Now that the dust has settled on trade that sent Emeka Okafor and a top-12 protected 2014 first round draft pick to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee, and Kendall Marshall, Mike, Bullet Nation in Exile, Amin, Satchel, Thomas, Jeff, and Umair joined forces to talk about what this means for the team.
1. The core of this trade was an indefinitely injured Okafor + a top-12 pick in a loaded draft for Gortat. Do you like it?
Mike: I don't love the philosophy because it pins too much on this season and takes away a critical long-term asset, whether it's the young talent snagged with the pick itself or the big fish that this pick will help land in a trade. I compared the deal to the Bucks' J.J. Redick move, in that it gave away future assets for a fruitless chase for the sixth seed. I also worry the Wizards have pot-committed themselves to giving Gortat a big-money deal this summer regardless of how he plays.
BNIE: The waters of playoff hell are murky indeed. With no clear path from playoff hell to fringe contender, I can't go any farther than I am uncomfortable with the level of risk the Wizards have assumed in this deal. The team improves immediately and provides some help in the half-court offense for John Wall. But with a relatively quiet free agency period approaching, it's surprising to see the Wizards jettison two of their best trade assets. Surprising until you factor in playoffs or you're-fired-Ernie
Amin: I think I don't like the trade, but I don't hate it. I like Gortat, and I like the idea of trading Okafor (despite liking him as a person and player a lot). I also like the idea of Nene playing less minutes at the 5, because that means Nene gets to be less physical, which translates to more Nene games this season. Losing that draft pick hurts. It hurts because it's the strongest draft in recent memory. It hurts because they lost it before playing a single game without Okafor. It hurts because this team has yet to prove that it doesn't need the young talent that would come with that pick. And it hurts because there's a good chance that holding onto it longer through the year would have increased its value and netted something even better for the team.
Satchel: I don't really know how you could like this trade, but understanding it is a different story. Considering the entire context of the situation, from Ernie being on an expiring contract to Ted's mandate for postseason action, expecting inactivity from this franchise would've been unreasonable. Am I thrilled with the apparent direction this team is taking? Not particularly, but in the few years I've lived in D.C., I've never experienced a winning Wizards team. If I'm already getting a tad antsy, I can't even imagine what the real diehards have to be thinking at this point. So I don't like the deal, but given everything else I know about this franchise, I understand why it happened.
Thomas: Sure. Okafor was more valuable than Gortat in a vacuum since his defense and rebounding are a better match for the roster than the more well-rounded Gortat. Essentially Washington traded a pick that will fall between 12 and 20, half a year of Okafor, and Okafor's Bird Rights for what could be a full year of Gortat. Okafor was really good for this team and I think we'll all be surprised by how much the defense suffers without him. That said, he wasn't going to play for half of the season and Gortat isn't that much worse than him (there are plenty of smart people who might even take Gortat over Okafor)
Jeff: Actually, yes. Many seem to be experiencing heartburn over this trade because they feel the Wizards undersold two valuable assets in Okafor's expiring deal and their 2014 first round pick, but I don't think either of those assets are as valuable as some are alleging. Sure, the maxim is that massive expiring deals are valuable, and they certainly are, but they didn't fetch much of any value last season, and I'm evidently the only person on the planet who doesn't think the 2014 draft is particularly loaded. It's insanely top-heavy, with 4-5 potential franchise players ala 2003, but by the time you get into the teens where the Wiz figure to select, whom exactly are we expecting to turn this team's fortunes northward? I think a playoff appearance, however fleeting, is far more valuable to this team's future and the development of John Wall and Bradley Beal than a middle first round pick.
Umair: I don't hate it, but I'm also not a fan of trading away first round picks either. We have no idea how this draft is going to play out or which prospects will choose to enter the draft, giving more reason to keep the pick in order to gauge just how valuable of an asset you have at the trade deadline. Just imagine how this roster would have looked had the team stayed a little more patient over the years.
2. If you were promoted from armchair GM to actual GM, would you have done this trade for the Wizards?
Mike: Hard to say. I would not have, but the reasons are in direct opposition to Ted Leonsis' mandate to make the playoffs this season. To me, holding the assets would have been the right play. If I had to make a deal right now, I would have preferred getting Thaddeus Young, even though it would have made Nene play inside more than he would have liked. Young is on a reasonable contract for the next two years and he's still young enough to be with the team for the longer term. The Wizards would lose some rim protection, but I think they would have remained decent enough to make the playoffs and fulfill their goal of being perceived as a team on the rise.
BNIE: Absolutely. My boss says win-or-die when I haven't fielded a 50 win team in 10 years on the job and Gortat is the best available big man for the assets I'm willing to leverage in a hurry? You bet I would
Amin: I would have wanted to do a similar trade, but probably not this one. I don't know how hard Grunfeld worked the phones in Houston, but I would have tried to get Omer Asik instead. I would have also probably tried to peel back some of the protection on the pick to make it more desirable to Houston, and I would have tried hard to get rid of one of the young fellas in the frontcourt rotation that's not doing a whole lot for the team these days. I don't know if any or all of these were tried (it's possible they all were), but since I don't know, these things keep nagging at me.
Satchel: No. I would've waited patiently to see if Portland, Minnesota or another team unexpectedly collapses, because that could radically change the trade market. Come December, the Wizards might have had different options to deal with Okafor's injury, while still having the Gortat trade on the table -- I doubt Phoenix would've rejected the same offer two months from now. It just feels like more due diligence could've been done on Ernie's part, though we certainly don't know how trade negotiations actually went.
Thomas: It's hard to say since we don't know what's out there. I'd have much rather had Omer Asik and would have been willing to give up even more, maybe even made the pick unprotected, to get him. Unfortunately, that deal might not have even been on the table, and Gortat is probably the next best player who would have been available
Jeff: Yes, because before this trade the team was a semi-serious injury to Nene from being one of the worst teams in the league. Now, if Nene goes down for any appreciable amount of time, there's at least a chance with Gortat and Harrington that the Wiz could weather the storm. Sure, there might have been better players available now or in the future, but I just don't see how an injured Okafor and a mid-first round pick warrants anything much better than Gortat. Again, I think another season spent out of the playoffs is another season wasted in Wall's development. We see it time and again, where young stars don't make any true leaps forward until they sniff the postseason.
Umair: No, and if it means having to dig out of another hole after the trade deadline, so be it. But I also have a ton of faith in John Wall and Bradley Beal to hold down the fort until trade season commences, and have more than enough reasons to believe Ernie Grunfeld won't be squandering any more picks for us come July.
3. The other three players from Phoenix were waived yesterday by the Wizards. Would you have waived them?
Mike: Eh, probably. Shannon Brown and Kendall Marshall could have been useful, but I'm not torn up about losing them.
BNIE: Kendall Marshall was locked in a battle for third string point guard with Ish Smith. Maybe worth a D-league call-up in the future, but not worth keeping on a lottery pick's contract. Waived. I don't keep Shannon Brown over Glen Rice, Jr. Maybe it's asinine loyalty, but I value Garrett Temple's defensive prowess. Like, a lot. And GRJR is still on the roster. Waived. Malcolm Lee. If I'm not making room for Shannon Brown...waived.
Amin: I probably would have cut Lee, tried to immediately flip Marshall immediately for a 2nd-rounder, and cut Singleton in favor of keeping Brown. Glen Rice Jr., Shannon Brown, and Martell Webster would have been a nice scoring trio off the bench.
Satchel: Brown and Marshall should have value to some teams, but they're pretty redundant in Washington with Glen Rice Jr. and Eric Maynor likely taking minutes. It's certainly nothing worth getting upset about.
Thomas: Yes. They're not good players and Washington has a lot of B- options coming off the bench. Lee and Marshall both have a little bit of upside but not enough to warrant dumping someone like Rice or even Vesely. Of the three, Lee was the most intriguing but there aren't going to be any minutes available for him at the wing.
Jeff: I would have thought about keeping Brown around for some scoring off the bench, but that's a toss-up, and I'd rather have Maynor/Temple than Marshall/Lee, so I'm not sweating their release, either.
Umair: Yes. Brown may have provided a necessary scoring punch off the bench this year over the likes of Garrett Temple or Glen Rice Jr, but the latter has an actual future with this franchise, and I do think there's some truth to the whole "locker room chemistry" aspect of teams.
4) Shortly after the trade was announced, it was also reported that the Wizards would not pick up the 2014-15 options on Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely. Do you believe this was more of a reflection of their fit with the team, or do you think it was to try to get the team into a similar place in terms of cap space at the end of this coming season (Okafor's expiring contract is roughly equal to Gortat's expiring + Singleton's expiring + Vesely's expiring)?
Mike: Both. They are drastically underperforming and would have been owed bigger salaries than they are worth next season. I think they would have made that decision even if there was no extra cap space to receive.
BNIE: Time for the Wiz to cut bait and "protect optionality" as they look to acquire a big piece. Neither player has earned their spot on the roster, so it's no longer guaranteed.
Amin: I think both, but I think it wouldn't have been reported in the same day had the trade not gone down. I think the trade was a big part of that decision, and the hopes of latching onto a big-name free agent in 2014 is very enticing.
Satchel: I think this preseason convinced management that Singleton and Vesely wouldn't be a part of the team's long-term plan. It's not like Jan's 2014-15 option was going to be particularly cheap -- just from a simple cost-benefit analysis, it would be hard to justify keeping either player around.
Thomas: I think it was done to open up cap space. Both guys have had flashes of brilliance - ok, adequacy is probably a better word than brilliance - but at the end of the day, they've been in the league for three years. We know what they can do and it's not pretty. As intriguing as their physical tools are, they've had plenty of time to get it together and consistently produce at the NBA level. Either could prove me wrong and break out this year, but the odds are definitely not in their favor. The cap space will be more valuable, even if it's only used to sign a reclamation project.
Jeff: I think both. Neither had shown any indication they were worth the price of their options, so their standing on the team didn't justify assigning so much of the team's cap space to them. I still (stubbornly) think Vesely is worth keeping around at a dramatically reduced price, but Singleton I fully expect to be elsewhere in 2014-15.
Umair: Had they played up to their potential the past two years, it's no question the front office would gladly pick up their options in order to keep them on their rookie deals. But that simply isn't the case now, which explains the pressure the front office was under to make the Gortat trade. The Wizards were never supposed to be in this position; they came into the 2011 draft with two first round picks, and today have nothing to show for it. This was a colossal failure by management, and now they're paying the price.
5. Do you believe this trade still fits with Ted Leonsis's Ten Point Plan?
Mike: Not really, but the Ten Point Plan seems to have gone out the window in favor of an approach that suggests playoff relevancy is the biggest key to luring top free agents. To be fair, recent evidence does show this.
BNIE: Yes, but that's because the plan itself is highly adaptable and allows for risky calls. This is a risky call but observes enough tenets of the Ten Point Plan that I can see Ted signing off on the trade with a clear conscience.
Amin: I think points 4 and 5 on the plan need to be revisited. Otherwise, everything seems to measure up.
Satchel: Something about Ted's Ten Point Plan always stuck out to me: "Agree to what makes for a successful rebuild--in our case it is 'a great young team with upside that can make the playoffs for a decade and win a Stanley Cup or two.'"
If you tried to describe the Wizards' future, couldn't you reasonably describe it as "a great young team with upside that can make the playoffs for a decade and win a Stanley Cup or two" if you're looking through rose-colored glasses? Sure, great is an exaggeration for a likely No. 7 seed and nobody in DC is talking the Finals yet, but an optimist could definitely look at Washington's situation and say they're right on course. A lot of NBA fans seem geared towards hoping for a Miami-like dynasty, but a lot of teams only have a small window where they're legit contenders. The Wizards, more than a lot of teams, seem content with that reality.
Thomas: Wasn't the gist of the Ten Point Plan to rebuild with youth, weed out the ones who don't fit in or produce, and eventually bring in veteran complementary players? That's basically what this is. Washington could use another young star, ideally a power forward who can score or a center who can defend like a madman, but that could come as a result of free agency this summer. $12 million can easily become $15 or whatever is necessary to offer a max deal when teams get desperate.
Jeff: Seeing as how Ted's plans calls for the accumulation of young assets followed by the acquisition of complementary veterans pieces, yes. I actually think Gortat's efficiency in the pick-and-roll makes him a near-ideal fit schematically with Wall and Beal, who both have tremendous ability/potential as PnR players. Gortat could himself end up being a valuable trade chip later on the season should a contender lose its starting center to an injury. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think Gortat paired with Ariza's expiring deal would be far more appealing to a decent team with a surplus of desirable assets than Ariza's deal and an injured Okafor. At least the former package includes a decent, healthy player that can contribute in the short term.
Umair: Yes and no. You're always going to hit some road blocks along the way (i.e. the Okafor injury), and will have to find ways to compensate for it. But due to the countless number of missed draft picks, the foundation was weak, and there was no chance of the team simply promoting from within.
6. Do you sense any other trades or transactions this year?
Mike: Probably not anything big unless things go south. They're probably better off keeping Trevor Ariza at this point.
BNIE: The Rockets will attempt to trade Omer Asik. Oh, you meant the Wizards...trades require assets and the Wiz just leveraged theirs. I sense Ernie will get hung up on by Portland's front-office. And possibly Philly's.
Amin: Trevor Ariza is pretty valuable as a tradeable asset, but as Mike said, I can't see him going anywhere at this point unless something really goes wrong. So probably not.
Satchel: By the end of December? I imagine the team will first wait to see how Gortat fits with everyone else still on the roster. If any transaction comes in the next few months, it would probably be the firing of Randy Wittman should the beginning of the season go awry.
Thomas: It depends on how the season plays out and who's healthy. I doubt Ariza is going anywhere until Porter is back and has a few games under his belt. Once that happens, though, I think that the odds are at least 50/50 that he gets dealt. The only thing that's really up in the air here is who Washington gets, how good they are, and whether or not their contract is expiring. I'd be happy if they could flip Ariza and his expiring deal for someone like Avery Bradley, Ekpe Udoh or even Bismack Biyombo.
Jeff: Only if a poor team decides to deal a young, productive player for Ariza's expiring deal, and perhaps Gortat, as well. But I'd put my money on this being the roster we end the season with, and Ted and Ernie merely letting Ariza and Gortat walk in order to open up cap space. I think management ultimately decided they'd rather not take on any long-term salary in exchange for OkAriza, and would rather a) offload them for other expiring deals or b) let them leave at season's end.
Umair: The reason question is, "do they have the assets to facilitate another trade?" They can't trade away their 2015 pick under the current CBA, which by default makes Trevor Ariza's expiring contract the centerpiece in any trade discussion. But I don't foresee Otto Porter making enough of an impact defensively to deem Ariza tradable given the push to make the playoffs (and hopefully make some noise in it).
How would you answer these questions? Let us know
More from Bullets Forever:
- How Ernie Grunfeld has balanced risk against the Ten Point Plan
- Film study: How Marcin Gortat fits in with the Washington Wizards
- Marcin Gortat Trade: Nene, Wittman happy to have a "true center" again
- Marcin Gortat acquired in trade for Emeka Okafor, first-round pick
- Wizards to waive Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, Malcolm Lee, according to report