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A Game of Contenders

Gamesmanship is a tool NBA GMs rarely employ to no purpose.  Remembering recent history, the Nets bid furiously in an effort to secure Carmelo Anthony in a gesture everyone recognized as futile, unless 'melo relented.  Which made for a drama as tired and repetitive as any daytime soap opera.  Some speculated the theatrics were largely geared to ensuring the Knicks gutted their roster.  Intentional or not, the Knicks were swept out of the playoffs by a Celtics team that was swept out of the playoffs, and I have no problem chalking that one up to Machiavellian intent from our resident Russian.  Even when the plan failed, it didn't fail.

If not bringing in Enes Kanter for a workout smacks of anything, it's gamesmanship.  The vague rumor of the Timberwolves being in the market for a 'veteran big man' was seen for what it was, Kahn testing to see what the market would bear.  The Wizards being placed in the middle of the hunt for the #2 pick resulted in the obvious; a conclusion Washington wants Derrick Williams.  If we grab the #2, we certainly trade away the #6 which means no Kanter.  Which sends the message that Washiington's front office does not necessarily consider him to be crucial to the organization's future.

Why would this be necessary?  With most draft pundits already projecting Washington to take Kanter as their best fit, the circumstances of the Wizards falling in the draft lottery and Kanter singing us a love song in the media necessitated a cooling off period.  Negotiations are all about trade leverage; too little and you're left in Kahn's position, trolling for value and facing a possible devaluation of your assets.  That can be addressed if you have enough time to demand full value and walk away, but with the labor trouble approaching, time is crucial.  If your interests are too well known you end up in the same position, you're going to get held over a barrel.

While Ernie Grunfeld not scheduling such a routine exercise isn't a big deal for the reasons Mike listed, it's more about establishing a little leverage on our side of the table when the time comes to deal.  I said when, not if, because as I said at the beginning, gamesmanship is a tool NBA GMs rarely employ to no purpose.  In a game of draft picks and contenders, there is no middle ground.  You win or you die.  Well, you could end up a perennial playoff team with no chance to go anywhere, so I guess there is a middle ground.  But if we become the Atlanta Hawks, I will die.

And who knows, maybe this thing ends the way the 'melo drama did, and Utah emerges as the silent partner in a trade with a rebuilding Eastern Conference team, only this time it's our turn.  If we can get some other team to gut itself in the process pushing for a deal with Minny, so much the better.  What's the upshot of this development?  I wasn't sure we wouldn't simply stand pat and draft BPA, maybe buy another pick in the first round.  At this juncture the fortune cookie says, "Signs point to action" and as Mike said back at the lottery, we're going to find out if Ernie will earn his paycheck once more.