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