April 2, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis watches from court side against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half at Verizon Center. The Bucks won 112-98. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
There was a healthy debate in many fan circles about who would replace Ernie Grunfeld when his contract expired this year, ignoring the fact that his dismissal was anything but certain. In fact, when viewed through the criteria of the Ten Point Plan, Ernie was an ideal candidate for short-term retention. Let's call it the Nick Young plan.
When Nick hit restricted free agency, the Wizards quietly approached him with a multi-year deal whose terms remain undisclosed, though certainly less than $8-$9 million/year he was asking for. I find it very easy to believe that EG will receive market value for his services, whatever market value is, and I also find the duration easy to understand. I'll mangle a quick quote from Moneyball: 'It's hard to do what I do under the cloud of a one year contract; there's not a lot of faith there.' A one-year deal is an ugly amount of pressure and with a long term deal not yet warranted, Ernie got two years.
That's how I see the duration of the contract. As far as dissecting Ernie's credentials vis a vis the Ten Point Plan...I'll keep it brief to the point of missing a thing or two. As often as we've rehashed his history, it's hard to examine the value of his incumbency without reviewing some of the particulars. Hit the jump for the quick and dirty highlights. From there, it's on to the titular point.
- Dumped Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood to the Mavericks for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, Quinton Ross and James Singleton. Likely conclusion: Pennies on the dollar salary dump following Gungate. James Singleton is back on the team and looking like a keeper after returning from China having turned down a league minimum deal from the Wiz the year before.
- Swapped Quinton Ross with the Nets for Yi Jianlian and cash to offset his larger contract. Likely conclusion: Low-risk gamble on former lottery pick didn't pan out. Volume approach with youngsters comes with plenty of failure, and player had already been tagged a bust.
- Dumped Antawn Jamison's contract on the Cavaliers for Zydrunas Ilgauskas (bought out) and a low first round pick, later used to trade up with the Wizard's second round pick in 2010 to draft Trevor Booker. Drew Gooden sent to the Clippers in deal for Al Thornton. Likely conclusion: Depressed trade market yielded few results. Volume approach in the draft panned out, young veteran did not.
- With two years/$6 million left on his deal, EG extended-and-restructured Andray Blatche's deal into a 5 year/$34 million contract. Likely conclusion: Re-signing the best young players to a high-priced deal is good...this deal has pushed the Wizards towards cap jail with a contract aging poorly.
- Swapped Gilbert Arenas with the Magic for Rashard Lewis. Likely conclusion: Cleared the way for franchise player, improved cap, public perception and locker room situation.
- Surrendered cap space/Vladimir Veremeenko to acquire Kirk Hinrich and mid first round pick from the Bulls. Kirk Hinrich traded at the deadline to the Hawks for 2011 mid first round pick (used to acquire Chris Singleton), last year's first round pick (Jordan Crawford), and veterans Mike Bibby (bought out for a pittance) and Mo Evans. Likely conclusion: Executed beautifully in accordance with tenets of ten point plan. Those concerned most with vision illustrate #10 pick was available for the cost of assuming Mo Pete's expiring deal...hindsight is 20/20. You can say we dodged a bullet, but I'll take Kevin Seraphin over Cole Aldrich and you can bet Ted will, too.
- Did not execute 2012 draft day trade to move up for either Derrick Williams or Enes Kanter. Drafted Jan Vesely and Shelvin Mack in addition to Chris Singleton. Likely conclusion: Too soon to tell. In his favor, 2010 picks panned out and has a year before 2011 picks need to show what they were drafted for.
- Acquired Ronny Turiaf from Knicks in salary dump. Likely conclusion: Acquired valuable backup veteran big on expiring deal. Golf clap.
- Traded JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf to the Nuggets for Nene Hilario, Nick Young to the Clippers for Brian Cook and a 2015 second round selection. Likely conclusion: Learned lesson of Andray Blatche and did not offer high priced, long term deal for uncertain production. Kept aging of contracts well in hand and landed high value veteran facilitator at position of need also able to act as coach on the floor.
Hold your horses, you say, what about trading away the No. 5 pick for Antawn Jamison? What about drafting Oleksiy Pecherov? Hell, what about drafting Nick Young and JaVale McGee? Gilbert Arenas' max deal? Getting Caron Butler from the Lakers for Kwame Brown? And, oh yeah, that No. 5 in 2010 for Mike Miller and Randy Foye?
I'm simply going to say Ted hasn't forgotten about that history, but since Ernie has performed relatively well since the new strategic directive of the Ten Point Plan was implemented, why would Ted risk bringing in a new general manager before an especially crucial period of the rebuild?
There's been a question of vision when it comes to Ernie's teambuilding, specifically there was concern when it was time to make core additions going forward. Scoring Nene with 4 years/$52 million on his contract was a win on practically every front. Bringing in familiar faces such as James Singleton and Cartier Martin also helped to invigorate the team as injuries took their toll. When considering vision, we should only look to see if those were the 'right' faces to balance the team...and it seems they were.
Truth, I was worried about the GM search. I have mixed feelings about Ernie, but that's not anything I need to worry about any longer. The GM search troubled me because in a crucial offseason, bringing in a new face at the top, someone unfamiliar with all the irons in the fire, means some are going to be mishandled. And possibly very badly.
This is an error that can be compounded in the coaching search which can't even begin until the new GM is in place. A new GM's uncertainty with what they have in the roster can limit the coaching pool to high profile candidates with 'safe' resumes. While the Wizards may be headed this route, to make a splash as it were, possibly eliminating names like Brian Shaw, Dave Joerger and Mike Budenholzer right out of the gate wouldn't do this team any favors.
Also operating in Ernie's favor is his ability to work deals around the NBA. We've seen him working in Denver, Los Angeles, Dallas, Orlando, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland and New Jersey in addition to keeping a weather eye on the D-League...and Europe. It's easy to dismiss the 'well-connected' point when it comes to EG, but viewing his virtuosity in that department is something else altogether. Who knows, maybe that call the Wizards made when Carmelo Anthony was on the block put JaVale McGee on Masai Ujiri's radar and the Nene trade flowered from the seeds Ernie planted back then.
No matter anyone's opinion, the Wizards have a GM who can find and make deals around the league, who has hit in the draft at a fortuitous time and has shown proficiency (though definitely not perfection) in executing the rebuild as dictated by the Ten Point Plan. He knows the roster, having turned it over completely in two seasons, knows exactly what Ted wants out of the next few years and is on the shortest deal he could swallow, I'm at peace with the extension. As much as some might disagree, Ernie has inspired confidence with his recent draft selections and the Nene trade lends credence to his ability to find synergistic core pieces outside the draft. Some might contend the Wizards should have simply counted their blessings and avoided investing in a mirage, but the Ten Point Plan is all about showing faith in the personnel that get you results, and seeing as how we don't have a choice at this point, I'm in.
As Mike stated, the Wizards have passed on a chance to start fresh. Others might say you don't change your horse in midstream. Starting fresh in a crucial offseason requiring informed input might be a little like hiring a new coder to finish someone else's program. A two year deal means the Wizards showed enough faith in Ernie to finish the job at hand and make an informed judgement based on the immediate results. It makes good business sense, and with something as delicate as a rebuild, it looks like good basketball sense, too. Despite the institutional tank job of a roster the team started the season with. Like Ernie Grunfeld or not, the Wizards are headed into the offseason with a full head of steam. The man who put the irons in the fire is at the wheel and once again the Wizards rise or fall on the strength of his decisions.