Some quick follow-up thoughts on free agency this summer

So Jon's recent post on free agency spurred a lot of great discussion, which is awesome.  There are no easy answers on how the Wizards should proceed this summer, now that they have John Wall, and there were a lot of great points made on both sides.  It's a tough issue to figure out, that's for sure.

But personally, while I'm sympathetic to Jon's larger point that we might not ever have the same kind of chance to snag an impact player as we do this summer, I'm very much in the favor of the "do nothing" approach.  To me, it's not really a question of not liking any of the specific free agent possibilities out there, even though I really am not wild about them.  Sure, I have questions about Amare Stoudemire's defense, Joe Johnson's age, Carlos Boozer's defense and Rudy Gay's style, for example, and but I recognize that you often have to overpay for marquee free agents.  I also realize that, at some point, you have to augment your drafted talent by using free agency and/or trades.  

At the same time, the real problem with splurging in free agency this year is that our team is still so unsettled.  The pickings might be better right now, but at the end of the day, our primary concern needs to be about where our current roster is at.  Where is it at right now?  Even with John Wall, it's too unsettled to splurge in free agency.

It's important for all of us to take a step back and fairly evaluate what we have right now.  Sure, we're all excited about Wall, optimistic about Gilbert Arenas, hopeful for Andray Blatche and intrigued by guys like JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Shaun Livingston and even Al Thornton.  But we need to be honest about the state of our roster, because there's just so much that remains up in the air.  Namely:

  • Can Blatche maintain the level of play he showed over the final two months of last season?  How will he deal with being a marked man next year?  Can he become even more mature and avoid stuff like feuding with his coach?  Will he work hard this summer like he did last summer?  How will he play with two penetrating lead guards that like to have the ball in their hands a lot?  
  • Gilbert.  There's so much up in the air with him that almost too obvious to state, but here goes: how will he coexist with Wall?  Can he become an asset off the ball?  Will he want to play off the ball?  How will he act in the locker room?  Can he recoup any of his trade value?  Etc.
  • Can JaVale McGee be a starting-quality player in this league, or is he destined to be a bench guy?  Will he take the next step?
  • How will Nick Young react to not starting?  
  • How good is Wall right away?  
  • Can this team play good enough defense, or will that be a major issue?
  • How will Flip Saunders coach these guys?  Will he turn them loose?  Will they be better in the half court?

All that is before taking into account questions about guys like Shaun and the other free agents we have.  As you can see, that's a whole lot of questions and not many easy answers.  Frankly, there's really no sure things to count on right now.  We know Wall will probably be very good at some point, but we don't know how soon.  We know Blatche is capable of being a top-flight player, but we have no idea if he can actually do that over a full season.  We know McGee and Young have potential, but we have no idea how they'd fit in.  Finally, we literally don't know anything about how Arenas will fit.  So really, we know nothing.

And when you know nothing, cap space becomes a virtue.  One of the biggest things we have to keep in mind is that cap space has many utilities beyond "space to sign free agents."  As we've mentioned many times before, it gives you the flexibility to do BOYD deals.  It also allows you to make unbalanced trades, which makes trading less complicated.  But more than that, it gives you the ability to figure things out.  Once you use it, you have to get really creative to dramatically change your team.  You're essentially committing to a guy like Rudy Gay for, say, five years in the hopes that he is the kind of core piece your existing mix needs.  That's a leap of faith that requires you having a good idea of what your existing mix is.  

Right now, we have no idea what our existing mix is.  Until we do, it's best to maintain flexibility and give ourselves time to create a consistent existing mix.  Orlando needed a couple years to figure out that the way to maximize Dwight Howard was to go with a four-out, one-in approach.  Oklahoma City needed a couple years to figure out that Kevin Durant is a terror at small forward, not shooting guard.  We now need some time to figure out the answers to all the questions that still exist.

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