This is the second installment of a four-part series assessing the future of the Washington Wizards. Part one focused on the current player contract situation. Part two keys in on the free agency of Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.
Washington Wizards Future Part II: The Assumptions
Assumption #1: Antawn Jamison will be back….because without him, you lose Gilbert Arenas, right?. Evidently, AJ the Gentleman is willing to play for about $10 million per, but for how long? I would say four years is reasonable, but three would be ideal….putting the termination of Jamison’s contract in line with the end of Caron Butler’s, as well as Songaila’s opt-out year and Stevenson’s player-choice. Those three would equate to just under $20 million of available space. Add AJ into the mix and Washington would have more than enough money to re-sign Butler and do some dabbling in the free-agent market heading into the 2011-2012 season.
Back to Jamison….it’s been theoretically assumed that he and Gilbert would simply switch salaries, giving Antawn a contract worth close to the aforementioned $10 million per year. Could the Wizards afford to tack on an extra $2 million to keep AJ’s contract at 3 years? I’ll assume yes, which would also allow Jamison to go championship chasing at the ripe age of 35. So, a 3-year, $32 million dollar contract could estimate to spread out like this: YR1: $9.75, YR2: $10.676, YR3: $11.69 (9.5% yearly increases, the max is 10.5%).
Take the $42,165,117 (amount in Wizards guaranteed contracts for 10 players heading into 08-09) on the books and add $9,750,000 for a total of $51,915,117.
Assumption #2: The Wizards will not make a major trade. For one, if the Wizards do make a trade, it would hopefully include Etan Thomas as a salary dump. I’d love to package Etan and our 18th pick to a team with cap room, but as Etan’s coming off heart surgery, that’s not happening. Besides, cap room has become an increasingly valued commodity. If the Suns gave away the likes of Kurt Thomas and two future 1st rounders to Seattle for a conditional 2nd rounder….I doubt the Wizards could get anyone to bite on their junk. In trade talk, I’d be vehemently opposed to sacrificing future picks and in the end, I’d rather keep Etan in hopes that he can come back and be the rebounder off the bench that the Wizards need.
Also, I can’t see any team out there being too interested in a combination of either Etan or Antonio Daniels and some combination of Wizards youth (Blatche, Young, McGuire, Pecherov) to offer a deal that would knock our socks off….. giving the Wizards a highly valued player who would undoubtedly boost the team to the next level.
I know that people want something big to happen…..perhaps the traditional Redskins off-season mania, where Washingtonians have become accustomed to celebrating paper championships, has been transferred onto Wizards nation. During his tenure in the District of Columbia, Ernie Grunfeld has proven to be distinctly effective GM. The Wizards should keep the pieces he has drafted and ensure a solid foundation for the future without doing anything rash.
Assumption #3: The Wizards will sign Gilbert Arenas to a 6-year contract. DC is essentially his only option, unless Gil wants to send his career hurling backwards. Because if he isn’t playing for a winner, Arenas might just be another gunner on a bad team…..perhaps a rich man’s Jamaal Crawford. Teams with summer money: The Sixers will keep Igoudala and Louis Williams, the Hawks will no doubt retain Josh Smith and Josh Childress, the Bobcats will sign Okafor and continue to be fiscally responsible, and the Clippers….well, they might have some money, but I doubt Arenas wants to go to a franchise in perpetual disarray…scarily ironic that the Clippers were on the other end of the “coin flip.” And yes, I realize that in the past, the Wizards have been dubbed the Clippers of the East.
How can the Wizards sign Arenas and someone else?
The MLE (mid-level exception) went up 4.3% two years ago and 2.7% last year. It’s based on average player salary and won’t be set until July. But let’s just say that the current MLE of $5.356 million goes up 3.5% to $5,543,460. Let’s round that up to $5.6 million for cushion and subtract from the estimated luxury tax threshold of $71.528 (estimate from part 1 of this series) to get $65.928. With an estimated salary of $51,915,117 after signing Jamison, we are pushing it by giving Gilbert more than $14,012,883 million in the first year of his new contract.
But what about our 18th pick in the draft? Yes my friend, what about it? Well, according to the NBA rookie salary scale, the 18th pick gets a guaranteed $1,160,200 in his first NBA season. So, now, you can only give Gilbert $12,852,683 in year one.
Let’s talk NBA draft real quick. For one, I’m all for trading the pick. The Wizards have enough young players as it lies and a rookie, along with the MLE, would put the roster at 14. I’d almost rather use the MLE on two players and keep money we would have given to a rookie for Gilbert and Antawn.
Wait, so how much will Gilbert’s 6 year contract be? That depends on the negotiating skills of Ernie Grunfeld. Say we pay Gilbert the aforementioned $14,012,883, with a maximum 10.5% raise each year….the result is a 6 year contact worth $109,491,153 million dollars. Note: Not only can the Wizards offer Gilbert a 6 year contract versus 5 max years from any other team, but the Wiz can also offer a 10.5% yearly raise over 8%.
What if the Wizards either: can’t trade the pick (not likely); want a rookie because we think we can get a steal at 18 (yea, I could see that); or want to use our bi-annual exception (in this case, we need to talk, because the bi-annual exception for 08-09 is set to be $1.91 million, $749,800 more than what the Wizards would be required to pay a first rounder)? For now, let’s just choose to stay in the draft and use the MLE for whomever. In that case, we are giving Arenas the $12,852,683 in year one; 10.5% yearly increases would make the deal 6-years at $100,425,807.
Is that a passable figure? I’d say it’s more than fair. We can always fudge salaries to possibly give Gilbert more money, if that’s even necessary. For instance, we could give Jamison $8.6 million in year one (opposed to $9.75), give him 10.5% raises and a 4-year contract for $40 million (instead of 3 for $32). Of course, I’m only thinking about next year as I’m doling out max percentage raises willy-nilly style. The point is, the Wizards should have enough money to reasonably sign Arenas and Jamison, and to gain at least two quality players (an MLE and a rookie or a BAE), assuming that the team doesn’t re-sign Roger Mason.
But who’s to assume that Grunfeld doesn’t want Roger Mason back? I know part of that depends on the Potomac Rainmaker’s market. Would bringing Roger Mason back fill a team need? What exactly does this team need?