clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2019 NBA Free Agency: Wizards shouldn’t have rushed to sign Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas

New, comments

For all the patience shown in the past, Wizards failed to display any by signing the free agent point guards.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Tomas Satoransky was a restricted free agent — meaning, the Washington Wizards could match any offer he gets and force him to stay in D.C. — but he was pretty much a goner.

Satoransky rarely, if ever, complained about his role with the Wizards, but he had grown tired of being slotted at different positions, and yearned for consistency from his coaching staff. At 6-foot-7, Satoransky considered himself to be a point guard, and struggled to adjust to the Wizards’ view of him as a positionless player, capable of playing the two and three.

So when the call came from the Chicago Bulls — a team looking for a starting point guard to give newly-drafted guard Coby White a chance to develop — Satoransky saw it as a chance to finally showcase his skill-set as a point guard.

Washington should have saw this coming.

Last year, when the Wizards barely made the playoffs, Ernie Grunfeld signed Ty Lawson — fresh off a season in China — to replace Satoransky in the rotation. Washington wanted scoring — a guard who can get an offense moving — and showed a clear lack of confidence in Satoransky’s ability to do so.

Signing Lawson was just one of the many moves the Wizards made to push Satoransky away.

Before Lawson, there was Ramon Sessions — a veteran guard who clearly lost a step during his time with the lowly New York Knicks. Before Sessions, there was Tim Frazier — another backup guard who couldn’t find a rhythm in D.C. And before Sessions, there was Brandon Jennings. And before Brandon Jennings, there was Trey Burke ...

The list is endless.

Not matching the Chicago Bulls’ offer sheet and swinging a sign-and-trade to get a pick in return was the least the Wizards could do for Satoransky.

But instead of letting things play out before finding a replacement for Satoransky — instead of continuing to show the patience Tommy Sheppard has shown since taking over for Grunfeld in April — the Wizards agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with point guard Ish Smith on Monday. And later that day, they also signed Isaiah Thomas to a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum who is no longer in his All-Star form.

Smith fits the mold of Satoransky’s replacements: he’s undersized, relatively inefficient, and, at 31, his best days are probably behind him. Perhaps most ironically, he’s familiar.

Back in 2015, Smith made a solid impression on the Wizards when he signed to a training camp deal. The players enjoyed having him around in the locker room, and the team thought he could serve as a capable backup — someone who can replicate John Wall’s speed for the second unit.

But since the team didn’t have any roster spots available at the time, Smith was waived before the season began and eventually landed with the Detroit Pistons.

Smith’s production with the Pistons was less than impressive — he averaged about 14 points on 14 shot attempts per-36 minutes last season, and opponents scored about 4 more points with Smith on the court than off. At 6-foot, Smith is kind of the exact opposite of Satoransky — an efficient, tall point guard.

Thomas comes to Washington after playing just 12 games with the Nuggets last season. He averaged just 8.1 points per game while shooting at a career-low 34.3 percent from the field.

Though Thomas will be best known as a two-time NBA All-Star who led the Celtics to the 2016-17 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, a hip injury has prevented him from continuing to play at that level. He is also listed at 5-foot-9, which makes him a defensive liability, but if Thomas continues to shoot at these rates, the Wizards will have a long 2019-20 season.

As of writing this, a number of other intriguing guards remain available — Emmanuel Mudiay, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook and T.J. McConnell, to name a few. None of them are expected to get long-term contracts — and an eight-figure deal like the one Smith got seems rather unlikely for each.

Yet, for some reason, the Wizards pounced at the opportunity to add Smith and Thomas, two point guards who come to Washington who play in a different way than Satoransky did.

It is the sort of move Sheppard’s predecessor would have made. If you squint hard enough, it will start looking like the time Grunfeld signed Eric Maynor at the beginning of free agency, not allowing the market to figure itself out before rushing to a deal that he eventually sweated hard to move.

For all the patience the team has exuded — it’s been three months since the team fired Grunfeld and have yet to name a permanent replacement — they should have pumped the brakes on this one too.