I hate to post this so early after the Trade Deadline expired..... but here we go.
Ok - so the Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Wizards stood pat. Great, you think... another wasted opportunity.
Or was it? Here's why I think doing nothing at this year's trade deadline was the best thing for the Team and it's fans.
The Wizards are in a Financial situation where they will be paying the Luxury Tax next year. Don't tell me that they can do something during the Summer.... because they can't. As currently constructed, the Wizards payroll next year will be $75,906,170 . All indications are that the Luxury Tax threshold will be lower than this year. The league sent out a memo this week describing some different luxury tax scenarios and the most likely case is a Tax threshold of $69.4 Million. That would put the Wizards over the Tax next year by $6.5 Million. When you add the salary for their 1st round pick ($2.7 Million to $4.1 Million); the Wizards will owe a dollar-for-dollar tax payment of $9.2 - 10.6 Million. In addition, they would miss out on the Tax payment (Teams that stay under the tax level receive a full share of the tax money)
The only way to avoid paying the Luxury Tax next year is to trade players for picks. For that to work, you need a trading partner that is under the Salary Cap; Like Denver did when they traded Camby to the Clippers for a swap of draft picks). There will be very few teams under the cap next year (OKC?, Memphis?), and they won't want our expiring contracts (Thomas, James, etc...). So the possibility of getting under the Tax next year is almost zero.
Many fans have railed aginst Abe Pollin in the past for his reluctance to pay the Tax and field a competitive team. Ernie Grunfeld has repeatedly said that Mr. Pollin wants to avoid going over the Luxury Tax if possible. Well that is now a moot point. So I say, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Grunfeld has said that he truly believes in this core group of players. He has now shown it, buy not trading away any key pieces just to avoid paying the Tax. Now it's time to augment that core group with an infusion of solid veteran talent and make a run at the Championship.
This coming Summer, and especially at the trade deadline next year (February 2010), The Wizards will have a singular opportunity. They can be in a position of being a buyer in a selling market. The landscape will be chock full of Teams desperate to unload high priced contracts to get under the Luxury Tax, or to position themselves for a run at the 2010 Free Agent class. Ernie Grunfeld may be able to package one or both of their expiring deals with young talent, and/or draft picks to bring in some real solid Veteran talent. By solid veteran talent, I don't mean guys like Songaila and Juan Dixon... but rather All-Star caliber talent.
A salary dump at this year's trade deadline would have solidified the "Cheap" label; so Abe and Ernie have passed the first test. The next test comes this summer. Will the Wizards keep their 1st round pick; Or will they package it with players to bring in talent?
Or will the Wizards sell the pick, to chants of "cheapskate, cheapskate, cheapskate"?