After listening to a sports discussion today about how the Washington Wizards would fair in a game against the Kentucky Wildcats (a collegiate team), I realized just how bad this has all gotten.
Even before the topic came up, and prior to multiple basketball fans weighing in, I understood that Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld had worn out his welcome in Washington. As much as I wanted to support him for moves that brought guys like Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to the organization, I equally bashed him for giving extensions to guys like Glbert Arenas and Andray Blatche. Sure, shipping Kwame Brown was genius, but take a look at the Wizards’ draft classes under Grunfeld and try to keep a straight face.
As the beloved Thom Loverro notes in his most recent column in the Washington Examiner, Grunfeld is very much “the guy at the circus with the shovel following the elephant”. “Ernie Grunfeld has grown accustomed to cleaning up the messes left behind,” Loverro says.
That pretty much hits the nail on the head. However, many of Grunfeld’s most recent cleanups come as a result of his own mistakes. For example, shipping off JaVale McGee and Nick Young may have been a step in the right direction, but who drafted those two and dealt with their contracts in the first place? Ernie. But somehow he gets credit for landing Nene in the deal?
This particular rant comes by way of frustration (as most do) after reading Marc Stein’s report that the Wizards and Hornets were in advanced negotiations of a five-player deal leading up to the trade deadline. According to Stein of ESPN…
Sources said that the Hornets did engage in discussions last week with Washington on a deal that would have featured Kaman, Landry and Trevor Ariza going to the Wizards for center JaVale McGee, veteran forward Rashard Lewis and a future second-round pick. But Washington opted to deal with Denver instead, sending McGee to the Nuggets as part of a three-team swap with the Los Angeles Clippers that routed Nene to the Wizards…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Nene fan. But how in the hell can Grunfeld sleep at night after pulling the trigger on the Nene deal and turning down the offer from the New Orleans Hornets?
I understand that not even Marc Stein knows every grimey detail of the negotiation process, but one has to question what in the hell Grunfeld was thinking if he balked on the potential trade. As you can see, I’m placing blame on Grunfeld by default. That’s just what I’ve grown accustomed to.
So what made the New Orleans offer so appealing?
1.) The deal included three pretty decent players. Chris Kaman is a legitimate seven-footer with above-average athleticism and a good all-around offensive game. Carl Landry is a gritty defensive-minded player that plays bigger inside than his size accounts for–something the Wizards could really use. And Trevor Ariza is a lengthy swingman that can keep up with John Wall, finish around the rim and lock-on defensively.
2.) It would have included two expiring contracts in both Kaman and Landry. For this season, Kaman would have been owed about $14.03 million, which is just a hair more than Nene’s yearly salary of $13 million. The difference, of course, is that Nene is owed $13 million per year for the next four seasons. Kaman is be a free agent come summer.
As for Landry, he was owed $9 million this season, but was also set to become a free agent in just a few months. For a team like the Wizards that is looking to rebuild and establish a foundation, it’s expiring contracts like these that should be most attractive.
And then there’s Ariza–a soon-to-be 27-year-old with enough athleticism and defensive prowess to remain an effective piece of the roster. Ariza was owed around $6.8 million this season, about $7.2 million next season and he has a $7.7 million player option in 2013-14. Needless to say, it’s a very doable contract for the Wizards.
3.) Arguably the greatest part of the deal would have been the trading of Rashard Lewis and his ridiculous contract.
Riddle me this: How on Earth does Rashard Lewis make more money than Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Dirk Nowitzki? Who is comfortable with Lewis having the second-highest salary in the league this season behind only Kobe Bryant?
Not only would it feel great to eliminate the cap hit, but shipping a useless Rashard Lewis with old legs would also benefit the team on the court. He plays no defense, his shot is a distant memory and it appears as if his leaping ability has completely deteriorated.
4.) Although the New Orleans deal appears to be the costlier of the two initially, it’s actually the Denver deal that will cost the Wizards more money in the long-run.
In the New Orleans deal, the Wizards would have inherited roughly $29.8 million this season, in exchange for $24.61 million worth of contracts. But by the time summer hits, the Wizards would have actually only inherited Ariza’s $21.7 million (and that’s a total amount, assuming he stays in Washington for the next two seasons and accepts his player option in 2013-14). If Ariza doesn’t accept his player option, the Wizards would have actually only inherited $14.04 million worth of Ariza.
In the Denver deal, the Wizards shipped out $6.15 million worth of contracts in exchange for $66.26 million (assuming Nene stays all five years worth of his deal in Washington).
5.) In terms of immediate contribution, one could probably make a case for either deal. As nice as it is to have an athletic big man like Nene that can eat up space in the paint, I can’t imagine how much better it could be than adding three players at different positions with different skillsets (including an athletic center).
Health and durability would play a role in either deal, as Nene and Kaman have been susceptible to injury over the course of their careers. But in the New Oreleans trade, Ariza would be the “asset” of the deal, whereas an injury-plagued Nene (who turns 30 this September) is the primary acquistion in the Denver deal.
Luckily for Wizards fans, Ernie Grunfeld is in the final year of his own ridiculous contract and the talks of a possible extension haven’t made headlines. Owner Ted Leonsis can hopefully see the writing on the wall and understand that Grunfeld isn’t what the Wizards franchise needs moving forward.
And make no mistake about it, if Grunfeld does happen to stick in Washington, this year’s deadline deal will end up being another regrettable move that Ernie will need to worry about cleaning up.
NOTE: It was only about a year ago that I was sticking up for Ernie. But over the course of this season (albeit a shortened one), I have obviously changed my tune. Check out how the song has changed from my year-by-year breakdown grade of Grunfeld last April.