Suddenly, These Young Wizards Are Old as Dirt | Wizards Blog Truth About

Suddenly, These Young Wizards Are Old as Dirt

Updated: October 17, 2014


Basically, right? [original photo via animal-backgrounds dot com]

When the Wizards traded Emeka Okafor for Marcin Gortat and a first-round pick, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis blogged a blog, like bloggers often do. This one entitled “Wizards Add Talented Big Man.”

“And we got even younger in the process as Gortat is 2 years younger than the key player involved in the trade.”

Well, sort of. The team got temporarily younger overall, but trading away first round picks isn’t how most teams try to lower their average age. Then again, by this point, getting younger wasn’t really the point. Still, Leonsis adressed the disconnect:

“We traded a protected first round pick to get the deal done. We have many young players on our team today and we believed that using our conditional pick to get the deal done was the prudent move for our franchise at this time in its development. Of our 15 players under contract, eight players have been drafted by us in the first or second round in the last four off-seasons. We are a very young team still.”

That was true enough! But not for long. Fast forward a few months, and the Wizards, with an obvious need for a real backup point guard after Eric Maynor … happened, traded away former sixth-overall pick and winged wolf Jan Vesely, along with Maynor, for the now 38-year-old Andre Miller. And then they signed the sagacious, seasoned 33-year-old Drew Gooden. All told, the Wizards ended the 2013-14 season as the 11th oldest team in the NBA. This isn’t a bad thing. But youth will now be served à la carte.

Without a first round pick in this year’s draft (or second round pick, following the sale of 46th overall pick Jordan Clarkson to the Lakers), and replacing lost fellows Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, and Chris Singleton with veritable silver foxes Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries, and DeJuan Blair, the Wizards got a little bit older still.

How much older?

As the roster stood yesterday, after the release of 24-year-old Daniel Orton, the Wizards were the oldest damn team in the NBA, with an average age of 28.7.

This might change in the week before the season starts, as some teams (including the Wizards) shed training camp invitees and settle into a season-opening squad. But the Wizards won’t get all that much younger. In a dark room down one of the hallowed halls of Verizon Center, Randy Wittman salivates over the veteran makeup of his team like me over a plate of shoestring fries.

At the end of Wall’s 2010-11 rookie season, which also marked the beginning of Washington’s “rebuild,” the Wizards were the sixth-youngest team in the league. Now, only five (Wall, Beal, Seraphin, Rice, and Porter) of the team’s 17 rostered individuals were drafted by the team. Seraphin is in the last year of his contract, and to some minds, this season represents his last chance to show he can be a valuable role player in the NBA.

This coffee-drip veteran infusion worked, though, despite the undisputed value of young assets on an NBA team. The key here is that most older players are on short contracts, and the majority of the team’s money is squirreled away with a smaller number of mostly proven players. Otto Porter Jr., who has played well this preseason and had his third-year option picked up this week, is the one investment that the Wizards are still waiting on.

With long-term investments in Wall, Beal and Gortat, the Wizards have a framework for a sustainable playoff team. Especially considering that their books are geared towards a mini-reboot in 2016. Nene comes off the books after the 2015-16 season, and the team should have enough money to pay a max player to join Wall and Beal as they enter their best years.

Is this how Leonsis and Grunfeld drew it up all those years ago? Was transforming one of the youngest teams in the NBA into the oldest team in the NBA part of the plan? Was Vesely drafted to be an eventual cog in a trade to pick up an aging — if still brilliant — point guard? Maybe, but probably not.

So credit those who make decisions with realizing the previous plan, ambitious as it was, needed to change, to evolve. That there was a little luck involved, too, doesn’t diminish the difficult decision to shift focus. The Wizards very swiftly went from adding and developing young talent to building around the actual — rather than just young — talent that the team accumulated.

There are two ways to look at it. On one hand, the youth movement failed, because the Wizards weren’t able to construct a team entirely from homegrown talent, and are now the oldest team in the NBA. On the other hand, like the cone blast of a shotgun, a few of the draft choices were on target. With Wall and Beal nabbed, and lotteries historically unfriendly to this team, maturing in a hurry (like Robin Williams in “Jack”) wasn’t such a bad thing.

It would be difficult to be so sanguine about this suddenly aged Wizards team were it not for its flexibility, preserved in Grunfeld’s basement like the brains of a would-be construct. In the summer of 2016, the Wizards can pull that pickled mass out of its mason jar, show it to the likes of Al Horford, Kevin Durant and others, and say “Eh?” A montage of Wall roars and photoshopped jerseys would be projected against the moldy walls, of course.

Beal’s injury likely means another slow start (the Wizards came out of the gate 2-7 last season), but this mini-window of pre-2016 opportunity is open for two years, not the mere six to eight weeks projected by the team after Beal’s successful wrist surgery. The Wizards are too old to hurry, anyways. As Brian Cox, playing screenwriting seminar instructor Robert McKee in “Adaptation,” said: “Wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.”


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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.