Signing Eric Maynor is about as Yi Jianlian as General Manager Ernie Grunfeld is willing to go these days. By that, I mean low-risk, high-upside. (Hopefully it works out better than Yi).
EG is gambling Maynor regains pre-injury form and gets back to when he was one of the top backup point guards in the league. There's risk in the signing, but at two years for the bi-annual exception, considering the upside, it's a worthy play for a team aiming at the playoffs.
John Wall's injury taught the Wizards front-office an ugly lesson about the need for distributors, but it isn't just in case of injury. Jan Vesely is much-maligned, but how often has the Wizards' designated ball-handler missed one of his beautiful cuts to the basket? Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin aren't world-beaters on offense, so they benefit hugely from a cerebral point guard who can get them efficient looks at the basket.
It's a point guard-driven league and this is the first time in the rebuild that the Wizards aren't trotting out a retread, placeholder or trade bait behind John Wall. Remember the Wizards expressing interest in Darren Collison, Beno Udrih, John Lucas III in addition to Maynor? And Nate Robinson after inking Maynor? What happened with those backup targets:
- Darren Collison wanted to play for a contender and is backing up Chris Paul once more. The Wizards never really had a shot.
- Beno Udrih is still unsigned.
- John Lucas III got $1.6 million this year and next from the Jazz.
- Nate Robinson got two years, $4 million from Denver.
Time to shoot from the hip a bit. There's been much made of Maynor's defensive shortcomings, especially compared to the (presumably) outbound A.J. Price, but Price did not have Maynor's court vision and ability to get the other four players involved on offense. I'm guessing the Wizards prioritized both Maynor and Collison, and the latter's rebuff made signing the former paramount.
The drop-off in defense is still a concern -- Wizards fans are well versed with how much damage opposing point guards can inflict after watching Wall's growing pains on that end of the court. But fans can be reasonably confident Randy Wittman and Don Newman will get the best out of Maynor on defense. With Trevor Ariza and Garrett Temple manning the other backup spots on the perimeter, fans aren't looking at the end of the world with the B-team in.
The Wizards starting lineup is set and (finally) looking healthy at the same time as Bradley Beal is cleared for full-contact drills. Before Maynor signed, there wasn't a single player coming off the bench with a guaranteed deal past this season, unless you want to count Otto Porter. For a team that's supposed to contend and is looking for bankable depth now, few fans do. Waiting another (likely final) season for a member of the forward brigade to step up is bitter medicine for Wizards fans tired of marking time on the developmental wall, but that's just what the Ten Point Plan prescribes. The Maynor signing is a bridge between the developmental and compete cycles in the Plan, and while that sounds underwhelming at first, I must put to you this question.
I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?
I think you can in Europe.
[insert Jan Vesely joke here]
More from Bullets Forever:
- John Wall, Wizards near agreement on 5-year maximum contract extension
- What we must talk about when we talk about John Wall's max contract
- Bradley Beal injury update: Wizards' G to resume full-contact drills in a week
- Bullets Forever's Summer Skill checklist: Trevor Ariza
- What is continuity worth to the Washington Wizards?