It's been about a day since Gilbert Arenas was traded to the Orlando Magic, and the saddest part about it to me is that it looks like the Wizards decided they felt moving Arenas for anything was a good move.
I say sad because there very well may be a lot of truth to that statement. We don't really know what's been going on behind the scenes the past couple weeks. Ted Leonsis implied that Arenas may have wanted to be traded, and his on-court demeanor with the younger players certainly makes it seem like he was frustrated with his situation. It's possible that the Wizards really had no choice but to move him for anything, and that having him on the roster going forward would just make things worse. Again, we really don't know what's going on behind the scenes here.
But it's still sad that Arenas' value was Rashard Lewis. If Arenas has the worst contract in the NBA, Lewis' is up there. It's better than Arenas', because it lasts for one year shorter and it's an interesting trade asset in 2012/13 because only $10 million of the $22.7 million is guaranteed. But it's still a very bad contract, and it's a player whose skills have declined significantly over the past couple years. Kelly Dwyer summed up Lewis' problems well here.
Amongst rotation players, only converted small forwards Danilo Gallinari and Jawad Williams had worse rebounding rates (the percentage of available rebounds you pull in) than Lewis this year, and that's not a stat that can be blamed on Howard's ability to clean the glass. Lewis doesn't get to the line, doesn't post up any more, and his contributions were limited to hitting above-average (36.7 percent) amounts of 3-pointers. But after hitting just 1.8 per game this season with Orlando, something tells us they'll be able to live without him.
And yet, at the end of the day, that was all Arenas is worth. There's really no way to tell if anyone is to blame for that. Maybe Arenas' trade value was impossible to recover any more than this. Maybe Ernie Grunfeld messed up and didn't do enough to get more value for him. Maybe Grunfeld knew this was the best he could do. We really don't know. I can't point the finger at anyone here, because this was such a difficult situation for everyone.
So it's hard to really judge this trade. All we really can deduce is that the Wizards felt like the act of moving Arenas is more important than the package that comes back.
The most striking thing about yesterday's events is what Ernie Grunfeld implied in his press conference. Grunfeld talked up Lewis a lot as a good veteran leader, using a lot of platitudes, cliches and whatnot, but he also made a pretty strong statement about the need for people like Lewis on a rebuilding team.
You can't have every single player on your team be young. You need to have some veterans, and I think we have a few veterans that have experience and can provide leadership. I think Ted was on board with this, because it goes right in line with what he's doing for the long term.
Rashard Lewis is 31 years old. Gilbert Arenas is 29 years old. Lewis is a veteran, of course, but so is Arenas. And yet, on a day where Arenas was sent packing, Grunfeld couldn't stop talking about how he feels Lewis' veteran presence will help the Wizards. Mike Katz of Fanhouse asked the obvious follow-up question: if that's your philosophy, why couldn't Arenas be a veteran to provide leadership?
We could have moved forward with him and we had been moving forward with him, but when this opportunity presented itself, we just felt like this was a better opportunity for us to move forward and try to accomplish the things we're trying to accomplish in the long term.
"We felt like this was a better opportunity for us to move forward" is a very strong phrase here. In fact, Grunfeld used the word "opportunity" over and over again during the press conference. There's always the possibility that Grunfeld just really loves Rashard Lewis for some reason, but the thought of acquiring someone like Lewis can hardly be seen as an "opportunity" to a rational observer. No, the real "opportunity" for Grunfeld was to get Arenas off the roster for anything.
And that makes me sad. I'm not privy to enough information to tell whether Grunfeld and company made the right call in determining that. Michael Lee, who has more inside information than me, says it was "just time" for a divorce, and the return didn't matter. Maybe that's the truth. But it's still really sad that everyone, from Arenas to the organization, decided that he couldn't be any more of a help to this team than Rashard Lewis.
Reasonable and probably correct, but sad.