Having failed to re-sign Ariza, the Wizards wanted to replace the veteran wing with a younger version of himself – someone who might not be able to contribute right away, but would have the potential to make a similar impact on the court in the future. Oubre, like Ariza, is a long, tenacious defender, with even greater upside than his predecessor.
The development - the dream - never panned out.
Oubre never found a consistent stroke from deep, hindering his ability to morph into the 3-and-D player Ariza was in the nation’s capital. His defense, though, was there. Oubre often lacked discipline – he gambled and reached, putting the team out of position, but the effort was there. That – the effort, the motor – is more than most of his teammates could say this season.
So what did the Wizards do? They flipped Oubre, a 23-year-old asset, for a player 10 years his elder – Ariza. Washington punted on developing Oubre, sold the fans the idea that they couldn’t re-sign him, and traded for the player Oubre was supposed to replace – except now, that player is older, not as good, and likely not as thrilled to spend one of his final seasons as a pro in Washington with a losing, dysfunctional franchise.
None of it makes sense, but it’s a move easily anticipated by the Wizards, who’ve lacked heart and effort all season long.
Ernie Grunfeld likely believes that Ariza will rejuvenate the Wizards’ defense – that he will, once again, anchor the team on that end of the floor. Beyond that, Ariza could provide some locker room stability. As one of the vocal leaders on the team, Ariza led players-only meetings in Washington and was often the voice of reason when things got dicey.
But there’s a problem with that notion.
Ariza is 33 years old – and he’s not the same player that once wore Washington’s uniform.
This season, Ariza is shooting a putrid 38 percent from the floor. Opponents have a substantially greater offensive rating with Ariza on the floor (120.7) than when he’s off (111.9). His defense hasn’t been a difference maker for the tanking Phoenix Suns and he’s been a net-negative offensively.
You could point to the Suns being the reason for Ariza’s struggles, sure, but that point isn’t defeated in Washington. The Suns are bad, there’s no question – but so are the Wizards.
Ariza, a California native, likely would have preferred to finish his career in Los Angeles. Washington is far from that – and the losses won’t do him any favors, either.
Acquiring the veteran may help the team defensively – and, as of today, he might even be a better player than Oubre, but Washington’s giant weaknesses remain.
Washington is essentially dead last in rebounding. Ariza isn’t going to help with that. He’s not going to turn Thomas Bryant into DeAndre Jordan. He’s not going to make John Wall a better on-ball defender. And he’s not going to fill the void Washington now has at both backup guard positions.
The Wizards have wounds all over and they’re patching one of them up with scotch tape. They will remain a bad defensive team. There is not a single player in the NBA, besides maybe Anthony Davis, that could turn a bad defensive team into a good one overnight, Ariza included. The poor rebounding, depressing effort and lackluster 3-point shooting isn’t going anywhere, either.
To place a cherry on top of the dung sundae, Oubre will reportedly have a “robust” market for his services once he hits the free agent market this off-season – meaning, teams value what he brings to the table.
And what did the Wizards get for their player with a “robust” market – one of their lone assets on the roster? A first-round pick or a young player in return? An aging veteran, with memories of what the team used to be – along with the hope that the team once had.