Am I being too pessimistic?
I loved the trade for Foye and Miller. I thought it was a good start to the off-season. Ernie addressed several weaknesses; specifically backup PG, and 3-point shooting. In Miller and Foye, he added a couple of really good catch-and-shoot guys - perfect for the Flip Saunders style Offense - and a perfect fit for the driving Arenas. Miller can play multiple positions, is an excellent rebounder and a very good passer. Foye has been mis-used most of his career. He's very good playing off the ball, but can create shots for himself and teammates as well. A true combo-guard. Both Miller and Foye will benefit by playing in Flip Saunder's match-up zone defense; where their weaknesses as individual defenders can be alleviated by the scheme.
Then Ricky Rubio fell to the 5th spot - and at first, after I could breathe again, I thought Ernie made a mistake trading the 5th pick so early. Why didn't he wait until draft night to see who would be available? I mean, Rubio is the second best player in the draft.... by a wide margin, right? That's what everyone said. I went through draft night with several different emotions having a tug-of-war with my fan-spirit. I've come to a realization of sorts about Rubio. Yeah, that kid is going to be great in my opinion. Five years from now, Wizards fans will be looking back on this draft and saying "boy, if only Ernie had kept that 5th pick and drafted Rubio". Similar to what some Wizards fans are saying about Devin Harris now. But five years is a long time to wait - Abe probably doesn't have that long. The roster that's been assembled doesn't have that long. Waiting for Rubio to develop is the wrong approach. The Wizards need to "win now".
They're going "all in" for the next couple of seasons to see if this core can compete. Ok, I get it. So that's why they didn't take a flier on DeJuan Blair. Even though Blair seemingly has some tools the Wizards need, and even though the trade made the Wizards roster unbalanced - and the roster is now light on big men (or rather, they have a few light big men). Drafting Blair and hoping he could develop quickly and contribute right away was probably a pipe dream. So I soothed my ruffled fan feelings by telling myself that by selling the pick for $2.5 Million dollars, Grunfeld has set himself up to spend a little more on the Free Agent market. That $2.5 Million can offset some of the Luxury Tax that the Wizards will have to pay when they acquire that quality big man with the MLE. Right?
I had dreams of getting guys like Marcin Gortat, Zaza Pachulia, or Drew Gooden. Any of those guys would improve the Wizard's talent level and depth. There were other names like Antonio McDyess - a defensive and rebounding specialist with a sweet 15-foot shot. Or Shelden Williams - a solid, strong physical defender that is an excellent rebounder and can block some shots. They're not in the Ron Artest, David Lee or Paul Millsap range of talent - but still good enough to raise the team's talent; Push guys like Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee back a bit in the rotation. Provide some veteran leadership and poise. Perhaps even enough of a talent influx to push the Wizards past Boston or maybe even past Orlando.
Now we hear that the Wizards will be playing it cool during this Free Agent signing period. Probably waiting until late summer to look at the remainining "talent". Talent that 30 other teams have passed over to this point; looking for someone to accept a veteran minimum contract for one year. Ernie did say he's looking for "someone that could come in occasionally and give us six to eight minutes." (Pecherov played 8.7 minutes in 35 games - is that what he's talking about?). That certainly doesn't sound like an "upgrade" to me, but rather more like a "scrub". A mop up guy. An injury insurance guy. I guess that also means that Grunfeld likes the depth that Blatche and McGee bring to the backup Center and PF positions.... and that there's not an upgrade out there that he likes better.
There's always the possibility of a trade involving Mike James' expiring contract and a combination of other "assets" (Stevenson, Nick Young, Critt); but considering the fact that they'll need to re-sign Haywood and either Miller or Foye next year, Ernie may want to keep that expiring contract to help with Cap and Tax issues.
Total committed salaries for next season are $56.6 Million for 9 players; that's assuming they tender a qualifying offer to Dominic McGuire and exercise team options on Javaris Crittenton and JaVale McGee (those are good assumptions). Brendan Haywood will probably require $9-10 Million to re-sign. That puts them at about $65.6 Million for 10 players - and they will need to sign at least three more to get to the League mandated 13 roster slots. If they sign two draft picks, or two vet minimum contracts, it would add about $2.5 Million. That puts their 2010-2011 salaries at about $68.1 Million. Even if we assume the Luxury Tax will increase to $73-$74 Million (from $71.15 Million in 2008-09), that still does not leave a lot of room to re-sign Foye or Miller.... So, unless there's some move to shed salary, it appears to me that the Wizards will be a Tax payer in 2010-11 as well.
So now I'm confused. Even with Foye and Miller, I don't think the Wizards have improved enough to contend for the Eastern Conference Title, much less contend for a Championship. As Brendan Haywood said, they're probably 4th best in the Conference. Ernie Grunfeld is NOT spending any of the MLE to improve the talent level on the team. Is he just waiting to see how this team develops and plays together? Will Ernie ever go "all in"? Are we waiting for something to happen next year? Are we trying to hover just under the Tax level and still hoping to compete?
Help me out everyone. Where are we headed?