In 2009, the Wizards were just finishing up an injury-riddled, disappointing season which included firing then-head coach Eddie Jordan. Sound familiar? During that summer, the Wizards anticipated health and a new coaching hire would bring them back to relevance. As a result of these heightened expectations, the Wizards made one of the riskier moves in recent memory of this franchise, when they traded a package away that included their #5 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. This was expected to be a move that showed that the Wizards were ready to contend with the elite in the Eastern Conference, but the trade left a lot of question marks with the two players they were picking up, namely Randy Foye, who was on the final year of his rookie contract and still was unproven.
Randy Foye, in spite of him being named first-team All-Rookie for the 2006-2007 season, was always overshadowed by the fact that he was traded for that season's Rookie of the Year, Brandon Roy. He struggled to live up to the lofty expectations of justifying the Roy trade, and being the seventh overall pick in the draft. His transition to the NBA was challenging since he lacked the size and the consistent defensive ability to be a starting shooting guard, but he also lacked the playmaking ability to be a viable point guard, so his ceiling quickly dropped from being a franchise building block to being a combo guard trying to find a role as a starter.
Fast forward to now, the Wizards picked up a player in Trey Burke who has quite a few similarities to Randy Foye, albeit without the cost of trading a lottery pick. Like Foye, Burke is being brought in to shore up the Wizards' backcourt bench and perhaps play a role in helping the Wizards recover from a disappointing season. He is also being brought in on the last year of his rookie deal, just like Foye. Are we going down the same road again? Let's compare:
Both were drafted into challenging situations
Foye came to Minnesota on the heels of a run where the Timberwolves had gone to the playoffs for eight straight years. Despite their consistent success with Flip Saunders as coach, they only got out of the first round one time. So after the team struggled in the beginning of the 2005-06 season, the Timberwolves fired Flip Saunders and transitioned to a new era for their team.
Minnesota drafted Foye the summer after they fired Saunders, and the team struggled to find their footing with a new coach. Foye had three different coaches in his first three seasons (Dwane Casey, Randy Wittman, Kevin McHale) who averaged 26 wins per season in that time. He also missed the first 43 games of his second season due a stress reaction in his knee. Between his injury and unstable coaching situation, there was enough untapped potential to pique Ernie Grunfeld's interest and convince him to make a deal before the 2009 draft.
Burke's situation in Utah hasn't been much better. He came to the team at the start of a long rebuild where they were still trying to figure out their long-term outlook. Hall of Fame head coach Jerry Sloan had resigned, and core players like Deron Williams, Al Jefferson, and Paul Millsap had all gone to new teams.
Trey Burke was expected to come in to help fill the void left at point guard by Williams, and to set the team on the right course for the future. But just like Foye, his start of his career was marred by injuries, and he also had to deal with coaching changes (Tyrone Corbin, Quin Synder) in his first three years. Unlike Foye though, he didn't get as many chances to prove himself as a starter. He was demoted from being the starting point guard after his second season, and spent all of last season coming off the bench.
How do the Wizards' Expectations Compare Between the Two Trades?
Let's be honest, the Wizards team for as good as it was, was still very flawed during the Gilbert Arenas era. The team did not play great defense and they needed much more than Mike Miller and Randy Foye to become true contenders. Plus, there was a sense that it was a make-or-break year for the core, after previous disappointments.
Fortunately for Trey Burke, the expectations on this year's team are much more manageable. It also helps that he was traded for virtually nothing (a 2021 2nd round pick), compared to Foye who was part of a trade that included the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Burke has a lower ceiling than Foye but has the potential to make a bigger impact as the backup Point Guard
Burke is a much smaller player at 6'1 with far less athletic gifts than Foye. When Foye came out of college, he was an athletic, stocky, and skilled player with the potential to play either guard spot. That's not really what Burke can do, but he is still capable of making a bigger impact this season. Despite Burke's physical limitations, he fits a more defined role on this year's squad than Foye, who was thrown into several different roles during his time in Washington.
Burke will also benefit from opportunities to play alongside John Wall at times in smaller lineups. He should provide a much more viable outside shooting threat than Ramon Sessions provided in the same type of lineup last season, so he may ultimately be a better fit for when the team wants to play small.
Will Burke Have a Similar Experience?
The trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye will ultimately go down in infamy for many Wizards fans. The thought of trading away a lottery pick to get two role players on the last year of their contracts seems unfathomable. Burke will benefit from much lower expectations, better talent, a much more stable environment - Hi Gungate! - and a role that is much more suited for his style of play. It seems as though the Wizards made a much safer trade in getting Trey Burke and ultimately that may help his transition to DC be a much more auspicious one than it was for Randy Foye.