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Wizards-Hornets Trade: Trying To Solve The Oklahoma City Model?

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The SEO (search engine optimization) gods frown on titling posts 'Wooooooooow'. I do so in spirit. The roster has been radically altered for the second time this year and there are quite a few angles to consider. Let's get going.

First, let's take a look at some cause and effect, starting with Nene Hilario courtesy Michael Lee:

"I just play free here. What they say, ‘I didn’t know you were so good.’ I been working the last four summers [could Jan Vesely be that smooth in four summers?]. I couldn’t shoot in Denver. Here, I have the green light to shoot it," he said. "In Denver we had different players who shot a lot the ball. I don’t like to follow the example and shoot a lot. I never see a coach say to the players, ‘shoot the ball, please shoot the ball’. They do that here."

Taken in conjunction with Nene's remarkable athleticism (for an NBA big man), it's no big leap that the front-office concluded there was room for a legit center on the roster. Nene with a jumpshot can play power forward. There's no contesting the need for improved play at small forward. So we can see need at both positions.

It's worth asking how much of the stated need these guys fill. Let's take a look at the Hornets as a team. Monty Williams kept that unit zeroed in defensively, despite an extremely turbulent season that lost any hope of respectability when Eric Gordon went down. Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza kept their heads down and put in work, veteran players with solid defensive reputations. So no red flags at a very cursory glance.

At C, well, teams are often overpaying for big men. We're paying more for Okafor's next two seasons than Nene's. Okafor does rebound reliably, something the Wizards need badly. But one wonders how the defense might suffer if Okafor's pick-and roll defense carries over from NOLA, especially in the Wizards kinetic style of defense. Read jkahn15's write-up, if you haven't already.

At SF, many of us were hoping for perimeter shooting and for Chris Singleton to put on some muscle mass. In Ariza we have a more experienced defender...but when a 'young veteran' is traded twice in his prime, it's no surprise he has a reputation as an inefficient chucker. It'll be interesting to watch Jordan Crawford and this guy on the floor at the same time. In any case, Ariza should slide into the defensive scheme without too much trouble. That's it for the best news.

The 'free agency via trade' argument was bound to come up with cap implications this significant. Tomzilla wrote on this angle as well, which you should read. I swallowed the argument with Nene because it made plenty of sense, and the deal was far more friendly than it first appeared.

That said, I'm not happy with paying two role players $43 million over two seasons. If we take Ziller's argument for granted, that this is simply the price of doing business for a cellar dweller crawling their way out of the pit, fine. I don't have to like it. There's a reason Ziller uses 'sober' three times in his bit. I recommend fifthstop's comment as, well:

I don’t love the size of the contracts, but they’re movable in the way Rashard’s has proven itself to be. AND we get incrementally better, and develop while winning. I don’t want to be a team that’s only great in some mad-scientist-RealGM kind of way. If we win 50% more games next year (in my view a near certainty) that’s a huge step. Then push again and again.

Take it a step further and look back, so to speak. Remember Kirk Hinrich? That $28 million price tag on Okafor isn't forbidding as it appears, though considerably more than Hinrich's $17 million. A fundamental difference is how Okafor as an asset could be leveraged. What's a defensive big's presence and expiring contract along with, say, a pick in the middle of the first round worth in trade? More than cap space with the penalties set to come down? The difference in saleability of those assets is one reason I'm lukewarm on the trade. I believe first round picks outside the high to mid lottery are going to be worth less, same for expiring contracts of even vet bigs, if they incur cap penalties. And if the assets are not as saleable, then they must have serious court impact which of course, remains to be seen.

I've half-joked before that nobody shouts 'Yankee Swap!' at Christmas faster than Ernie Grunfeld. Ted has mentioned Oklahoma City before in reference to team-building, and there was a gold-rush to debunk the "idea" of drafting three superstars. 'Volume over precision' in accordance with the Ten Point plan was the method for acquiring young players. For veterans:

8. Add veterans to the team via shorter term deals as free agents. Signing long-term, expensive deals for vets is very risky. We try to add vets to the mix for two year or three year deals. They fill in around our young core. They are very important for leadership, but they must complement the young core (NOT try to overtake them or be paid more than them). Identify and protect the core. Add veterans to complement them, not visa versa.

Rather than nothing to show for Rashard Lewis, we have those veterans on short-term deals to fill in around the core Ernie has put together. Or, we have massive cap weight with questionable court impact slowing the progress of the players just starting to show the kind of growth fans have been aching for. Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. (heh)

The rationale, I think, for the Wizards comes back to the sobriety narrative Ziller has established. Making the incremental climb, as fifthstop stated, requires incremental steps. Throw in the 'trade as free agency' narrative to top off the 'volume over precision approach' and I have to wonder if this attempt to grind their way out of the cellar is Ted and Ernie's plan to bridge the gap in the Oklahoma City model.

2012/13 is the first season many fans concluded (back when John Wall was drafted) that the Wizards could conceivably compete for a playoff spot. It looks like that will happen. And looking back over the last few years, it feels like every move Ernie made was replicable and has been justifiable under the tenets of the Ten Point plan.

In the end, we have a clear idea of when our team is in the playoffs, or else. In 2014/15, we will be all but certain whether or not the Ten Point Plan has succeeded in establishing a DC contender in the John Wall era. In accordance with Ted's plan to be transparent, the history won't be difficult to chart. There's not much to love about the trade, but there's enough to like...for (win-)now.