Fabricio Oberto is a Washington Wizard

Michael Lee has the news, but not the contract figures.  I assume Oberto's signing for the biennial exception (about $2 million), but I don't know if it's for one year or two years.

A legitimate argument could be made that the Wizards should have spent a little more money to get Rasho Nesterovic or one of the other big men that were signed by other teams.  You could also say that the Wizards should have kept waiting for somebody to sign for the minimum, since the market gets cooler every day.  Finally, you could argue that DeJuan Blair for $400,000 or whatever his second-round salary would be is better than Oberto for $2 million. 

To respond to each of these, I'd say the following.

  • Nesterovic would have been better, but we have to potentially plead ignorance with the Wizards' overall budget.  Perhaps the low-level exception was the most Ernie Grunfeld could spend.  If so, and if spending less to get Oberto means we can spend more on more important pieces down the road, then this is a brilliant signing because we're talking about a bench guy.
  • Waiting any longer may have further limited our options.
  • The Blair thing is a bit of a dead horse, and I don't feel like getting into the argument anymore.  At this point, we're basically engaged in a philosophical debate about the "ready-to-playness" of a rookie against the "sure thingness" of a veteran.  The answer to the age-old question is, well, sometimes rookies are ready to play, and sometimes veterans are washed up.  It's management's job to figure out which rookies are ready to play and which veterans aren't washed up.  He picked Oberto, I would have picked Blair, whatever.  Anyway, lots of the pro-Blair crowd wanted Blair and a veteran like Oberto, not one or the other. 

Ultimately, I don't think there's really much anyone can quibble with here.  So what are we getting in Oberto?

It all depends on his heart, literally.  Earlier this season, Oberto missed a couple games due to an irregular heartbeat.  This wasn't a new thing, according to this San Antonio Express article.

Oberto, 34, has suffered three bouts of the arrhythmia, called atrial fibrillation, since April 2007, with the most recent episode coming during a practice in March. The condition caused a butterfly feeling in his chest.

Each time, he would visit the Spurs medical staff, which would perform a procedure to electroshock his heart back into time. Typically, he would miss one or two games while doctors continued to monitor him.

Eventually, the Spurs had enough and sent him to a heart specialist.  In June, he underwent some procedure called an ablation, which is supposed to eliminate all the electrical abnormalities in a heart.  He was let out of the hospital four days later, but I can't find anything else on his status.  He was supposed to have a four-week rehab and be able to resume strenuous activities normally thereafter.  It's late July, and I haven't heard of him working out anywhere.  Hopefully he is okay and is not a major injury risk.  If he is, this sucks.  I'd say here that I'd hope the Wizards did their homework on that, but I'm not sure I can trust them on issues related to injuries.

Assuming he can still play, what are we getting?  Well, it depends on whether we receive the 2007/08 Oberto or the 2008/09 one.  Here are some key numbers side by side.

Stat Oberto 07/08 Oberto 08/09
PER 13.8 10.6
TS% 61.5 59.5
REB% 15.4 12.5
TO% 13.6 24.1
DRtg 101 106

 

For two years, Oberto was the classic "greater than the sum of his parts" player.  He did a lot of the little things -- passing, rebounding, cutting, setting screens, getting under people's skins on defense, etc.  It showed in his offensive rating (125), which was eclipsed only by Brent Barry on the 2007/08 Spurs.  If we are getting that Oberto, then this is a truly outstanding move.  We need a guy who can bang around for a few minutes off the bench and will do all those little things necessary to win. 

However, this will not turn out particularly well if Oberto's 08/09 season is just the start of a massive decline.  Looking at his numbers, the turnover percentage seems flukey, but the drop in rebounding is concerning.  I also worry that he's lost any athleticism he once possessed, meaning he literally is too slow to guard anybody anymore.  In which case, he's really only good for being the guy who gets under your skin.  If that.  That would be a relatively expensive end-of-the-bench investment. 

My hope is that last season turns out to be a bit of an aberration due to the heart troubles and that he'll be closer to his 07/08 production.  I don't expect him to be as good as he was in 07/08, but somewhere close to a 12 PER, a 14% rebounding percentage and a 59% true shooting percentage without using many possessions seems appropriate. 

The bottom line, though, is that Oberto's a way better investment as a fifth big than Darius Songaila.  That's not to say Oberto is better than Songaila, because he probably isn't, but for less than half the price and (assuming it's only one year) half the years, he's a much better bargain.  If you look at the 07/08 Oberto compared to the 08/09 Songaila, you could legitimately argue that Oberto comes out way ahead.  Oberto can also guard bigger players better than Songaila, though he lacks Songaila's shooting touch. Realistically, after using Songaila to help upgrade our guard rotation, we have now replaced Songaila with someone half as expensive and likely just as good, assuming a clean return of health.

Hopefully, the new coaching staff doesn't use Oberto like the old coaching staff used Songaila.  There has been a lot of time and confidence invested in JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, and while having Oberto is good insurance, I hope Flip doesn't go too often to the "bench the athletic youngster for the grizzled veteran to teach the young guy a lesson" trick.  Occassionally is fine, and Oberto's going to be a pro no matter what.  Too often would be bad.  I trust this won't become a major problem, but it could. Then again, this is a potential problem no matter who we signed, unless the guy is a better player.

The bottom line is that we've replaced Songaila in our rotation with Oberto for much less.  Oberto's better guarding centers, though he may not be better overall.  Because of that, this is a very positive signing.

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