This will be a four-part series assessing the future of the Washington Wizards, I present the first installment:
Washington Wizards Future Part I: The Situation Room
Where do we go from here? The temperature of Wizards Nation seems to range from mild impatience to furious calls for drastic change. Sure, the Wizards made the playoffs the past four seasons (after going once in the previous 16)….now what? Which move(s) propels the team to the next level? And what is the definition of “next level”? Moving past the 2nd round? Contending for a championship?
So many questions, so many possible answers….and each potential solution comes with its share of risk and angst. To find an answer, you need to determine the problem. Many want to blame coaching. Others point to health. The easy out is to cite to the Curse O’ Les Boulez and move on in submission to fate. Whatever your individual case may be, I think we can all reach a consensus that a piece needs to be added, as it appears that most of this past season’s personnel will return. The Wizards simply cannot depend on the hope of health and current player improvement heading into next year.
Well, before even determining the problem, you must assess the birds you have in hand. This four part series could prove to be disastrously wrong as I am not any type of salary cap expert, but the internet is a valuable tool with lots and lots of information.
Hoopshype.com, ShamSports.com, (I didn’t expect ShamSports to have more salary info, but unlike Hoopshype, Sham has better contract numbers for McGuire and Blatche.) the total 07-08 salary for the Washington Wizards was $67,830,278 million, enough for the 11th highest total in the NBA. The Wiz ranked higher than other playoffs teams such as San Antonio (12), Toronto (13), Houston (14), Detroit (16), New Orleans (22), Utah (25), Orlando (26) and Atlanta (28), while falling below non-playoff teams such as New York (2), Miami (5), and Portland (8).
Due to contract exemptions, Washington exceeded the $55.63 million NBA Salary Cap. No biggie, every team in the league did the same with the exception of Charlotte and Memphis. And while the Wizards were not among the 10 NBA teams which exceeded the $67.865 luxury-tax threshold, they were dangerously close.
Assuming that Gilbert Arenas still opts-out like he has claimed (He has until June 30th to decide….Will he hire an agent for negotiations or won’t he?), here is who the Wizards have on the books for next season:
The Good News (in that all of these players are very affordable, if not steals)
1) Caron Butler: $9,249,980
2) Brendan Haywood: $5,500,000
3) Darius Songaila: $4,234,000
4) DeShawn Stevenson: $3,616,071
5) Nick Young: $1,602,960
6) Oleksiy Pecherov: $1,446,720
7) Andray Blatche: $2,739,669
8) Dominic McGuire: $711,517
The Bad News (as in both of these guys are overpaid and untradeable….. each has two more years left on their contract after this past season)
9) Antonio Daniels: $6,200,000 (I love the toughness of AD….and I really hate to include him with the ‘bad news’ as I want him apart of this team until his contract is up…..I just wish the Wizards had a PG with a more consistent jumper and the quickness to play better defense.)
10) Etan Thomas: $6,864,200 (Let’s face it, before the heart thing even happened, we all knew that matching Milwaukee’s 6-year, $36.6 million contract offer to Thomas in ’04 was a reach…..but that was the market. The only other big men in the fold that year were Haywood, Kwame, Ruffin, Samaki Walker and PJ Ramos…the Wiz probably couldn’t afford to let Etan walk and make the playoffs the first season of this four year run.)
The Totals: 42,165,117
So how much money will Ernie Grunfeld have to work with? Well, over the past seven seasons, the NBA salary cap has increased by an average of 6.89% per year (going down only one year, -5.2% between 01-02 and 02-03 – the result of the first year of ESPN/ABC’s television contract being less than the last year of NBC’s contract). In the past three seasons, the average increase has been 8.27%, albeit the percentage of increment has declined in each of those three seasons. But the league seems healthy and BRI (basketball related income) is no doubt on the incline with the emergence of the Ming/Yi dynasties and globalization. So, a conservative estimate would be a 7.5% increase, putting next season’s salary cap around $59,802,250. Now understand that my numbers are very rough as I don’t have NBA financial information (the cap usually isn’t set until early July, and according to the set schedule, players will be able to sign with teams on July 9, 2008). As I simplify equations, let’s just say that the luxury tax level will increase from $67.865 to $71.528 million next season.
So, according to these so-called “rough” calculations, the Wizards will be $17,637,133 below the salary cap and $29,362,883 within the luxury tax threshold….and knowing our owner, the Wizards will not exceed this threshold. Is there enough money to get something done? That’s next.