According to RealGM's Shams Charania, the Washington Wizards are expected to release former second round pick Glen Rice Jr. on Wednesday, after 1 and a half seasons with a team. In a vacuum, this seems like a sensible move. Rice had worn out his welcome with Randy Wittman and Rasual Butler’s emergence had made him expendable to the point where having an open roster spot for flexibility was more valuable.
However, this move shows a deeper, more pronounced organizational problem. The Wizards do not seem to value developing or really even picking young players. As teams start to get their names in to contender status, the organization philosophy tends to shift towards continuing to reload around a team’s core with role players. But since veteran role players are usually highly paid, it’s often difficult to stockpile because of the cap-manuevering required. This is where draft picks come in.
One of the most effective way for good teams to stay good is through young, cost-controlled talent with upside. Second round picks, in particular, are extremely important for this utilization of the draft because of their dirt cheap salary and the fact that their contracts are unguaranteed. Second rounders are difficult to hit on, but if you hit on one, it becomes an incredibly valuable asset. The Spurs are an example of a team that have used draft picks, 2nd rounders included, to continually revamp their supporting cast as players age or depart for greener pastures. The Wizards, unfortunately, do not seem to value these assets in the same way.
Consider how the Wizards have used their second round picks in recent years. Last year, the Wizards traded their second round pick to the Lakers afterdetermining there was no one left worth spending a draft pick on. The year before, they traded two second round picks to move up three spots in the second round and take Glen Rice Jr. In 2012, instead of acquiring a player that could start developing right away, the Wizards decided to take Tomas Satoransky and outsource their development to Europe. He hasn't seen the NBA since. The Wizards also used a second round pick on Shelvin Mack to be John Wall's backup, and instead of working to develop him further when he underwhelmed, the Wizards ended up cutting him before the start of his second season, only to bring him back and cut him again. Now he's in Atlanta where he's developed into serviceable backup.
In all these instances the Wizards have been content patching the problem with a veteran rather than investing more effort into their second round picks. This valuing of veterans has worked out to some extent. Drew Gooden was a midseason signing last year and made a huge impact to help the Wizards make a strong final push into the playoffs. Butler was a training camp invite who made the team and is a big part of the Wizards' success this season. However, the problem with veterans is that you largely know what you’re getting from them, and it’s quite unrealistic to expect more stories like Butler's to unfold. Draft picks are young, have much more upside, and sometimes make even less than the veterans' minimum.
It remains to be seen whether this disregarding of picks will come back to haunt the Wizards, but it seems clear that they don’t value them like most front offices have come to in the new CBA. Considering how the front office should be operating and the high number of veterans on the team, that should be very alarming going forward.