The "Bring Out Your Dead" strategy: Why it's the path the Wizards should take this summer

Editor's Note: I can't take credit for the name "Bring Out Your Dead," because it comes from the Real GM Wizards board. They have a community of Wizards fans that, along with you guys here, are the smartest and most forward-thinking I've read. They've been talking about this strategy for a while and I figured I'd spell it out more clearly here. 

This is going to be a pretty important summer for the Wizards.  Obviously, they should have a high draft pick (hopefully #1!), and there's also the whole Gilbert Arenas situation to work through.  But really, what makes this summer interesting is the cap space.  How much cap space?  Depending on what the NBA salary-cap numbers come out to be, the Wizards should have around $18.5 million to play with this summer and only six guys (counting Arenas) who are under contract.

The traditional way to fill this space is to actually sign players.  There are definitely a lot of guys out there, whether it's max guys or cheaper players.  Another alternative would be to re-sign our own players, most notably Josh Howard, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Shaun Livingston and James Singleton.  

But there's also a third path, which is saving most of that cap space until 2011 and using it then once we have a better idea about the state of the team.  This doesn't necessarily mean we completely sit out of the free agent market, because there are guys like Livingston who really need to be re-signed at a decent price.  But the general strategy is this: keep your long-term salary commitments minimal until we have more of a structural foundation.

In the meantime - the Wizards still do need to fill out a team for next year.  They'll likely get three new players in the draft, and re-signing Livingston pushes the roster to 10, but that still leaves some openings.  To fill those, we now turn to the "Bring Out Your Dead" strategy.  

In a nutshell, the "Bring Out Your Dead" strategy means what it describes.  The idea is to look around the league for teams that are likely to pay the luxury tax next year and offer to take one of their bad 2011 contracts off their hands as long as they throw in another asset.  That asset could be a first-round draft pick or a young player that's shown a lot of potential, but either way, it would be a sufficient price for them to pay to solve their luxury-tax problems.  

The beauty of this strategy is that's it's clearly a win-win for both teams.  Because the Wizards are under the cap, they do not need to match salary in these trades, which allows the team in financial peril to immediately save a ton of money on their payroll.  They might lose an asset in the process, but the financial relief is too important, and they would also be taking one more step toward clearing enough payroll to replace that asset in the future.  For the Wizards, it allows them to stockpile more young players with potential, which will accelerate the rebuilding effort.  It'll also allow them to do that in a way that's fiscally responsible, since they wouldn't be taking on any big contracts that last beyond the 2010/11 season.  

There isn't a ton of history with the "Bring Out Your Dead" strategy, because teams have never been in as much financial peril as they are today.  However, there is one team that has used the strategy perfectly: the Oklahoma City Thunder.  In the summer of 2008, the Thunder executed the mother of all BYOD trades, sending a mere second-round pick to the Suns in return for Kurt Thomas and his $8 million contract, as well as two first-round picks.  The Suns saved $8 million dollars, but the Thunder got two additional assets that they used to acquire Thabo Sefolosha (in a trade) and Serge Ibaka.  This year, the Thunder gave the Jazz some major luxury-tax relief, taking Matt Harpring off their hands in a package with promising young point guard Eric Maynor.  Oklahoma City hasn't won a championship or anything because of these moves, but they've made their team significantly better and younger.

BYOD's gaining traction too among other teams.  The Rockets, for example, took on Jared Jeffries' 2011 contract from the Knicks and also got a bundle of goodies - Jordan Hill and two draft picks that have very limited protection.  The Rockets gave the Knicks more cap room, but came away with a ton of future assets they can now use to get much better.  The Grizzlies made a similar move at the deadline, taking Ronnie Brewer off the Jazz's hands for nothing.  With a lockout looming in 2011, there will only be more sellers looking to dump payroll.  The Wizards, with cap space, have a great opportunity to capitalize on those teams' desperation.  

Which teams are good BYOD trading partners?  To determine that, let's take a look at who is likely to pay the luxury tax next season.  This year's luxury tax figure was $69.92 million, and it'll probably drop to a lot lower than that this summer.  Here are teams that are expected to have more than $65 million committed in salary next year.

So ... yeah, that's a lot of teams.  Obviously some of those teams have more of a capacity to pay the luxury tax than others, but that's still half the league.  Let's break this down further.

Team "Bad" 2011 contracts Assets
Boston Glen Davis ($3 million) 2010 late first-round pick (21st)
Charlotte

Tyson Chandler ($12.6 million)

Nazr Mohammad ($6.8 million)

DJ Augustin

Gerald Henderson

Cleveland

Jamario Moon ($3 million)

Sebastian Telfair ($2.7 million)

Leon Powe

Jawad Williams

Dallas DeShawn Stevenson ($4.1 million)

Rodrigue Beaubois

Nick Cathales

 

Denver J.R. Smith ($6.9 million)

Ty Lawson

Arron Afflalo

Houston

Shane Battier ($7.4 million)

Jared Jeffries ($6.8 million)

2010 lottery pick (13th)

Jordan Hill

Chase Budinger

2011 and 2012 high picks

Indiana

Troy Murphy ($11.9 million)

Mike Dunleavy ($10.6 million)

T.J. Ford ($8.5 million)

Jeff Foster ($6.5 million

2010 lottery pick (10th)

Brandon Rush

Tyler Hansbrough

AJ Price

LA Lakers Sasha Vujacic ($5.5 million) Josh Powell
New Orleans

Peja Stojakovic ($14.2 million)

Morris Peterson ($6.2 million)

Darius Songaila ($4.8 million

2010 lottery pick (11th)

Darren Collison

Marcus Thornton

Orlando None 2010 late first-round pick (28th)
Philadelphia

Samuel Dalembert ($12.9 million)

Jason Kapono ($6.6 million)

Willie Green ($4 million)

2010 lottery pick (7th)

Thaddeus Young

Marreese Speights

Jrue Holiday

Phoenix Jason Richardson ($14.4 million)

Goran Dragic

Jared Dudley

Earl Clark

San Antonio

Richard Jefferson ($15.2 million)

Antonio McDyess ($4.8 million)

George Hill

2010 first-round pick (20th)

Toronto

Reggie Evans ($5.1 million)

Marcus Banks ($4.8 million)

DeMar DeRozan
Utah Andrei Kirilenko ($17.8 million)

2010 lottery pick (9th)

Wesley Matthews

Ronnie Price

Kosta Koufus

 

You get the point - there are opportunities to be had if you pair one bad contract with one asset.  The possibilities are out there.  Again, the benefit is that, if you think of this franchise's long-term future, you're essentially picking up a good young player for nothing.  The 2011 contract doesn't matter, since we're thinking long term rather than short term.  In some cases, the 2011 contract might even be a good player, or even better, a veteran that carries himself in a professional matter and can help set a good example for the young guys.  

The downside is that we're essentially treating 2011 as a throwaway season.  But let's get real, 2011 was going to be a throwaway season anyway.  The one thing this franchise has done too often is go for the quick-fix rebuild when it isn't merited.  Right now, it isn't merited.  Our best young player is Andray Blatche, who is talented and has defintiely improved, but also hasn't demonstrated the type of maturity to be a franchise cornerstone (and that comes from one of his biggest fans).  We have literally no idea what we're going to get from our highest-paid player down the road.  Our other young players have a lot of development left to go through.  We have a ton of free agents this summer, many of which are the type of guys you have to avoid signing unless you really think you're close to a title.  There is no better time than to commit to a long-term strategy of team building.  

The first step to long-term building is tearing down the old foundation.  We did that.  Now, the next step is assembling assets and figuring out which ones stay and which ones go.  To do that, we have to turn to the "Bring Out Your Dead" approach.  We need those assets, and this is one ingenious way to get them.

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