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What’s Wrong with Redskins’ Jay Gruden Setting the Tone?

Jay Gruden Podium

While it’s a bit surprising to see people question Jay Gruden’s comments from his press conference Monday afternoon, I can somewhat understand the assessment. It wasn’t but 24 hours prior — following a brutal 20-point loss to the Buccaneers — that his quarterback made post game comments that were quickly interpreted as Robert Griffin III throwing his teammates under the bus. Then a day later, the coach takes to the podium to throw his own quarterback under the bus for…throwing his teammates under the bus.

But I’m sure there are others who view it more like myself, who describe the comments not so much as Griffin throwing his teammates under the bus, but instead telling of how incapable the 24-year-old is of shouldering the entire load. Of his inability to take blame for his poor play and failure to recognize where to end the statement. I played poorly and it’s on me to get this offense turned around. 

As for Gruden, I’m the guy in favor of his press conference flamethrower. He was asked questions, specifically about his quarterback’s latest comments, and Gruden answered with honesty. No deceit, no dodging, no one-line bullshit used as a blockade. Just the same true words he had already expressed to his team and locker room.

I don’t have a problem with the head coach setting the tone.

Let’s stop assuming Gruden stepped into Redskins Park with his blinders on, as if he had no idea the reputation of team owner Dan Snyder and the horror stories that plagued the Redskins organizational structure. Coaches talk, players talk, players talk to coaches, and so on. Hell, nearly half the coaching staff from the previous regime is still in house. Are we not to think conversations have taken place amongst those guys, talking about the owner, the previous staff, etc.?

I’m under the impression that Gruden is a smart guy. He’s seen and heard the drama that destroys coaches and he reminded himself of those things coming into the gig. As a first-time head coach, he’s in position to do this right the first time. To not get caught up in the noise, to not become the puppet, and to not succumb to the pressure of showering a marketable athlete with praise and kind words when he doesn’t necessarily deserve it. And right now, I’d say Gruden has the upper hand.a

For a franchise in such dire need of new attitude and style, I can’t seem to find anything wrong with Gruden setting the tone for his tenure in Washington.

 

  1. Which I think stems from a combination of 1) the owner’s reputation and therefore organizational structure, and 2) Griffin’s effective marketing campaigns paired with ineffective on-field performance.  (back)

Is It Your Fault Your NFL Fantasy Team Sucks?

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Written by: Fred Reynolds

 

Blame it on whatever you want. Too many beers, too deep a league, unexpected injuries… the excuses for a poorly performing fantasy team are endless. But if you’re really honest with yourself, isn’t there a little bit of you that knows, deep down, you just made some poor choices?

Before you get defensive, yes, there are some players that you never could have expected would end up screwing over your lineup, but in reality, those are fairly rare. Take a look at some players you could make an exception for and those you’ll have to own up to as just a bad draft.

These Bad Picks May Be Your Fault


Carson Palmer

Now, I don’t want to kick a guy when he’s down, but depending on the size of your league, he shouldn’t have been a first-round pick. He would have made a decent starting quarterback if your WR and RB positions were solid, or as a backup for your bye-week. However, if you put all your money on Carson Palmer to lead you through the season since the beginning, it wouldn’t be out of line to look at your drafting capabilities.

He had a relatively solid year in 2013 with over 4,000 yards. But according to his NFL stats, he had only accumulated a little over 1600 by week 10, thanks to a shoulder injury earlier this year. That’s plenty of time for you to have acknowledged a spotty, low-scoring season and make other arrangements.

Look on the bright side though, at least his season-ending ALC tear came after he signed the contract extension with the Cardinals.

Robert Griffin III

Coming off a subpar 2012 in which he was benched for the later portion of the season, RG3 was a risky early choice. Add a new head coach and quarterbacks coach on top of that and you may as well be looking at a “rebuilding” year. Granted, foreseeing injuries and a franchise going from RG3, to Kirk Cousins, to Colt McCoy in a single year was probably pretty impossible, too.

That’s not to say you weren’t warned though. CBS Sports said back in April that RG3, in two seasons, had proven himself to be high-risk for the franchise (and therefore fantasy players). Unfortunately, they were right. Griffin suffered from a dislocated left ankle against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.

Both of these quarterbacks would have been risky picks that could have been great or total failures. The stats of the year prove that it was unfortunately the latter. Even though you may have made a questionable decision at QB, it’s not their fault your entire team did poorly. That line of hate can be aimed at the next two players.

petersonRice

These Bad Picks Aren’t Your Fault


Ray Rice

Rice finished 2013 at under 1,000 yards and only 4 touchdowns, but the Ravens’ offense wasn’t functioning properly. Also, for the majority of the season, Rice was dealing with an aggravated hip injury that kept him from performing at his best. 2013 was certainly an isolated year given the impressive stats of his past seasons, and he was still a worthwhile early selection for fantasy players. Anyone would have been crazy to leave him available past the first or second round.

Frustratingly, issues in Rice’s personal life led to his demise on the field. After a video of him assaulting his wife on an elevator was made public, the Ravens franchise and the NFL wanted to be as far away from the incident, and Rice, as possible.

Betfair contributor Romilly Evans even said that the controversy could have influenced the ability of other players on the team. After the Ravens released Rice in early September, Evans wrote here that “the Ravens lost much of their offensive flair” and that “any warm and fuzzy locker-room atmosphere will also have followed Rice out the door.”

So if you had other players on the Ravens along with Rice, you now have published evidence, written by a sports writer, that your teams failings were likely unavoidable.

Adrian Peterson

Arguably more shocking than Ray Rice was the downfall of the Minnesota Vikings’ golden boy. When the messages sent between Peterson and his son’s mother were published, the public and Vikings fans alike were horrified to see how flatly he talked about beating his son. Shortly after an investigation was started and photos emerged of the wounds that Peterson inflicted on his 4-year-old son.

We all know Peterson can take a hit, and that he’s one of the strongest and fastest running backs in the league. However, his always-pleasant demeanor with fans and charisma with the press led most of us to believe that he was capable of turning off his brut side once the game clock hit zero.

Those who drafted him (likely as one of their first picks) completely get a pass if their team went to shit after he was banned. Before the incident came to light, Peterson was involved in community outreach programs and charities, and his personal life never made headlines due to dangerous antics or legal troubles. No one could have possibly predicted that his off-the-field behavior would have an impact on the season.

At the beginning of the season, anyone would have told you that it was wise to draft one of these players as your first choice. In fact, you’d have been stupid not to if they were available. So, those of you who picked them up first in the hopes they would carry your team, you definitely get a pass for having a weak team now.

Yes, you should have been able to make up for losing one player, but your main guy, taken away at the start of the season, without any warning, is hard to come back from. Just don’t be that guy who looks for excuses all year for a poor performing team. Also, next year, limit the beers to one or two.

Trading Bradley Beal for Kobe Bryant Would Suck for the Wizards

Kobe Bryant

Search the basketball interwebs and you’re likely to stumble upon one of the most ridiculous Wizards-related stories/ideas you’ve seen in quite some time.

The initial post comes from Chicago Bulls blogger Sam Smith, who writes the following,

It’s about young stars with the Lakers, which is why they are where they are. Magic and Worthy, Shaq and Kobe. But as much as Lakers’ fans believe it’s about Kobe, Lakers’ management would have to jump at a chance for a young star to accelerate their rebuilding. Which is why Kobe to the Wizards may be the one.

The Wizards have a young, potential star shooting guard in Bradley Beal. You can build with a player like him. Then you give the Lakers Nene and another player since the Wizards have plenty of guys they’re not much using to include in trade.

For the Wizards, it’s the chance to take a shot, which they really don’t have now. With the addition of Paul Pierce, the Wizards are about now. Adding someone like Kobe with Pierce, John Wall and Marcin Gortat gives them a shot at the top of the weak East. And how sweet would it be for Kobe to go where Michael Jordan couldn’t win and get somewhere? Kobe’s not getting that sixth title. Maybe besting Jordan that way would appeal to him.

As a Lakers supporter, I imagine you’d enjoy an idea like this. Even as a profound #KobeOrDie kind of fan, shipping off old parts for the young stud that is Bradley Beal would be entirely too good to pass up.

But from a Washington fan’s perspective, um, this idea is terrible. And unless Ernie Grunfeld really wants to take this Wizards fan base behind the wood shed, not even the team’s general manager would think of something so ridiculously stupid.

Here’s a shortlist of why this idea sucks for the Wizards and/or why it’s not going to happen.

1. Because Bryant is earning $23.5 million this season, and set to make $25 million next year, the Wizards would have to add another player to the Nene-Beal package, like a Martell Webster, DeJuan Blair or Otto Porter.

2. Bryant’s $25 million salary next season would be almost as much as the combined income of both John Wall and Marcin Gortat. Or as much as the combined contracts of Webster, Paul Pierce, Beal, Porter, and Kris Humphries.

Please GTFO with that nonsense.

3. Bryant is 36 years old. Beal wasn’t able to buy alcohol before last June.

4. Smith says, “For the Wizards, it’s the chance to take a shot, which they really don’t have now.”

Says who? Sure, Washington may not be the favorite, but the Eastern Conference isn’t the Western Conference. The Wizards have a good shot at a decent seed in the playoffs, therefore giving them the “chance to take a shot”. a

5. According to Smith, John Wall + Paul Pierce + Kobe + Gortat gives them a (better) shot at the weak East. But does it really? Give me Beal and a healthy Nene come playoff time, along with Wall, Pierce, and the Polish Machine. We’re not even sure Kobe lasts until playoff time.

6. Does anyone really think Michael Jordan is even a little down on himself for not winning more than 37 games a season in Washington at the ripe age of 38 and 39? As if he’s on the golf course somewhere in Florida and just can’t seem to concentrate because, dammit, he could’ve done more for the Wizards?

The answer is no.

7. Therefore, we’re just assuming Kobe is a massive idiot himself for believing Jordan gives a shit about the Washington years. Like Kobe’s really getting the best of Jordan in that spend-the-last-couple-years-of-your-career-in-Washington-trying-to-do-something department? Jordan doesn’t give a shit, and neither does Kobe.

8. It’s funny that near the end of the post, Smith says “Kobe’s not getting that sixth title.”

But he might if he came to Washington, right?

9. This sort of idea was obviously constructed with ZERO consideration for the effect it could have on the Wizards organization. Like, I dunno, with John Wall, who may expectedly ask something like, “Why the fuck are you trading away a promising young shooting guard and long-term running mate in exchange for a guy that has two years left at best?”

10. No-trade clauses. Kobe has one, meaning he’d have to fully support a trade to Washington.

That’s not to say he wouldn’t if he became disgruntled enough in LA, but c’mon.

11. To be more clear about that last statement, I’m in the belief that Kobe is never leaving the Lakers. He’s a lifer. And while he’s threatened to skip town in the past, that team is his team, and really no one else’s. He only moves if he wants to move and I think he appreciates his legacy in Los Angeles (even more so than any potential two-bit run in the nation’s capital just before retirement).

12. While on the topic of NBA rumors, the idea of Kevin Love opting out of Cleveland after this season and making a return to California to play for the Lakers makes a whooooole lot more sense than a Beal-for-Kobe swap.

And if California Love were to in fact go down, Kobe’s team is suddenly hot again.

13. Oh yeah, and the Wizards have that whole #KD2DC thing to work on, and adding Kobe would completely shatter those dreams. So, no — gimme Kevin Durant in 2016 over Kobe Bryant right now.

  1. Totally accepting of being called delusional for making claims like this.  (back)

Wizards Make Another Quality Move, Bringing Kris Humphries to Washington

Kris Humphries

Interested in 1,000 words about why and how Kris Humphries fits so well in Washington?

Here’s my original piece from numberFire.

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Keeping beat with the rest of their offseason thus far, the Washington Wizards made another quiet, yet effective move by acquiring 29-year-old forward Kris Humphries from the Boston Celtics by way of a sign-and-trade.

In exchange for Humphries, the Wizards will send the trade exception they received from the Rockets last week as part of the Trevor Ariza deal to Boston.

Although Humphries has gained most of his notoriety for stuff off the court, he’s put together a respectable career over the past 11 seasons with five different teams.

Let’s take a look at how Humphries fits in Wasington and why this makes sense for the Wizards – keeping any Kardashian-fueled jokes to an absolute minimum.

Dollars and Sense

Humphries’ new contract with the Wizards is a three-year deal worth $13 million, with the third year serving as a team-option, meaning the Wizards ultimately decide whether or not to retain Humphries for the 2016-2017 season.

A couple of things regarding the contract itself that should excite Wizards fans. First, it’s an extremely fair and team-friendly deal given Humphries’ production. Second, it’s the perfect length in order to keep the Kevin Durant-to-DC daydream alive.

Not long before acquiring Humphries, the Wizards watched forward Trevor Booker sign with Utah after spending his first four seasons in Washington. Booker’s new two-year, $10 million deal with the Jazz was reportedly much higher than the Wizards were willing to go, and Washington’s front office wasn’t set to budge. As a result, the team needed to find an affordable replacement with a skill set primarily made up of athleticism, toughness, and rebounding ability, and Humphries easily matched the criteria.

As for the summer of 2016, the Wizards – along with a handful of other teams – are waiting on Kevin Durant to become a free agent. If the reigning league MVP decides to explore his opportunities outside of Oklahoma City, the Wizards don’t want to miss out. They’ll want their books as tidy as possible in order to pitch Durantula about bringing an NBA title to his hometown of Washington, D.C.

In addition to Nene’s $13 million salary set to come off the books after the 2015-2016 season, the Wizards signed former Finals MVP Paul Pierce to just a two year deal as well, meaning the Wizards – as of right now – have only John Wall and Marcin Gortat(and very safe to assume Bradley Beal) under contract for the summer of ’16.

Affordable? Check. Skill set match? Check. In line for the Durant sweepstakes? Yes – and the prayers continue to mount.

Production

When discussing Humphries and his production in the past, I’ve heard the argument about his best seasons coming during his time with the New Jersey Nets – which coincidentally just so happens to be about the time he became a tabloid staple – and that he’s yet to match that kind of output.

The counter argument, however, is simple: Humphries’ best statistics were posted during the two seasons in which he played the most minutes of his career.

During the 2010-2011 season, Humphries played nearly 28 minutes a game and averaged 10 points, 10.4 rebounds, and a block in 72 games. The following season, Humphries played almost 35 minutes per game, averaging just under 14 points, 11 boards, and 1.2 blocks in 62 games.

Before those two seasons, Humphries never averaged more than 18 minutes a game in a single season. And since then, he’s never averaged more than 20. Therefore, looking at Humphries’ numbers per 36 minutes gives you a better idea of his production potential when he’s actually on the floor.

For his career, Humphries averages 13.4 points, 11 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes. Last season with the Celtics, he averaged better than 15 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, posting career-highs in both offensive rating (113) and PER (18.2).

Fit

Although watching Booker leave town for Utah isn’t considered front page news, it was a meaningful loss for the Wizards. Not only was a Booker a key piece on the Wizards’ bench, logging more than 21 minutes per game, but he was also a reliable call-upon option – like when he filled in for the injured Nene late in the season last year as Washington fought to secure a playoff spot. And filled in well.

The Wizards needed a replacement for that – a strong interior player with a good combination of toughness and athleticism, and a guy coaches could count on to crash the boards. In addition to his 21.6 minutes, Booker was also good for more than 11 points and 8 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.

With Humphries, the Wizards replenish their board-crashing type, and likely improve their bench scoring. Humphries shot 81 percent from the free throw line last season (improving in each of the last three years), shot better than 50 percent from the field, and offers deceiving range, knocking down almost 48 percent of his jumpers outside of 16 feet last season.

Temporarily ignoring the cost and focusing strictly on talent, adding Humphries is a net win for the Wiz. There’s no concern regarding his effort or rebounding ability, he adds scoring potential to a bench that ranked 29th in the league in points per game last season, and he’s reliable insurance for Nene, whether coaches want to take some work away from the big Brazilian during the regular season, or in the unfortunate case Nene goes down (which is arguably the safest running prop bet in all of Vegas).

Peculiar Win-Win

It’s not every day Wizards fans can praise their general manager. But this signing – along with the Pierce addition and Marcin Gortat deal (albeit more debatable) – earns Ernie Grunfeld a pat on the back.

In past seasons, Grunfeld and the Wiz would’ve laid down for guys threatening to leave town for more money, handing over a blank check and asking where to sign. But this summer, they’ve drawn hard lines and haven’t wavered, whether it be high-dollar guys like Ariza, or rotational players such as Booker. Instead, they’ve trusted in their plan (#KD2DC) and made effective, more cost-friendly moves to help recuperate for lost talent and build toward the future.

Kris Humphries is another one of those moves. Although it won’t make much of a ripple now, people will get a sense of how good the deal was for the Wizards when he’s posting double-doubles come playoff time.

Wizards Sign Paul Pierce: What It Means for Washington

Paul Pierce

After watching one of their top free-agent targets skip town for a four-year, $32 million deal in Houston, the Wizards made a decent splash of their own by signing 10-time all-star and former Finals MVP Paul Pierce to a two-year deal worth $10.8 million.

The Wizards reportedly offered Trevor Ariza a similar deal to the one he received from the Rockets, but Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden, in addition to no state income tax and blah, blah, blah.

Now onto The Truth.

  • Sorry. That was rude. I wish Ariza all the best in Houston. He was a key cog in the Wizards’ playoff run last season and we’ll all miss him.
  • To get the financials out of the way first — the $10.8 million over two seasons for Pierce is worth the full mid-level exception. Despite turning 37 in October, this is a fair price. And even more importantly…
  • Because Pierce’s deal is only a two-year contract (the second year being a player option, meaning Pierce ultimately decides whether he wants to stay in DC next season), this keeps the Durant daydream alive. Along with a handful of other teams, the Wizards will have the cap room and flexibility necessary to chase hometown hero and beloved gentleman Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016 when he becomes a free agent. Will it be easy? No way. But there’s a chance. And a lot can change by then too — like John Wall becoming even better, Bradley Beal progressing the way we all believe he will, and additional cap room for other guys who may (believe it or not) take a little less to join a trio of Durant-Beal-Wall in Washington. /sits down, eyes wide, holds forehead.
  • Even though Pierce’s numeric age doesn’t give off spring chicken vibes (if there is such a thing), 36 years old doesn’t imply ineffectiveness. In fact, Pierce recorded a higher PER last season (16.8) than our boy Ariza (15.8). And despite playing about seven less minutes per game than Ariza last year, Pierce remained an efficient scorer, averaging 17.3 points per 36 minutes, compared to Ariza’s 14.6.
  • In an effort to avoid gushing and drooling over Pierce and his scoring ability, it’s important to note that we’ll miss Ariza’s defense. I don’t think you’d necessarily call Pierce a liability in that department, but he’ll be a noticeable drop-off from what we grew accustomed to last season. And perhaps that’s where Pierce’s age shows up the most, as he now lacks the quickness and agility to stick with the over-athletic wing players. Not to mention, with Ariza serving as a defensive specialist, it was easy to turn to him when the opposition had a player that required a special kind of cover. The Wizards no longer have that defensive ace.
  • Back to Pierce as a legitimate scoring threat — he’s a career 37-percent shooter from long range. Remember how well Ariza knocked down those three’s last season after Wall or Beal would draw the defense? Now imagine a better shooter — more touch, more control — spotting up from out there.
  • Not that Ariza was forced to create shots for himself last season, but Pierce won’t have to worry about that in Washington either. Pierce’s to-do list from Wizards coaches should be pretty simple — set a good example for our young players, give us effort on defense, and knock down the shots when the ball comes to you.
  • Speaking of knocking down shots, Pierce is argued as a valuable clutch player. I say “argued” because sometimes it’s a matter of gut feel (which is what you see, what you remember) and numbers (which is the stuff provided by sites like 82games.com). To me, he’s clutch — and I’m not just saying that because he’s with the good guys now. Although Pierce’s shooting during clutch moments (defined by 82games.com as fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points) fluctuates from season to season, he posts respectable numbers overall and his team does well when he’s on the floor in said situations. Additionally — and I feel like this may get lost in most arguments regarding a player’s clutchness — Pierce is disciplined and smart. Low turnover rate, good passes, savvy enough to draw fouls, better than 82 percent from the free-throw line, etc. All that may show up on the stat sheet, but it doesn’t exactly jump out at you during arguments of who’s clutch and who chokes.
  • And speaking of what shows up on a stat sheet, Pierce offers more in a category that doesn’t show up at all by way of numbers. Both his veteran leadership and on-floor smarts will help this Wizards team. Locker room, crunch time on the road, playoffs, whatever — Pierce’s 16 years in the NBA and 148 playoff games goes a long way.
  • Some will argue that Pierce is washed up, and I would disagree. At least offensively. As mentioned before, the Wizards take a step back defensively if you look at it from the perspective of swapping one player for the other. Offensively, however, the Wizards could improve with Pierce. Ask most NBA fans who they’d want taking the last shot to win a game; or better yet, the guy they’d want taking a majority of their team’s jumpshots if given the choice between Ariza and Pierce. The Truth wins out. And on top of that, if somebody wants to talk about “washed up”, I’d say Ariza (even at the ripe age of 29) was capable of looking “washed up” at times last season. I often referred to them as Arizaisms, but they mostly consisted of frustrating blunders anytime Ariza tried to put the ball on the floor in an attacking manner, or when it would seem he temporarily loose control of his long limbs, just kind of flailing around the floor. I don’t know — maybe that was just me. Bottom line though, the Wizards lose out on the defensive end and gain on the other.
  • What does this mean for Otto Porter Jr.? While adding a free agent to your position can sometimes mean bad things, that’s not the case at small forward or for OPJ’s future. Porter is playing well in the Las Vegas summer league, and that remains most important. The dude’s young, he needs a good offseason sans injury, and he’ll continue to develop. Pierce is just as good for a youngster like Porter as he is for the rest of the Wizards team.
  • After the Wizards beat out the Nets for the fifth-seed in the playoffs last season, Pierce had this to say:
  • “They’re good. They’re coming into their own. They’re growing up right before our eyes. You’ve seen their struggles over the years, and John Wall has matured as a player, obviously, becoming an all-star this year and taking on more responsibilities and becoming a leader for this ballclub. That’s what the Washington Wizards have been waiting on, and you’re seeing it.”

  • Fun fact/story/awesome occurrence: I once attended a Wizards-Celtics game at Verizon Center and was fortunate enough to land floor seats. And when I refer to them as floor seats, I don’t mean those seats right behind the bench, or the ones just behind the basket. I mean, like, the seats are literally on the hardwood with absolutely no obstruction in sight, and the ones that are priced way, way, way out of my price zone (I remember face value on them at $760, and this is back when Ricky Davis still played for Boston). Anyway, it still goes down as the greatest sporting event I’ve ever attended. If there was a poll to see what crazily-priced sports tickets are actually worth buying, my vote goes to basketball floor seats. It’s nuts. No other sport gets you that close and into the action. Case in point, Pierce comes to the sideline directly in front of me to inbound the ball — and I mean butt in my face, so-close-I-can-smell-the-mesh kind of close. Throughout the evening, about two rows behind me, these Wizards fans/maniacs were heckling like no other, and especially going after Pierce for obvious reasons (i.e. he was really good). As Pierce goes to receive the ball from the referee in order to inbound, the peanut gallery is letting him have it — curse words, lame jokes, the works. And just before he takes the ball from the ref, Pierce turns around, pulling the mouthpiece from his jaw, and says (addressing us as a group, and even making brief eye contact with yours truly), “Shut the fuck up!” Needless to say, I was blown away. Not because I was just scorned by an NBA master despite not mouthing a single sidecourt diss the entire game, but because Paul Pierce just talked to me (kinda, sorta) and we were as close to face-to-face as one could get with a pro athlete. It was incredible. I loved every minute of it. Paul Pierce and I had a moment, and not many people can say that. Since then, I’ve done two things: 1.) promised myself to buy season-ticket floor seats to Wizards games if I ever become rich and 2.) recognized Paul Pierce as the guy you despise as an opponent, but cherish as a player on your favorite squad.

Be happy about this if you’re a Wizards fan. Or if you’re just a fan of The Truth. Pierce will fit well here offensively, he brings valuable leadership and the desired toughness come playoff time, and he comes at a good price for the Wizards given their current situation and moving forward.

 

Report: Wizards Won’t Go Past $9M/Year for Trevor Ariza

Trevor Ariza 2

After the Wizards forked out $60 million for Marcin Gortat last week (officially inked today), I was a bit nervous regarding the team’s continued pursuit of Trevor Ariza.

It’s not that I don’t prefer Ariza back in Washington — quite the opposite really. The concern stems from the kind of money the team will have to dish out in order to retain Ariza’s services.

It was great to hear initial reports of the Wizards having a number in mind for Ariza, and one they weren’t willing to budge on. But it’s even better to hear they remain firm.

$9 million. Perfect. A raise from Ariza’s salary last season, and deservedly so, but not crossing into the field of double digits, which would feel more like the team being jipped.

I’m kind of the hypocrite in this situation too. I loved #A3za last season — we all did. At one point I even crowned him the Wizards’ MVP. Not only was he defending (which we knew he could do), but he also developed into a deadly assassin from long range. Spot-up, sure. Stopping on a break to pull up, got it. Ariza attempted nearly six three’s a game last season and shot better than 40 percent on the year from downtown. How could you not love a 3-and-D guy like Ariza?

Despite the love, I still carried a frugal attitude heading into the playoffs last season. As Ariza went, so did his stock. Every steal, made bucket, quick-thinking pass — Ariza’s next contract was inflating.

Was Ariza awesome last season? Yes. Would I call him irreplaceable? No.

  • I know this is how athletes work, but contract years are scary 1. Ariza is coming off his best season as a pro, he’s 29 years old, and he’s looking to make one last splash in his bank account — and there’s nothing wrong with any of that. But despite Ariza seeming like a true professional, I’m allowed to be weary.
  • Any correlation between Ariza’s offensive production in 2013/14 and John Wall’s progression as a point guard? More than half of Ariza’s field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and more than 95 percent of those three-pointers were assisted. I understand it wasn’t Ariza camping in a corner and Wall finding him for every shot — but that’s what good point guards do. They make their teammates better. They facilitate. They slice the lane, they force attention, they make defenses commit, and naturally, other guys play better by way of being a little more open than if they played with, say, Eric Maynor running the show. So yes, thank you Ariza for being a key offensive option. But let’s not ignore the way in which his scoring opportunities were created.
  • Arguably my biggest fear of unloading the wallet on Ariza is how it restricts future spending. In a summer or two, with Wall and Beal even nastier than present form, Washington is looking like a pretty sweet landing spot for a max-player, yes? I mean, I hope 2. But if Ariza is hitting corner three’s and snagging $12 million a year to do so — welp.
  • Maybe not this very offseason, but Ariza is a replaceable talent. That’s not meant in a negative way, but honestly. A long defensive specialist is attainable, sometimes even late in the draft (see: Jimmy Butler 3). Maybe this is me valuing Ariza more for his defense than his offense, I dunno. I’m just saying, not all is lost if Ariza moves on. Oh, and by the way…
  • Remember Otto Porter? The Wizards drafted him third-overall last summer. He happens to play Ariza’s position too, which means the team has invested in small forward. Is Porter a long athlete? Yeah, 6’9″ with a wingspan. Can he play defense? He did in college. Can he make shots from long range? He shot 42 percent from beyond the arc during his last season at Georgetown. Does he have potential? Hells yes, he’s only 21 years old.

That was all way too long. Simply put, I’m glad the Wizards aren’t budging off $9 million a year for Ariza, as I think that’s a fair and reasonable raise for both parties.

My bad.

Reaction: Wizards Sign Marcin Gortat to 5-Year Deal

Marcin Gortat

Despite names like LeBron, Melo, Lowry, and I guess Bosh being thrown around in NBA free agency this summer, the Wizards had two familiar names atop their list in Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza — two key pieces in Washington’s playoff run last season.

On Wednesday, the Wizards landed at least one of their targets, signing Gortat to a 5-year deal worth $60 million.

Coming somewhat as a surprise, the reaction appeared to lean more toward head shaking than head nodding. While some expressed their displeasure by lazily calling the 30-year-old center overpaid, others were a bit more harsh, referring to the Polish Hammer as nothing more than a decent backup (radio).

Meanwhile, myself and what seemed like ten other dudes liked the move for the Wizards and we’re happy to have Gortat back in DC.

Thoughts ensued…

  • Just for pointless comparison purposes, other centers set to earn somewhere in the $12 million range next season: Andrew Bogut ($12.9), Joakim Noah ($12.2), Nikola Pekovic ($12.1), Al Horford ($12) and Kevin Garnett ($12).
  • Laughable centers set to make almost $12 million next season: JaVale McGee.
  • I’m not sure why some refer to Gortat as if he’s DeSagana Diop. The guy’s effective on each end of the floor. Averaging a double-double and nearly two blocks per 36 minutes last season helped establish that.
  • Gortat is a pick-and-roll jedi, which should entice John Wall and Wizards fans alike.
  • Nene, the Wizards’ other big man, is a walking injury report. Don’t expect him to work a miracle and play a full season, ever. Gortat is (very) solid frontcourt insurance.
  • I agree — having Gortat for $10 million a season would’ve been great. But seriously? C’mon.
  • I also agree that $12 million a year is a lot of money. But with an increasing salary cap, Gortat’s salary becomes less and less harmful to the team’s wallet with every season.
  • Did the Wizards just sign Gortat through the age of 35? Uhh, yeah. But — and perhaps this is the homerism boiling out of my eyeballs — the guy looks like a young 30 right now. Certainly no one can project health and injury, but Gortat’s head is the only part of him that looks like it’s 30 years old. Ignore his caveman face and you’d never know he wasn’t a spry 28-year-old center.
  • It’s safe to assume there were other teams interested in Gortat’s services, right? So maybe the Wizards felt like offering him a fifth year was their leverage and leg-up in negotiations. Maybe not.

My only concern regarding this Gortat deal is how the team continues it’s pursuit of Ariza moving forward.

Word on the street is that plenty of teams are interested in signing Ariza, but also that the Wizards front office has a number they’re not willing to exceed in order to bring back their 3-and-D swingman.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed the rumors are true, and that the Wizards don’t back a money truck onto Ariza’s front lawn in order to keep him in DC.

Wizards Add Undrafted Khem Birch to Summer League Squad

Khem_Birch

Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld continued his active streak of garnering “what the hell” reactions from fans last Thursday when the team selected Jordan Clarkson in the second round of the draft (the Wizards’ only pick of the night) and immediately shipped him off for cash considerations.

Typically a day or two after the draft, NBA teams begin signing the undrafted guys to help fill out their summer roster, and surprisingly enough, the Wizards were able to land a talented pair with good potential.

Khem Birch was a favorite of mine during his time at UNLV, and it was a bit surprising to not hear his name called in the second round on draft night.

I wrote a bit about him (along with a handful of other undrafted fellas) over at numberFire that looked a little something like this:

UNLV’s Khem Birch was an easy guy to root for in college – a bunch of hustle, defense and explosiveness mixed together in a 6’9″ frame capable of running the floor and cleaning the glass. But therein may lie Birch’s problem as a draft prospect – his best attributes were simply mixed together, making for an unpolished and unbalanced ball player.

Birch is best projected at power forward, despite playing more like a traditional center. While his career averages of 12 rebounds and nearly five blocks per 40 minutes serve as assets, Birch never eclipsed an 18.5 usage percentage, and a majority of his 11.5 points per game last season came by way of clean-up, close finishes at the rim and transition buckets.

Simply put, Birch is an energy and effort guy whose best chances come on the defensive end. He has the explosiveness, athleticism, length and two consecutive Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year awards to hinge on, but his offensive game is way behind. That said, there’s room for him on a roster as a jolt coming off the bench. He’s set to suit up for the Washington Wizards this summer.

In addition to Birch, the Wizards signed undrafted free agent Deonte Burton — an explosive point guard who brings toughness and solid perimeter defense. Like Birch, I expected Burton go somewhere in the mid- to late-second round.

I’ll post more on Burton in the coming days, but both of these guys come with good potential. The Wizards roster is anything but full and each player offers a skill set the team can benefit from — a defensive stalwart and energetic rebounder, and an explosive backup point guard.

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