Might the total market value for Gortat and Ariza be South of $14M? By estimating too high, are we aiming too low?
Local media outlets riffing on each others' estimates for the market value of Gortat and Ariza have only vaguely cited each other as 'sources'. Those estimates range from $10-13M for Gortat and $7M-$10 for Ariza. Reading the local media raising the bidding prices against each other has been distressing, as I've been scouring the web for better estimates over the last few months and got much lower numbers from the only remotely viable source I could find. Now I understand that in order to sell papers and hits one has to sensationalize every potential downfall, but I think the Wiz are in better shape than fans think.
I'm not an In$ider, but I did find a posting (All That Amar, SLC Dunk, a Utah Jazz site) analyzing data from Amin Elhassan of ESPN's "Top 30 NBA Free Agents 3.0". He is a former scout and mid-level executive for Phoenix. Feel free to cut to the chase and link to the the bottom-line dollar estimates for Gortat & Ariza, but Hassan's methodology warrants inspection:
"He ranks players according to something called the AAV (Average Annual Value), which is, in his own words:
'To make my contract value estimates, I used many of the same factors I used as a member of the Phoenix Suns' front office: age, injury history, value of recent comparable player contracts, irreplaceability of skill set, contribution to winning, history of production, fit with style and culture, marketability, and current cap situation, among other things.' "
Better explanation and better professional credibility than I've gotten elsewhere, so let's check it out:
Gortat was listed as the 13th-ranked free-agent, likely to earn a 3yr contract at $8.3M, Ariza as the 20th-ranked, likely to earn a 3yr contract at $5.5M per year. I'm very biased, but I like those numbers much more, particularly because it makes the Gortat-and-BiggerNamePlayer scenario financially viable, which is the only one in which we leapfrog into discussions of EC Finals and Championship contention . More on that later.
Now this was posted February 27th, long before Nene went out for 6 weeks, and Gortat proved he could survive as the #1 post option on a playoff-bound (in the East) team. This was before national press got wind of Ariza's resurgence. This was well-before pundit-hyped, nationally-televised 30-point playoff games. This was before news leaked that the salary cap might be raised.
That being said, I still don't think the numbers will change from this estimate that much. Gortat's numbers will go up a bit, for sure, but not outrageously. Tim Duncan and Zach Randolph are unlikely to exercise their player options, but Bosh, Monroe (& Nowitzki, sorta) make Gortat only the 3-4th best big available. He was consistent in his contract-year regular season, but inconsistent in the playoffs. He still seems to be arcing upward in his skill set, but he's on the wrong side of 30. That being said, the guy will get paid. The wildcard, as always is, will another team OVERpay? Regardless, pencil in $10M, +/- $500K.
Ariza's numbers seem much more in line with this lower estimate, however. Glamor of the Ring aside, he's pretty much strictly a "3-and-D" guy, albeit one of the best currently in the business and hustles out on the break with the best of them. The Wizards (okay, John Wall) are going to add 5-10 percentage points to any 3pt shooter, as with Ariza - he had plenty of space, time, volume and in-rhythm opportunities to have that percentage. He's a shutdown guy in the regular season, but is he that in the playoffs? Do other teams think he can be the final piece to put together a championship contender? Probably. Are they willing to overpay for it? Not likely. Which teams, exactly? Are they likely to spend +$5M for a 4th-5th option guy? Please remember that his $7M contract was deemed undesirable and unmovable for years. Adjusting up from Hassan's estimate for the new cap and playoff shine, pencil in $6M , +/- $500K.
Big issue here is: "what will other teams offer?" against "who/what else can we get with that money?". (Or "Would a team pay Larry Hughes all-star money and Jim McIlvaine and Brent Price starter money?") The Wizard franchise and Leonsis SHOULD have a reputation around the league of taking care of our internal free agents (see: Arenas, Gilbert; Jamison, Antawn; Blatche, Andray; Wall, John), but the era of being smarter with our money is about to begin. We can start to let some talent walk, simply to allow for better fitting talent that wants to come for reasons other than money. The Webster and Harrington signings mark the line between Wiz needing to overpay to keep free agents to being able to underpay to keep free agents.
We used to have our bar pretty low around here. Grunfeld always wanted us to be "perennial playoff contenders". Nuh-uh. Not good enough. We're beyond contending for getting in to the playoffs. The Wizards have officially graduated to the place where the only question for Gortat and/or Ariza is: "Can we go deep (all the way?!) in the playoffs with this guy as our starter?" Gortat seems to fit the bill for a viable playoff big. There aren't a lot of "energetic-and-focused-team-player-who-rebound-and-won't-embarass-you-on-either-end-is-a-locker-room-guy-and-oh-by-the-way-is-7-foot-250" guys out there. Ariza, however, is closer to the bottom end of playoff-caliber starting SFs. Ariza is more replaceable - even our franchise has a bit-of-a-step-down, three-headed replacement paid for in Webster-Porter-Temple. I really like the guy and his skill set, but is lack of creativity and versatility on offense is a significant problem, compounded by the fact that we have the same problem at our PF spot. Nene's health and Gooden's skills might change the chemistry a bit, but in order to get to the next level, we need to add offensive skill from the 3 and/or 4 spot without sacrificing (a lot) of defense.
I agree with Prada - flirt with the big names. Plan A: talk to LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh, Nowitzki, Monroe and Gasol. If any of the first four are willing to come, do it. Do that and re-sign Gortat and we're officially in the Big Discussion. The latter two? Buy 'em a drink, tell 'em they have pretty eyes, chat 'em up, get their digits but don't call back for a date and move to Plan B: re-sign Gortat and Ariza, but make sure that Ariza's contract is reasonable, and if/when necessary in the future, movable. If this Wiz team can continue arcing upwards to compensate for one-dimensional offensive capability from the 3 spot, great. I'm expecting bigger things from Porter (and Rice?), but the future free agent/trade market seems like a more likely source from which to infuse some much needed offensive skill into the Wiz, however.