C.R.E.A.M. — A Wizards Draft Story | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

C.R.E.A.M. — A Wizards Draft Story

Updated: June 25, 2018

[I’m Ernie, charmed to meet you.]

When the Wizards picked Issuf Sanon in the second round of last week’s draft, the first thing that came to my mind was “Draft and Stash,” and at that precise moment, I knew the answer to the most asked question among #DCFamily faithful: “Why has Ernie not been fired?”

Ernest Grunfeld may not have been the best basketball mind to run this Wizards team during his 15-year tenure as President of Basketball Operations, but he damn sure knows how to take care of the bottom line which is to keep his boss (Ted Leonsis) happy. Sports is a game on the court or field of play, but it is also a business and the number one rule of business is to make money.

As the great philosophers of Wu-Tang Clan  fame once told the world: “Cash Rules Everything Around Me, C.R.E.A.M. get the money…”

If Ted Leonsis sends an edict to go get the money then that’s exactly what Ernie Grunfeld does.  The drafting of Issuf Sanon despite knowing that he will most likely not play in the NBA this year saves the Wizards money. I understand that balancing a roster economically is a coordinated orchestra that requires mechanisms like “Drafting and Stashing” players or our dear old friend “cash considerations” and I’m definitely not here to tell Ted how to spend his hard earned money. But some of these decisions do not reflect the actions of a franchise fully intent on winning a championship sooner rather than later.

When Grunfeld traded away Sheldon Mac in February for a 2019 second round pick, he saved the Wizards nearly $3 million in luxury tax dollars  after shedding his $1.3 million contract that was fully guaranteed after he tore his Achilles in the preseason.

When Ernie decided to cut two-way contract recipient Michael Young on January, 3rd 20018, he saved the franchise a six-figure sum.

When Grunfeld traded Andrew Nicholson and the team’s 2017 first round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdonavic and Chris McCullough, he saved the franchise another $19.5 million. Of course he was the one responsible for giving the slow-footed power forward a four-year $26 million contract in the first place.

When “Team President for Life” sold the 46th pick in the 2014 draft to the Los Angeles Lakers who ultimately drafted Jordan Clarkson, a more than serviceable player on 2nd round pick salary for $1.8 million in cash, he in turned netted Ted more cold hard cash.

And for the latest transaction made by Ernie Grunfeld, the drafting and ultimate stashing of Issuf Sanon potentailly saves the Wizards $850,000 in salary for the 2018-19 season and approximately another $2.5 million in luxury tax payments. Sanon is a project player who the Wizards may have to spend years waiting for, just as they did for Tomas Satoransky. That is fine for a team that is in a rebuild, not a team that fancies themselves as contenders. The Wizards could have taken more productive and proven college players who could have possible turned into good talent on cheap contracts for the the next few seasons.

Think about a team like the Golden State Warriors who spent $3.5 million dollars to buy the 38th pick from the Chicago Bulls, who turned into Jordan Bell and was able to produce a PER of 14.6 in 10.2 minutes per game during the Warriors championship run. When speaking in front of media after the Sanon pick, Grunfeld admitted that the team picked Issuf because they wanted to give him more time to develop.

“There’s a couple of other guys that we want to get on our roster, I am making the point that you need roster spots and if you pick a player, they take up the roster spot for you even if you send them to the G-League.”

Ernie let it be known that the team is looking at other players in the impending free-agent class, and that Sanon would have taken up a roster spot, regardless of him playing in the G-League or the main team. Ultimately the stashing of Sanon will cost the Wizards more money because by having to pay a veteran player to fill his roster spot instead of a rookie, they will have to pay a veteran player at least twice as much as the 850,000 salary of a second round pick and three times that salary in luxury tax payments if they are not able to get under the tax line. Last season the Wizards had an astronomical payroll of $123.3 million, putting them about $4 million over the luxury tax line which was set at $119.2 million for the 2017-18 season. The Wizards are already projected at + $125 million in salaries for the 2018-19 season and that only includes the 11 players that are under contract, including the recently drafted Troy Brown.

The problem with Grunfeld’s approach is that instead of trying to field the best possible team around a team nucleus of John Wall and Bradley Beal, he is risking wasting their best season. The team is limited with the movement they can make based on past transactions. The summer of 2016 has turned into the main catalyst for all of the Wizards financial troubles and that was the summer when Ted Leonsis seemingly gave Ernie carte blanche with the roster. Grunfeld made miscalculations on not only the players that he signed that summer (Mahinmi, Nicholson, Marcus Thornton), but he miscalculated where the NBA game was heading and did not load up on the wing players that the best teams in the “Association” seem to thrive off of. The drafting of Troy Brown is a step in the right direction because it adds another ball-handler and play-maker to the Wizards wing depth, but the real question is will it be too little too late?

The main task of an employee is to make sure that their employer is happy, and Ernie is the master of making sure that Ted gets what he wants. Between the two there is a relationship of trust and that can not be understated when evaluating the tenure of Ernie Grunfeld. When team decision-makers make long-term plans for the future by drafting and stashing players, it is a result of job security and yet another secret contract extension this past season. Ernie is here to stay as long as the boss remains happy  content with the work being done.



Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.