Evaluating Etan Thomas in 2008-09
Wizards player evaluations for ‘08-09 continue, up third is Etan Thomas. My thoughts are below, you can check on the full report on Bullets Forever.
What can I say about Etan Thomas’ season? Well, at least he has intelligence and social involvement to fall back upon.
Etan’s 2008-09 wasn’t nearly as tragic as his previous season, at least he saw the court (for all of 306 minutes over 26 games). Then again, working his way back from open heart surgery only to go down with a torn knee ligament in mid-January seems pretty devastating. Then again, again, at least he didn’t have to toil through the remainder of a miserable year. Although, if you ask Etan, he surely would have been glad to do so.
Sadly these days, to most Wizards fans, Etan is just an expiring salary. The mauve $7,354,500 million number on Sham Sports representing the last year of the worst contract Ernie Grunfled has doled out during his tenure as Wizards GM.
Seems kinda silly now that the swan song of a 6-year, $36.8 million contract offered to Etan by Milwaukee, and matched by the Wizards in the Summer of ’04, included a player early termination option. Like Etan was going to raise his value to the point where he would turn down $7+ million for a chance at a bigger payday.
Hindsight makes it easy to chide Grunfeld for matching, but the free-agent market forced his hand. Big name posts like Rasheed Wallace (re-signed with Detroit for 5-yrs, $57 mil), Carlos Boozer (signed with Utah for 6-yrs, $68 mil), Erick Dampier (Golden State sign-and-trade to Dallas for 7-yrs, $73 mil), Kenyon Martin (New Jersey sign-and-trade to Denver for 7-yrs, $91 mil) and Mehmet Okur (signed with Utah for 6-yrs, $50 mil) were getting huge contracts (the Wizards only showed passing interest in Dampier).
Low-level guys like Adonal Foyle (6-yrs, $51 mil from Golden State) and Brian Cardinal (6-yrs, $33.8 mil from Memphis) were getting absurd contracts. Hell, even Mark Blount was a hot commodity, eventually resigning with Boston at the rate of 6-years and $38.6 million.
Decent bigs were scarce and after making a great move to snag Antawn Jamison from Dallas on draft night, Grunfeld wasn’t exactly comfortable with Brendan Haywood, Kwame Brown, and ’04 2nd round pick Peter John Ramos holding down the paint. Etan, and his third highest team PER, was decidedly a risk worth taking (Michael Ruffin and Samaki Walker would later ink cheap contracts to fill out the front-court).
So don’t necessarily blame Grunfeld, blame low supply and high demand raising prices. A past overpaid, but relatively unavoidable, contract, made worse by Etan’s health issues (including those before surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve), is our expiring asset today. Yes, I’m telling you to take it as a silver lining.
It’s really a shame, because Thomas has many qualities which would have made him a great role player, perhaps the second big off the bench, had he been fully healthy during the entire four-year postseason run. But these are our Washington Wizards and things just wouldn’t be right if they always came easy.
The Wizards desperately need a quality upgrade in the front-court, and the team can no longer depend on Thomas. Ideally Grunfeld will find a trade which works out for everyone, with Etan’s destination possibly buying him out, offering The Poet the flexibility to do what he pleases, whether it be political activism with his prosaic style, or catching on with a contender seeking a solid character.
Then again, I wouldn’t be that surprised if Thomas was in training camp next season. Whatever the case, I wish him well and hope for a next year that’s much better than the last two, for him and the team.