trade your 32-year old all-star power forward making eight figures through 2012 for cap relief.

Anyway, this quote was so predictable it's not even worth predicting it.

"I like our players," Grunfeld said. "If you look at our players on paper: Gilbert, Antawn, Caron, DeShawn, Brendan and the collection of other players like Darius, Mike James, Blatche and the young guys, I think we can compete with most teams in the league. But, you have to have the group together for a while so they can develop some chemistry and get a sense of what their roles are. Once we get our group together, there's a solid foundation."

Again, Ernie can't be paralyzed like this and let chances to improve the club long-term slip away.

-You all probably noticed that New Orleans dumped Tyson Chandler for cap relief today.  This is what we shouldn't do with Caron Butler.  New Orleans dumped one of their productive players because they were impatient instead of waiting to see if anyone would take someone else with a long-term deal.  Now, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson are way more untradeable than Jamison, but the point still stands.  Chandler was paid fairly and was productive.  Butler's paid more than fairly and is more productive.  Don't trade Butler to solve this problem.

-A Jamison salary dump is among Chad Ford's five trades that should happen by the trade deadline.

Cavs trade Wally Szczerbiak to the Wizards for Antawn Jamison and Etan Thomas.

Why should the Cavs do it?
The team wants to win a title now and could use an upgrade at the 4. Adding Jamison would give the Cavs another dynamic scorer and veteran.

Why should the Wizards do it?
Because they are paying a huge amount of money for one of the worst teams in basketball. When Gilbert Arenas returns, they'll be better, but by how much? This deal would put them slightly below the cap next year.

Will it happen?
The Cavs are looking at potential Szczerbiak deals and Jamison isn't the only guy they covet. Mike Miller and Vince Carter have also been mentioned.

Yes, it sucks that Jamison gets dumped for nothing.  Yes, it sucks that we may give Cleveland the title.  But this trade saves us 17 million dollars this offseason.  That's enough to keep our pick and even have enough money left over to be a part of the free agent market without going over the tax.  I want J.J. Hickson back too, but we're not dealing in a position of strength.

-Speaking of Ford, as expected, he reports that Portland is looking at Caron Butler.

The focus for the Blazers right now appears to be at the small forward position. It appears that three players -- Gerald Wallace, Caron Butler and Richard Jefferson -- are on Pritchard's radar screen.

(snip)

Butler might be the best player of the group when he's healthy. He was an All-Star last year and is excellent in the mid-range game. He too has a reasonable contract, with just two years and $21 million left on his deal. But it's unclear what the Wizards would want in return and whether they'll ultimately opt to keep Butler and reevaluate the team when Gilbert Arenas returns. If the Wizards are to make such a deal, certainly they'll want the Blazers to take back Etan Thomas' contract, and they'll likely also demand one or two young players from the Blazers. That price might be too high for Portland.

I doubt anything happens.  For me to even think about it, we'd need Raef LaFrentz's contract, Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw to come back to us.  I doubt Portland wants Butler that badly. 

-Houston seems to want Vince Carter and is thinking of giving back Ron Artest, Carl Landry and Luther Head.  It seems to me Antawn Jamison is a better fit there than Vince, and he's just as productive and less expensive.  If Houston is offering that much for Vince, they would probably offer a similar amount for Jamison.  Ernie, make it happen!

-DC Pro Sports Report, disagreeing with me

There are those who think the team should be broken up and its players traded away for cap space and future draft picks. I think that's silly, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the Wizards won't get good deals right now. Teams are going to try to rob the Wizards, thinking the team is desperate to unload Butler and Jamison during this hellish season. It is very unlikely the Wizards will receive fair offers for either player. Secondly, I think it is silly to give up on this team when we still don't know how good it can be if it can ever be healthy -- and with a potential lottery pick added to the mix! That's why I think it is ridiculous to attack Ernie Grunfeld, as if he could have anticipated these injuries. Giving Arenas a $111 million contract with uncertain health is debatable, but it is better than letting Gil walk and getting nothing for him. As for the Jamison contract, it is very reasonable. Ten million dollars a year for a player with Jamison's production [no doubt he's been the best player on the team this year] is a good deal for the team.

The problem is that we can't look at these contracts in isolation.  Jamison's contract isn't bad for his production, but it is when you place it in the context of the rest of the team.  The only way we can keep everyone together and get a high draft pick is if Abe pays the tax.  We can't rely on that. 

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Drop any more links in the comments.

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