The good news for Washington Wizards fans is that general manager Ernie Grunfeld is building a winner. The bad news is that he's doing it in Minnesota and New Orleans.
Seriously, can anyone explain why this guy is still running a basketball team?
The deal is classic Grunfeld -- taking a "win now" approach with a team that's not even close to win-now mode, overpaying veterans, mismanaging the cap, and basically throwing slop at the wall and hoping something sticks.
Okafor and Ariza combine to make $42 million this year and next, soaking up all of Washington's cap space for this year and next. The departing Lewis was due $22.7 million, but only $13.9 million of that was guaranteed, so the Wizards ate close to $30 million in salary with this deal.
This effectively takes the Wizards out of any potential free-agent deals beyond the midlevel; additionally, it also takes them out of amnesty auction bids, or cap space trades, or any other maneuvers that rebuilding teams typically take to begin stockpiling talent.
The big impact is a year from now. Okafor has an early termination option for $14.6 million after the season that he'd be nuts to exercise, while Ariza has a similar one for $7.7 million. Barring outrageous improvement by either, we can presume they're on Washington's books for 2013-14 at a cost of $22 million, compared with the $0 the Wizards owed Lewis; this puts them over the cap even if they amnesty Andray Blatche. (Another brilliant Grunfeld maneuver, by the way.) In fact, depending on how they use their exception money the next two summers, they may need to amnesty Blatche a year from now just to avoid the luxury tax.
For that, they get a middling but overpaid starting center, and a grossly overpaid wing defender with perhaps the worst shot selection in basketball. Alas, his only rival in that department will be starting alongside him. Which brings us to another reason to hate this trade: It did nothing to solve Washington's biggest problem, shooting. If anything, it exacerbated it.
This isn't quite as awful as the deal Grunfeld made two years ago when he traded the fifth overall pick to Minnesota for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, thinking those two were the key missing pieces separating his 19-win team from the championship, but it follows the same misguided logic. He has a bad team with a bad coach and obvious, glaring weaknesses, and somehow he thinks blowing his cap space on two middling, overpaid veterans will push the Wizards to the promised land.
By the way, if you're taking the "they had to make John Wall happy" angle, keep in mind that he is a restricted free agent, and that by design the Wizards have all the leverage in this negotiation. Basically, no team has ever lost a player it truly wanted to keep at this stage; it's only years later, when they could become unrestricted free agents, that we've seen players like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony force their way out.
This wasn't supposed to happen when Ted Leonsis took over; he had followed a patient rebuilding program with the NHL's Washington Capitals and everybody expected the same for the Wizards. Instead he inexplicably extended Grunfeld's contract based on one halfway-decent month to end the season while half the teams around the Wizards were tanking, and then signed off on this travesty.
He overpaid for the assets, too. Remember, a few weeks ago people were talking about how New Orleans might use the 10th pick to persuade somebody to take Okafor and Ariza off its hands. Instead the Hornets are keeping the 10th pick and got rid of both contracts. How hard do you suppose they laughed when Washington agreed to throw in a second-round pick too?
As for the Hornets, this was a wondrous move that offloaded two problem contracts, cleaned out room in a crowded frontcourt for rookie Anthony Davis, and gives them almost unlimited cap room going forward. Once they waive Lewis, the Hornets will be far enough under the cap that they could amnesty Jarrett Jack, offer Deron Williams a max contract, and still re-sign Eric Gordon.
It's unlikely D-Will would take that bait, but the real fun comes a year later when Jack and Lewis are off New Orleans' books entirely; if the Hornets offer Gordon about $10 million a year, they would still have nearly $30 million in cap space. Of course, they still need to use this space to get actual players, but between trades and free agency they are in position to put a potent team around Davis fairly quickly. Also, some chap named Chris Paul will be a free agent next summer if he doesn't extend his contract.
Grunfeld said the Wizards are better than they were yesterday, and in a very narrow sense he's correct: This deal does incrementally improve his roster. But there are far more efficient ways to produce the same improvement, and instead Grunfeld has essentially handcuffed the franchise to two more years of mediocrity so he could win a news conference.
This represents the view of the user who wrote the FanPost, and not the entire Bullets Forever community. We're a place of many opinions, not just one.