How to Evaluate Every Wizards Trade: WWOKCD? | Wizards Blog Truth About

How to Evaluate Every Wizards Trade: WWOKCD?

Updated: June 21, 2012

[Heaven is a playground in Oklahoma City–and perhaps Wizards fans will get there, one day.
Hat-tip SpreeGoogs.]

A word of warning: I’m Truth About It’s resident pessimist. You may remember me from such posts as “Memo to NBA: Contract the Wizards” and “Clearly, God Hates DC Basketball Fans.” (OK, I made that second one up.)

But I don’t feel like a pessimist today. Just a realist.

Kyle and John have artfully explained why the big Emeka Okafor-Trevor Ariza-Rashard Lewis deal is a net good for the Wiz.

Still, I think we need to go by a simple question: What Would Oklahoma City Do?

Answer: Not this.

How to Stay in NBA Purgatory: Do What the Wizards Do

To be clear, no team may ever replicate Oklahoma City’s rags-to-riches success. I don’t care how many times Townsend tries to compare the two franchises; the Wizards don’t have the same talent level, player development program, or even baseline competence.

However, the Thunder can be a model in that they weren’t content in being a fringe playoff team. Every move that franchise made was with an eye toward being a long-term contender. That’s why you play the game, after all.

So yes, invest in veterans, but ones like OKC’s Nick Collison – players that come cheap and don’t limit future dealmaking. Suffer through some losing seasons but keep adding players who aren’t duplicative. And keep your eyes on the prize.

Many, many smart folks have already decried the deal, from commenters on this site to posters on Bullets Forever and ESPN’s own John Hollinger.

But for me, here were the four worst parts of the deal.

  • Losing cap space: Next to cheap young talent, cap space is the most important commodity that an NBA team can have in a luxury-tax environment – not only for free-agent signings, but as a huge comparative advantage to acquire players in trades, too. And by adding the Okafor and Ariza deals, Washington has just blown $22 million of expected cap space for 2013-2014.
  • Acquiring middling veterans: As a selling point for the deal, I keep hearing that Okafor is a great dude, and Ariza’s a solid pro. That’s fantastic for locker room interviews, but it’s a red flag for court production. A deal should fill a basketball need, and we’ve already seen the Wizards up the team’s character quotient through last year’s JaVale/Nick Young purge.
  • Blocking young players: Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jan Vesely may never be stars, but they already give the Wizards nearly everything we’ll get from Okafor and Ariza, at a discount and with room to get better. If we were going to deal Lewis for help, wouldn’t you have preferred a deadeye shooter, not redundancies?
  • Losing out on MKG: I have a huge man-crush on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – a winner with athleticism and a relentless drive to get better, who seemed like the safest bet out of this draft next to Anthony Davis. So perhaps I’m crushed that the Wizards may end up with Bradley Beal or Harrison Barnes instead. Both have talent and have been prodigiously hyped, too, but neither had the success of MKG, who starred on college basketball’s brightest stage.

Once again, rather than stay on the challenging path to patiently build a contender, Washington’s taking the shortcut back to short-term mediocrity.

But we’ve seen where that leads:  A road that circles around basketball purgatory.

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Dan Diamond
Contributor at TAI

  • I also have a man-crush on MKG, which is why this deal kills me. At worst, MKG turns into Trevor Ariza. A high-energy guy that plays great defense and can’t shoot. Why pay $7 million for that now when you could’ve just drafted it? Why add Okafor when you already have a glut of bodies at PF and could’ve drafted a forward that can score, like O’Quinn? Why not trade Lewis’ deal for a dimension you’re actually missing, i.e. a shooter or a scoring forward? Why light all of your cap space on fire to do it?

    It just made so little sense to me that it actually started making sense again. Negative sense. Sure, the Wizards are probably a better team right now with those two as opposed to Rashard Lewis and whatever they would’ve grabbed with their second rounder. But do they really want to be back to “competing for a playoff spot, but in no way a team built to contend for a championship?”

    Apparently, the answer is yes.

  • jarem

    Few things:
    • I doubt MKG would have been our pick regardless, he may fill a positional need (the 3) but he does not fill our biggest skill needs (i.e. shooting nor defensive rebounding). The person who fills our need is Beal. We need a starting 2 AND a shooter…he fills both needs plus we are not reaching for him.

    •We may be losing cap space for 2 years, but do not treat it like unmoveable objects. In one year, they become huge trade assets because their contracts will be in the last year of their deal. In essence, if we want, they are one year deals…Also, since we are the wizards, the best way to acquire talent is by trading and not by free agency.

    •The players we acquired are interesting. I don’t think Okafor is anything special. Actually, I think he may be the third best big man on the team…arguably the 4th: Nene, Seraphin, Okafor/Cook Book . The need he does fill, however, is that he does not put pressure on Nene playing massive minutes. This will allow Nene to play more games at a higher level. Ariza can come and and be a lock down defender. He automatically starts at the 3 for us and he is a pretty decent player.

    I think what you fail to realize is that what we lack in top tier talent (i.e. the Durant’s and Westbrook’s of the world) we make up with depth. We can go pretty deep (esp if we resign Singleton & Cartier). Anywho, I think this team has the talent to make it to the second round.

  • John C

    Idk who you guys were hoping to get with all that cap space next year, but Dwight Howard ain’t walking thru that door. With all the top stars in the league teaming up on winning franchises and big market teams, what makes you think anyone would want to come here.

    I liked but didn’t love the trade. While it doesn’t make us a title contender by far, it sets us up to make a playoff run and make strides toward becoming a better team. Only hopes of becoming an elite team reside in John Wall’s development and nailing this 3rd pick.

    Of course theres always being awful again and hoping to get lucky in the lottery next year. But i think were all getting impatient with that.

  • bu

    Is this the greatest deal ever? Nah. But in the context of where the team is (realistically, as Dan should have us say), it’s pretty decent. Plus or minus a little we’re going to pay what we would have paid ‘shard not to play for Ariza and Okafor to play. The late second rounder was unlikely to contribute a lot, and we have plenty enough youth for the moment, unless it’s someone with immediate impact.

    So, we draft Beal, who can contribute from year one. We have a log jam of bigs, some of whom develop into keepers some of whom go by the by, and some of whom turn into “assets” (including expiring contracts) for Ernie.

    “Blocking young players” worries me most about the deal. But, again, we have to look at the deal in realistic context, which is that it’s part of a process to get from where we were (and nobody’s arguing that was a great spot) to where we want to be (championship contention), over a period of a few more years.

    “Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jan Vesely” — which of those guys are you ready to make your starting 3 without Ariza? We cannot assume that MKG is going to dominate, crush or no. And we just aren’t in a position to get a dominating free agent at the 2 or the 3. LA, Miami, NYC are attractive free agent destinations in a way that Minnesota, Milwaukee, and even Denver are not. Much as we might love it, DC isn’t in that first group, and money does not change quite everything.

    I think it’s a decent deal, it makes us better, and it fits the plan. And I hope Ernie isn’t done, yet.

  • Jake

    I agree with you on how horrible deal is. I threw up in my mouth when I saw it. But that’s not going to stop me from pointing out your characterization of MKG (“winner”) is another one of those red-flag words that usually signify the on-court production is lacking :)

  • hosch

    Anyone hear the rumors that we are going to try to make another move. Ted hinted to it on his blog.

    “These two new players are not signed for the long term – so we can manage our team, retain players and add players in the mid to long term the right way. We still have the draft coming up – and I bet we have some more moves to make before next season.”

    I cringe to think what bs Ernie is thinking up so we can make a quick exit in the playoffs as soon as possible so he can save his job.

  • Nich

    I’m prepared to just assume we werent interested in the asing price for any of this years free agents and this is a move to make young players work for minutes this year. We’ll likely dump okafor and ariza in 12 months.

    If Lewis contract gets 2 guys who’d be the 7th man or better on every nba team- and with only one extra year on their contracts, it’s quite easy to assume they plan on using these expirings next year to acquire a longterm piece from a team trying to get under the cap before it tightens up. Much rather have these guys for this year than oj mayo or someone for 4 years.
    They’re off the books before extension d-day for the 2010 rookies.

    Cautiously very optimistic about what we do in a year. Lot of teams will be trying to shed salary before 2015

  • Hulk

    Can we petition to just fire Grunfield…. Though im sure hes got to have some dirt on Ted to be keeping his job

  • k_fahy

    You acquired two team contributors, which allows John Wall to develop, compete, and not lose his desire to play in DC. With the addition of Okafer and Ariza the Wizards can actually play defense next year, which wasn’t happening with the collection of talented knuckleheads that played early last year. Nene, Okafor, and Ariza are overpriced, but are still good players in this league. Gilbert and Rashard were a dead weight and a burden on a young team. As for your free cap space, until the Wizards win – no decent free agent was coming to Washington.

  • Canes9

    Shouldn’t we be wondering what the Miami Heat (NBA Champs) would do, and not the OKC Thunder (runners up)?

  • hosch

    I really think this move is about a Nene insurance plan. Looking at this guy’s duarbility history its very likely he’s going to be on IR at some point in the next 2 years. So I think we just brought in Okafor for when that happens. Ariza is a classic Grunfeld move, just another body he can’t explain to clutter up our roster with expensive junk.

  • Hindukat

    Basketball… more so than any other sport is like a puzzle. And you have to find the right pieces to make the puzzle complete. The job of the GM is to be able to find the right pieces for the puzzle. Ernie hasn’t been putting the right pieces together since he has been here.
    I have heard some people say that this trade will get the team in the playoffs. I don’t know where that’s coming from. You’ve added two veterans’ players who have proven over the years that they could be the right piece for a contending team, not push a team who is bare in talent to the next level. Even in the East the Wizards lack of talent will not allow them to see the playoffs.
    With two contracts (Lewis and Blatche) they have to get rid of, Ernie needed to make a trade or buy out Lewis’ contract and use Blatche for the amnesty program. But, to receive two players that the Wizards now owe $43 million to over the next two years was just not the right trade. I don’t know who was out there for a trade, but I’m sure there were other teams out there that would have like to have taken Lewis’ contract so they could have cap room once they dropped him (and pay him the buy-out). With the cap space they could have had by getting rid of those two players, the Wizards could have tried to add another piece to the puzzle. They can’t do that now
    Maybe they get lucky down the road and are able to trade one or both those players to a team that would need them for a playoff push but as of right now this trade only give them a few more wins. Ernie will again blame the coach when the team does not make the playoffs and the cycle will continue.