Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Un-Magical Reality of the Wizards' Situation

These are heady days for the Wizards. It's hard to envision a team not named the Cavaliers, Magic, Celtics or even Heat winning the Eastern Conference in the next 10 years. And bless their high-scoring little hearts, the Wiz-kids wouldn't know defense if it was gifted to them in a gold-encrusted diamond chain. Worse, the basketball gods robbed them yet again at the draft lottery during a year in which I'd qualify as a first-rounder. And I'm so white I get sunburns through T-shirts. It's true.

But the Wiz have made their bed with Agent Zero and his max contract, so the only strategy available to GM Ernie Grunfeld is to build around Arenas. Abe Pollin wants to win now and ain't gettin' any healthier, and every year of a "youth movement" is a wasted one at this point. None of the guys available at #5 will contribute to a championship team any time soon, so Grunfeld is looking to package the pick and get an All-Star caliber vet in return. But can it be done? Here are the scenarios that could play out as we see it:

1) Keep the pick. Jonny Flynn, James Harden, Jordan Hill, Stephen Curry are some of the names floating around for the Wiz, and we endorsed Flynn before the trade rumors started. This fifth pick business is making me upset so let's just move on.

2) Trade up for Ricky Rubio. The only non-Blake Griffin in the draft who looks like a potential all-star might be available as Memphis is actively shopping their #2 pick. The dude is nice, and most importantly pretty. I think a package of the #5 pick, Etan Thomas' expiring contract and maybe Javaris Crittendon/Nick Young could get this deal done, and a deal has been discussed with OKC in case he falls to #3. Rubio can play right away and provides a core building piece if the Wiz blow up the Arenas roster. The immediate problem is that Rubio's agent doesn't want him playing with Agent-Zero; reason #347 why Arenas' contract is killing us. There is also a sliiiight chance he falls into our laps at #5. I can only dream of Rubio's dreaminess....

3) Trade the pick for a veteran. The "go for it now" option that Grunfeld is strongly pursuing. The 5th pick alone won't get much, so thrown in The Poet's expiring deal and Jamison and you've got something. Gil is immovable (insert ruined knee joke here), and Tough Juice is untouchable. The ideal fit is a rugged SG who can shoot 3's, (Trevor Ariza?), but moving Jamison leaves the PF position open in addition to both guard positions.

Some of the rumors: Ginobli (like the Spurs are really going to get taken by the Wiz), Amare Stoudamire, Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Ray Allen. Other possibilities: Tony Parker, Elton Brand (no thanks), David Lee, Josh Smith, and Chris Bosh. Added bonus: moving down in the draft and taking my sleeper, PG Eric Maynor of VCU. Ty Lawson would be nice here too.

4) Trade the pick and/or Jamison for expiring contracts, add a free agent next year. The only player/contract that could be dealt to save money is Jamison, but he has value and we could keep the #5 pick this way. If Grunfeld went for Cuttino Mobley (heart condition), Tracy McGrady (a China doll), or Ben Wallace (a corpse), they'd have room in 2010 to go after LeBron. Kidding. But what about a guy like Joe Johnson? If we're willing to throw the pick in a deal, we can probably get someone who can contribute in '09 (Ray Allen or Bosh for example).


As fans of the Wizards, (the Hawks are better? really?) we've learned to accept mere playoff appearances as excitement. And short of Tanya Harding-ing LeBron, Garnett, Wade and Howard in a coordinated multi-point strike, that might be the most we can expect.

But we can hope for more. In the opinion of DC Landing Strip, unless we can get a legitimate all-star (sit down Jason Terry) such as Amare Stoudamire or Manu Ginobli or even Rubio, then it's time to shed salary in '09 and wait for a prime free agent in 2010 to help Arenas, Butler and Haywood. The operative word here is wait; it doesn't look like the Wizards want to do that and I can't blame them. If they want immediate help though, I'm available on a ten-day any time, and I once beat my JCC camp counselor in 1 on 1 knockout.

[Image via The Box]

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