I found myself thinking about how the Wizards may fill its remaining roster spots. However, as I thought about whether they should sign another PG or SG; whether Cartier Martin or Hamady N’Diaye would make the team? I began to think that the bigger issue is how committed the organization is to its stated objective? During an interview, Ernie Grunfeld gave us a glimpse into the organizations "strategic plan," which he described as "building towards the future with a core of young, talented players." So it seems that who fills those last remaining roster spots, rather than which positions he plays, will give us a sense of how committed the organization is to its stated objective.
If the goal is to build around their core of John Wall, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee while becoming a contender within the next two to three seasons, then winning now is nice but not required. For a season or two, we will be happy with well played, hard fought basketball. For proof of this, you don’t have to look any farther than last year. The Verizon Center crowd went nuts over the effort that the post-trade deadline team put forth. Don’t get me wrong, the goal is always to win as many games as you can. However, given the current state of the franchise I don’t believe that you sacrifice achieving your stated objective in order to squeeze out a handful of potentially meaningless wins. (The only exception would be, if late in the season the team found itself in striking distance of a playoff spot then in that situation it would be warranted to go after that spot.)
The team should align completely behind its goal, which means letting the younger players log heavy minutes. This will undoubtedly result in some situations in which the coaching staff will be frustrated with a player or two who did not make the right in-game decision. In situations like this, it is too tempting to pull the player in favor of a more experienced player. But, how does that move help the team accomplish its long term objective? If the young player is not afforded the opportunity to learn on the job, then the team is only prolonging his (and the team’s) development. If the coaching staff benches the young player for an extended period of time, then that decision essentially undermines the objective of the franchise. Or at a minimum it pushes the end date further into the future by slowing the development of the young players. The situation reminds me of the old cliché that sometimes things do need to get worse, before they can get better.
For a recent example of this consider Oklahoma City. Many credit its front office, and rightfully so, with making shrewd personnel moves that have led to its recent success. But I also feel the organization should be given credit for allowing their young talent to learn on the job – taking its knocks along the way. Before the success that they experienced last season (50-32 and 8th seed in the West), they went through a two-year stretch in which they were horrible – 20-62 in 2007/8 and 23-59 in 2008/9. During this stretch, they were able to incorporate their young core and play them significant minutes, which afforded them the opportunity to learn while on the floor. (It is also true that it also doesn’t hurt when one of the developing young talents happens to be named Kevin Durant.)
If the organization is committed to their stated objective, then I would remove the safety blanket that an old Vet can provide a coaching staff. I would lean towards filling the remaining roster spots with additional younger players (three or fewer years in the league), and not the old grizzled vet. Older vets can be far too enticing for a frustrated coaching staff. And as we have seen with this team towards the end of last season, they have talent. They just need it to develop more quickly.
Ernie Grunfeld should use the remaining few roster spots on further young players, which should help to ensure that there aren’t any potential roadblocks preventing the development of the team’s young core.