Wednesday signals the beginning of the NBA's free agency period, and although teams are free to begin courting and negotiating with players, don't expect the Washington Wizards to spring into action.
Instead, the Wizards are expected to wait, then comb the leftovers to add the final pieces to their roster.
And while the team would like to add a veteran big man, it has no desire to go after a high-priced big name like Rasheed Wallace or Antonio McDyess or to use the mid-level exception (roughly $5 million) to try to sign a Chris Wilcox or Zaza Pachulia. Instead, the Wizards envision the final addition as a reliable spot-minute player who will come at a relatively low price.
So if we were just going after someone cheap, wouldn't it have made sense to, you know, draft the best rebounding big man in college basketball in the last 10 years and pay him $500,000 or so? Obviously we don't need DeJuan Blair when we can sign Mikki Moore to yell, scream and not rebound for five minutes a game.
Let's review our finances for a second. We were slated at a total team salary of about 75.5 million before the Randy Foye/Mike Miller trade. That number would have risen to 79 million after accounting for the salary of the fifth pick in the draft. Executing the Foye/Miller trade saved us nearly four million dollars off our 2009/10 payroll, dropping it closer to 74 million. We don't yet know what the luxury tax is, but it was around 71.15 million last year. The amount of cash aquired for the 32nd pick was 2.5 million, which nearly accounts for the difference between our current payroll and last year's luxury tax hit. Abe doesn't want to pay double? No problem, he has cash from selling away DeJuan Blair to help cover him. So much for using that cash to help alleviate the additional cost of a full MLE guy. Instead, it alleviates the cost of the Wizards' payroll as it currently stands. It alleviates a cost that already existed, not a future cost that could better improve the on-court product. Lovely.
We therefore sacrificed a player who could fill a roster spot for about $500,000 to instead fill it with a guy who makes $1.3 million in order for Abe to help alleviate a long-standing cost that everyone knew about since the economy crashed. Even if the second-round pick wasn't the most productive rebounder in college basketball in the last decade, that's not great financial planning. In this climate, high second-round picks are great buys because you can get a first-round caliber talent without having to commit to a guaranteed contract. Even if you sign the guy, it's for half as much as even a late first-round pick. There were many things the Wizards could have done well before the draft to be able to use that asset effectively. They could have declined Oleksiy Pecherov's option, which made sense when you consider how little he actually played since being drafted. They didn't have to make the trade for Javaris Crittenton, who has been pushed even further down the depth chart with the trade for Foye and Miller. They could have dumped one of their young guys on a team for a non-guaranteed contract (e.g. James and Critt/Young for Stackhouse). All these could have helped alleviate the existing problem better than selling a high second-round pick for cash.
Now, the cost is losing Blair and missing a chance at adding an MLE free agent. The Wizards are saying publicly that they like their team as is and don't need another big man. Seriously, read down in Jones' article.
But whomever the Wizards sign, he isn't expected to log many minutes in their crowded rotation.
Jamison and Andray Blatche are at the top of the depth chart at power forward along with Dominic McGuire and, in a pinch, Miller. Haywood will start at center with second-year player JaVale McGee backing him up and Blatche seeing some minutes there.
That leaves few minutes for an incoming player.
Mike Miller and Dominic McGuire at power forward? Either Eddie Jordan is coaching again, or the Wizards are fooling themselves about their needs. How can there be no minutes in the frontcourt available when your only four frontcourt players are Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood (never a huge minute-guy before, maybe he will be now), inconsistent Andray Blatche and raw JaVale McGee? There are few minutes for an incoming player only because they can't afford an incoming player good enough to take those minutes. If Zaza Pachulia were on this team, a good coach could very easily find 25 minutes a game for him.
Seriously, the Wizards need another big body badly. I like Blatche and McGee and think they'll provide a lot more next year than people think, but doesn't it put a hit to the "win now' mentality to make two inconsistent young players your only legitimate backup bigs? What if someone gets hurt? What if you're not getting what you want from them in a critical situation? If you're building for the future slowly or not going anywhere (like last year), then I wouldn't care if we're a little thin up front like this and dolling out development minutes, but we're supposedly in win-now mode. To fully capatalize, we need an upgrade on Darius Songaila, no matter the cost.
Instead, we're stuck hoping Ernie can find another bargain player for 1.3 million. Maybe he can like he has before, maybe he can't, but either way, we've closed off the possiblitiy of paying whatever's necessary for a known upgrade to Songaila, like Zaza, Gortat or whoever. I don't think that's what we fans had in mind when we sold the Blair pick for cash.
Clearly, our recent moves are at least as much about money as they are about on-court play. It's becoming harder and harder to deny that at this point.