Wizards-Hornets Trade FAQ: A Trevor, An Emeka, A Rashard, & No. 46
Well, we had a trade.
On an off day between NBA Finals Games 4 and 5, involving the team formerly owned by the NBA, the New Orleans Hornets, and the model of NBA asphyxiation in the nation’s capital, the Washington Wizards, we had a trade.
Between the two cities in the U.S. I love most, we had a trade.
With Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor coming to D.C. in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the 46th overall pick in 2012, we had a trade.
Lot’s of questions, let’s FAQ… with myself (@Truth_About_It), along with some helpful additions from TAI’s John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend), as well as some thoughts on the incoming Hornets from Jason Calmes, writer for the ESPN TrueHoop blog, Hornets 24/7 (@hornets247).
Q: Will I miss Rashard Lewis?
Yes, this is totally the first question you would have asked yourself, frequently.
Look, I’m not going to say Lewis was a malcontent (without mentioning his supposed spat with Sam Cassell), he was a good guy for sure (even through the weirdness of having to explain how he didn’t sleep with LeBron’s baby moms), I just don’t know if Sweet Lew offered much otherwise.
He was like eating a cupcake while breaking a toothbrush in front of your dentist — not sweet, at least to the dentist, but it’s Wizards fans (and Ted Leonsis’ pocketbook) which felt like they were getting a root canal from the shoddy-kneed Lewis.
It’s not outlandish to say he was pissed, and surprised, that he was traded from Orlando to Washington, and that he never mentally recovered. If anything, admire Lewis for making $23,336 per basketball minute last season.
Q: So this is a win-now move, right?
It is a win-soon move. Now, normally Wizards fans are relegated to misplaced/unfulfilled preseason optimism (guilty!) — these won’t be the Wizards of the slightly younger version of you. This time, there’s actually reason to believe… until the Wizards do something very Wizards-like. Maybe this is a ‘We refuse to be borderline terrible’ move. Not sure what it all means in the supposed third year of rebuilding, but we will see.
<Thumbs through history book/>
The fabled Oklahoma City Thunder, in Kevin Durant’s third season, increased their win total by 26 games. Related: John Wall—this is his era after all, right?—is not Kevin Durant. —@JohnCTownsend
Q: OK, but how much will the Wizards win? (and how much is that doggy in the window while you’re at it…)
Let’s crunch the scenario: One, they are in the East. Immediately I see the Wizards being better than Charlotte (clearly), Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Brooklyn (depends), possibly Boston; competing with the Knicks, Sixers, Hawks (maybe), Magic (depends); and while being well behind the efforts of Miami, Chicago and Indiana.
Wait. Let’s back up for a second. There are a lot of ifs. Point is, Washington is now in the conversation from anywhere between a four seat in the East and a 12-seed in the lottery.
I know, Wizards fans, not what you want to hear. You’re not sure what you want to hear. This team is big, potentially injury-prone, predominantly still young, has some moves ahead of it, and needs a lot of luck.
The dog days of summer are either ahead, or over.
But how much could the Wizards win? Well …
<searches the Truth About It archives/>
… the 2008 Celtics (66-16) added 42 wins to their total after trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen; the 1998 Spurs (56-26) won 36 more games than the 1997 edition (the one where David Robinson missed most of the season with a broken foot), while the 1990 Spurs got a 35-win boost from David Robinson, the rookie; and Steve Nash and the 2005 Suns posted a record of 62-20 after going 39-53 the year before. More on some of the biggest single-season turnarounds in NBA history here. —@JohnCTownsend
Q: BUT… No more youth movement?!
Not exactly. Between 2010 draft picks John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jordan Crawford, and 2011 draft picks Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack, plus expected 2012 draft picks Nos. 3 and 32, the Wizards could have nine players with three years or less experience on the team next season — and all except Crawford were draft picks of Washington (yes, Seraphin and Booker count even though they were traded to Washington after being officially picked by other teams).
Combined, Washington’s seven current one- or two-year experienced players have seen over 15,000 minutes, 658 games and 319 starts over their NBA careers.
But, also realize this is the Wizards’ youth for a while. They are set, and they better nail this 2012 pick. Right now, on your SAT exam, “Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden” is NOT an analogy for “John Wall, Jan Vesely and Bradley Beal.”
What’s a perpetual lottery team going to do?
Q: What about the salary?
First, this all assumes that Andray Blatche is amnestied and that the reminder of his contract, while it must be paid, will not count against the salary cap.
Rashard Lewis was set to make an unconscionable $22,699,551 next season. Emeka Okafor is scheduled to make $13,490,000 next season with an early termination option out of $14,487,500 for 2013-14 (hell no, he’s not taking that option). Trevor Ariza is scheduled to make $7,258,960 next season with a player option of $7,727,280 for 2013-14 (assume he takes that option).
Also assume, for a second, that Rashard Lewis’ buyout / cap hit for 2012-13 would have been between $13.5 and $14 million. With Okafor and Ariza by themselves, Washington has just committed $43 million in salary to two players over the next two seasons (good-bye summer 2012 free agency, amirite?).
But, subtract the buyout of a guy who’s useless to the Wizards (and likely any other NBA team, but someone will sign Lewis, and his knee will suddenly be much better), and you get just under a $30 million commitment to guys who will actually play for two seasons, maybe. Remember when people said, ‘Hinrich? Salary? That’s a no-no!’? — That doesn’t matter now, does it? Don’t underestimate Grunfeld’s ability to get rid of Ariza or Okafor if need be.
In total, the Wizards estimate to have 11 players committed to about $53 million in salary for next season (this includes the No. 3 pick, but not cap holds for Morris Almond, Mo Evans, James Singleton, Cartier Martin, Brian Cook or the 32nd pick). The salary cap for 2012-13 will be at least $58 million, but will probably be a decent bit more — the League is making money, y’all.
The Wizards aren’t players in free agency, but with exceptions and the what-not (other tricks up Grunfeld’s sleeve), they can play.
Hold up, hold up. Which big-name free agent were the Wizards expected to sign? It’s not like free agents are lining up on F St. outside the Verizon Center. Consider this: the money the Wizards would have spent on Lewis’ buyout is being spent on a player (Trevor Ariza) who, according to Hornets blogger Joe Gerrity, deliberately stopped chucking 3s, found a jumper and continued to play tough defense last season. “He’s not awful for $7.5 million per year,” Gerrity added. Consider Ariza a free, two-year rental. As for Okafor, you’ve gotta pay somebody … the same logic applies to Nenê and his fat contract. The Wizards didn’t feel comfortable handing JaVale McGee $14 million per year (per request), so they passed along his contract to the Brazilian. Smart. —@JohnCTownsend
[Note: you could expect Washington’s salary to total at least $60 million (likely more) in 2013-14 all things considered and assumed. Salary info from ShamSports.com.]
Q: What about those incoming Hornets?
Jason Calmes writes for Hornets 24/7, is a New Orleans guy, has a Ph.D. Mathematics, gets to work work on cool stuff like space shuttles, and now answers a couple FAQ questions about former Hornets Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.
OK, so what can Okafor still bring to the table? He was relatively durable from 2007 to 2010 (although he had back issues earlier in his career), but then the seemingly mysterious knee thing that caused him to miss the last 39 games of 2011-12 — which, by some accounts, might be OK; it happened back in February — what gives? How much better will the Wizards be (mind you, the Wizards with Nenê and not McGee/Blatche/Young), with Okafor on board?
In short, Chukwuemeka Noubuisi Okafor brings straight B’s. He’s Mario (of Brothers’ fame) without the glitz, and now is appropriately in red, white and blue. No mushroom, no fire flower, no star power (of any kind). He’s a reliable, productive player who gets ‘his’ pretty quietly and consistently, with an annual ‘break the chains’ kind of game. He’s a balanced player with defensive leanings and lacks anything remotely like offensive explosiveness. He even lacks those little things you throw at the ground that go “pop” pretty weakly.
The mention of consistency brings us to the assorted injury questions. Emeka was an Iron Man of sorts until missing 10 games in 2010-2011 due to a muscle strain and following that with what would have been nearly half of a normal season due to the MKT referred to above. The MKT seems to have afflicted numerous Hornets last year, but I think the draft inoculated the team. I had no reason to suspect less than 82 games from Emeka before the trade, and I see no reason to suspect fewer in D.C. In fact, it’ll be easier for him to maintain his health regimen being away from culinary assault that a day in New Orleans thankfully is.
Though metronomically labeled as undersized, he’s only 0.5”- 1.0” shorter than Dwight Howard and about 10 lbs lighter, so the degree is overblown, likely a product of his style of play. Once he got his NBA legs under him, he’s posted a WS/48 of over 0.1 every season, and posts numbers of similar character in other key advanced statistics; that is, so just-a-bit-above-average so consistently that he actually is rare … trust me … I’m a mathematician.
He’s a very cerebral player and person. He constantly works on his game and his body, and he does improve, even if it doesn’t show up in the numbers; the only thing receding is his hairline. His cerebral approach should have an effect in the locker room and on the court, but it will be infuriating when you can see him thinking when he should be dunking. Don’t be fooled though … he can show emotion, even if it takes a game-tying, not game-winning, twisting-catch-and-shoot-banked-in-jumper from the arc to shake it loose. If the brains, awareness, and earnest attempt at form of this guy taking that shot, the look on his face, the reaction of his team for him, not just the game, doesn’t get you to welcome him onto your team and into your heart, I don’t know what will.
How much better? It’s hard to tell with moves to make and players to draft, but you won’t be a doughnut and are bound to get more production from the Pineville, Louisiana native that was on your team until yesterday.
Enjoy Emeka. He’s a good player and good guy. He deserves more respect than he gets.
#2) So what’s the deal with Ariza’s shot, especially his 3-pointer? He shot the most, and best, from deep as a Houston Rocket, and then declined in New Orleans. How must the Wizards play him so he can be the shooting threat they need?
As an offensive player, Ariza can strive for mediocrity. He’s had some big games and big shots, but overall he’s awkward. He got moved from Houston when he didn’t live up to their expectations. While somewhat attributable to said expectations, Ariza just is not a go-to guy. He seems to be a nervous player who is better on the catch-and-shoot or a drive all-the-way-to-the-rim-and-not-a-step-from-it, both without thinking, compared to anything he does once he dribbles by what has got to be a historic-in-the-NBA margin.
Before being bitten by a pesky bug similar to the one that impishly bit Emeka, Trevor started to find some comfort on the offensive side of things. Trevor is an over-stuffed shrimp poboy of athleticism, but the shrimp on the mouth end of the bread inexplicably fall onto the floor just as you are about to take a bite … and the five-second rule, sadly, does not apply in all situations. A system that keeps him wrapped tight somehow—butter the bread, squeeze down, wrap it in a napkin—will turn him into a nice fourth option. That’s it. This is not the etouffee you’re looking for. Move along.
If used properly on offense, however, he’s a net positive on the court thanks to his defense. He will guard the other team’s best player in most games. He is effective, savvy, tenacious, and physical enough for his defense to be among the most ‘visible’ in the game. He also hasn’t averaged more than three fouls per 36 minutes since eight seasons ago, so you’ll that defense will be available most nights. You’ll get lulled to sleep by his effectiveness, but if he stubs his toe walking down U St., you’ll realize you really don’t want to see him in a suit.
Ariza is going to provide you with knee-slapping comedy and head-slapping frustration, depending on the setting, but he’s going to bring the defense. Be happy with that, and any offense is lagniappe. He’s got an interesting non-basketball life that I encourage you to read up on, and he’s one of the most human of all players in the NBA, at least from my knothole. Also, he’s very involved with Drew League in LA, which speaks to me as to the aforementioned human levels.
Any resemblance to shrimp poboys, plain or dressed, is purely coincidental.
Q: Are the Wizards done? Is that it?
Can’t be. It’s only the beginning of summer (truly, summer started on June 20), and we are a long way from training camp. Even with 19-year old Bradley Beal coming in as a rookie guard, the roster is drastically imbalanced in terms of skill. And even team owner Ted Leonsis has blogged: “I bet we have some more moves to make before next season.”
So, no, the Wizards are not done.
Q: Why should you be happy?
There is a sense of urgency (possibly via John Wall’s painfully misspent first and second years, but hopefully those came with lessons learned) while keeping a balance of a team that’s young, fun, ready to run, and intent on making some unassuming defenders their sons.
Q: Why should you be mad?
I don’t know. Don’t the Wizards always/often give you a reason to be pissed off? Go to that corner and marinate until further instructed or prompted otherwise. Or, just be pessimistic. The rest of us are just waiting to be retroactively pessimistic, so you might as well beat us to the punch. Congrats.
Q: What am I missing?
A superstar. As mentioned, the Wall/Vesely/Beal combo is not Durant/Westbrook/Harden. This team needs to figure that superstar part out. With Washington looking to immediately jump out of the lottery and into the playoffs, the peril of being a solid, but middling playoff team for several years now sits a threat-level orange. Without a superstar — and I don’t know how on earth the Wizards are going to find one — this team will not compete for a championship within the next six to seven to eight to maybe more years.
BUT… maybe the D.C. franchise is out to prove that team ball isn’t dead. That they are like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, or the 2008 Boston Celtics.
Maybe they’re out to prove that they are the anti-Wizards.
I give this trade a B-minus. What say you?