So I'm back from my weekend vacation, just in time for what's likely the most important week of the Wizards offseason.
Things have been quiet thus far, but it is this week where we truly figure out whether Ernie Grunfeld was right to sign DeShawn Stevenson first and to hold his cards on potential trades. As we all know, FC Barcelona issued an ultimatum on a Juan Carlos Navarro trade for this Friday, and if the Wizards don't trade him, they'll sign Navarro to a new contract and re-raise his buyout clause. I'm pretty sure FC Barcelona isn't bluffing here. Remember, they're doing Navarro a huge favor by lowering that buyout significantly. If Navarro doesn't have his NBA future settled, you can bet they're going to want to have him back.
Ernie's held onto this asset for as long as possible, but if he can't get good value for Navarro, it will have been a major waste. What is good value? That's very difficult to say, but we'll know it when we see it. We've speculated so many potential possibilities that likely will never happen. If Navarro is traded, I think it will be a deal that comes somewhat out of left field. Most likely, it will look like a rumor that appeared earlier, but will contain some different parts. In my mind, a good deal must either bring back a decent big man or provide salary cap relief by dumping Etan or Haywood, but if we get multiple draft picks in return, that'll change my mind a bit. Again, we'll know it when we see it.
On another front, negotiations are heating up with Andray Blatche. Whether it's 11 million or 9 million or whatever, at least the two sides are talking. It does appear that the Wizards are mostly bidding against themselves again. Dallas, the only other team interested, seems to be leaning in a different direction with their mid-level exception, and I honestly can't think of too many teams that have the money and the roster space to throw an offer his way. But even if there isn't a market for Blatche out there, you have to wonder what effect Ernie's somewhat low offers have on his feeling with the situation. Eddie Jordan not only hasn't used him well, but he's also probably cost Blatche money in his mind. Think about it; if Blatche was used like we all feel like he should have been, I guarantee you someone would have given him Darko money. What happens if Blatche realizes this, signs a one-year tender, and then tries to test the market again next year? Not saying it's going to happen, and believe me, I'm not saying it's even likely to happen, but I'm still worried about how Blatche will deal with likely receiving less money that he originally thought.
After those two are situated, there's still more to figure out. We obviously need to find room for Dominic McGuire after his spectacular summer league. Remember, second-round picks aren't necessarily guaranteed a contract, so Ernie still has to sign him. If JCN is traded just for draft picks, that leaves only 12 players on the roster, and not much room under the tax. It'll be interesting to see how Ernie gets around that minor problem as well.
No matter what, this is where Ernie needs to come through. I've been defending the guy ever since he got here, and I still believe he's only made one bad move (the Thomas signing, although signing Songaila after drafting Pecherov wasn't all that savvy either). But if Navarro doesn't yield a decent big man (or worse, yields nothing), and if Blatche gets frustrated by Ernie's lowballing tactics and leaves, the decision to re-sign DeShawn Stevenson first should undoubtedly be second-guessed.
Time to make your play, Ernie.