The rumor mill was rampant last week with two rumors that I believe put this team in a precarious position moving forward as they try to climb out of the realm of mediocrity. The idea of either trading for Greg Monroe and/or re-signing Marcin Gortat seems inticing for some, but in reality, this is exactly the kind of thinking that make me wonder if this team is capable of making that next step. It is somewhat easy to put together a mediocre team especially considering that you are in a weak Eastern Conference and also considering that you have spent the past 5 years in lottery status. What is not easy, and what separates the successful franchises from the mediocre ones is going beyond that.
We saw evidence of the limited ceiling this team currently has on Saturday night in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz. The Jazz young bigs, particularly Enes Kanter, got inside the paint constantly and got easy looks. For the game, Kanter shot 11-13 and pretty much got in the lane whenever he wanted to. Don't get me wrong I like Gortat, I believe he is talented, but I do not believe he is what this team needs. If this team re-signs him, we have to consider that this team may not improve much more than it already has. Let's consider the fact that re-signing Gortat will take away any financial flexibility for the next two years until Nene's contract comes off the books. Speaking of Nene, we also have to consider that we have a $13 million investment in a guy who is often times injured and we have an expectation that somehow this core is going to lead us to contention without any viable backups behind them?
Let's be realistic here, if you re-sign Gortat, this team is going nowhere. His interior defense is extremely so-so and does not match the gambling wing defenders of Wall and Ariza who often leave their men open lanes in attempt to create turnovers. Oh I hear you now, so let's get Monroe. There is a positive and negative to make such a move. The positive is, if you use Gortat in the deal, then you will have at least given yourself a chance to salvage the trade from the beginning of the season (I still do favor the trade. Starting Gortat is better than the alternative.), especially if you do not retain Gortat, so that you at least will likely have something for losing your draft pick. The negative is you will have a guy in Monroe, who has not at any point during his college or NBA career showed an ability to play defense, limited athletically and you have to again put him next to an, again, oft-injured, non-rim protecting Nene with the expectation that this combination will lead to net positive results.
Let me state a few things about why I think neither one of these moves will work. One thing we have learned over the past few years, is our defensive is most effective when there is a rim protector next to Nene. Having Emeka Okafor next to Nene last year was a positive and honestly, given that he is healthy next year, I believe he would be a much better fit next to Nene next year. Secondly, I am not okay with the idea of going to the max of our salary cap to field yet another mediocre team. If signing Gortat does not guarantee contention, pass on him, get a cheaper, short term option, and build assets. The most important part to remember that perhaps, the big piece needed for this team may not be won through free agency, but perhaps through trade, and by maintaining some cap flexibility along with some attractive assets to trade, you give yourself a chance to eventually acquire a piece via trade from a team that may be looking to cut salary or perhaps get expiring contract in return. At worse, you get nothing, but Nene's contract expires and you are looking at even more financial room because you haven't hampered yourself down with talent that does not lead to contention, while still maintaining a young core of Wall, Beal, and others.
The problem that I see, is there is too much of an idea of trying to keep or add player that management believes will put this team over the top and they are being overvalued, as Gortat is here and as Monroe is starting to. This team is not ready to contend and that should be painfully obvious, so why continue to financially handicap your franchise for years and waste these years with Wall and Beal with mediocre, expensive options? Why not continue to build piece by piece, but maintain your flexibility going forward? Thoughts from the Bullets Forever faithful?