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Washington Wizards 2012 Roster: Trainwreck By Design

Brian Cook rocking a man baby is an image likely left off the Season Ticket Holder's renewal package.
Brian Cook rocking a man baby is an image likely left off the Season Ticket Holder's renewal package.

As we spoke about last week, there are degrees of transparency. So when Ted says:

The Capital’s had several really bad years- we drafted well; we played the young players – and then we started to improve. We were bad tile [sic] we were good.

We are now a good team; and we make the playoffs year after year. And we are still considered a young team with a young core. All the players in their mid-twenties.

That is the deliverable for our fans. A rebuild that works; we are in season 2 of our ownership of the team; year two of a painful but necessary rebuild.

via Ted's Take

It's best not to react too strongly and start inarticulately sputtering about playoff hell. It's likewise reflexive to get concerned over some of the similarities between the two franchises. Both lucked into the number 1 draft pick with a franchise player on the table and built through the draft while moving established veterans off the roster. A youth movement is easier to achieve in the NFL or NHL (though by no means easy); the nature of guaranteed contracts in the NBA versus even the NHL, the differences in roster size and of course the unique physical attributes required to excel in pro basketball combine to make any raze and rebuild feel like a scorched earth policy. (Feel free to point out any attributes of rebuild difficulty in the NBA I've missed.)

The complications of contender chemistry are surely no exact science, but no high-level strategic manager in the NBA can wilfully ignore the dynamic that translates into championship banners. Translation: for all the talk out of the front office referring to a young, competitive team, they knew exactly what they were buying traveling the Thunder road without their superb personnel for the past few seasons. It's one thing for Ted to pronounce a strong belief in analytics with upper management open to the idea; quite another to have Sam Presti in your corner when it's time to throw down.

One only needs to look at the Kings or the Bobcats to see how bad things could have been. Ending up with the worst draft pick AND the worst contract on a draft day trade? Losing Tyson Chandler for nothing? Say what you will, Ernie Grunfeld has done far better in (at least marginally) comparable situations.

It's not difficult to explain the personnel situation. Taking over the Capitals saw Ted leave key front office names in place. Ted has never seemed like the type of owner to create a cult of personality. That means retaining tenured guys who know the business. Of course, Ted wasn't a basketball neophyte by any means. He's been at the reins a few seasons, his feet are wet and change definitely isn't out of the question. But fomenting an immediate analytics revolution was never in the cards.

The Wizards didn't get the #10 pick in 2010 out of the Hornets in a BOYD maneuver that netted us the #17. Of course, I'd rather have Kevin Seraphin than Cole Aldrich...and there was more value in Kirk Hinrich's deal (Jordan Crawford and Chris Singleton) than there was in Mo Pete's contract. We had plenty of SF in 2010, anyway. There's been impressive growth from Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin. One more year would have been nice to see if Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack follow suit...but these are prominent data points likely to come up during EG's performance review.

So while giving Ernie the heave-ho is the popular choice (450 out of 636 at last poll for non-renewal, with a 100 abstaining)...Ernie seems to have by-and-large met his metrics on getting Ted his deliverable: a young team that can make the playoffs year after year. Even though EG decided the dearth of shooters on the roster wasn't relevant enough to address via free agency. If that doesn't reassure you, I won't cast blame.

But then again, before Bruce Boudreau was the coach who lost the Caps, he was a promising minor league coach. So while Ted is mum right now on the Wizards coaching future, his inclination may very well be towards one of the young assistant coaches a number of us are intrigued by.

Deciding the immediate future of the GM spot is going to involve more than conflating the roster construction and win-loss record. Ironic though it may be in this age of advanced statistics, if the Wiz nab this year's #1 (or even a top 3 pick) but the GM spot could very well be swayed by the lottery; an argument could be made the team would have missed a superior rebuild asset for a few more meaningless W's. Of course, the real debate is whether anyone's growth has been stunted by not playing with the benefit of balanced roster construction. Don't expect much transparency on that score. In any case, it's more likely than not that this year's roster was a trainwreck by design.