WIZARDS TRADE ROUNDTABLE: Sending Oubre Down the River, Welcome Back Ariza | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

WIZARDS TRADE ROUNDTABLE: Sending Oubre Down the River, Welcome Back Ariza

Updated: December 15, 2018

[AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

Kyle Weidie

Kelly Oubre Jr. could’ve been the future but was likely part of the problem, which is also part of ‘the problem’.

On draft night 2015, the Wizards sent their 19th pick (Jerian Grant) to the Knicks, the Knicks sent Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks, and Atlanta sent their 15th pick (Oubre) to Washington, as well as netting two second round draft picks from the Wizards in return. Fresh out of Kansas, Grunfeld’s selection creeped out of left field but seemed to tease with overly youthful and untamed 3&D potential. When the Wave Papi was locked-in, he could guard anyone from Isiah Thomas (when he was good with the Celtics) to trying his best to check LeBron. Sure, he was/is foul prone, but that’s part of being a defensive pest.

That also wasn’t all Oubre did to be a pest. This season in particular he hogged the ball — contract year ego, of course. And he always had a penchant for putting his head down for drastic, unwarranted, reckless and fruitless charges to the rim. His 3-point form looked great but his percentages did not progress, nor did his court emotional IQ. Oubre was stylish, he was a goofball, he was corny. Kelly’s a card and that’s OK — for any of us.

But this trade — should come as no surprise for no one under no condition — is of a one-track, near-term, chase the playoffs like a dog to a car mindset. Austin Rivers was a throwaway and Trevor Ariza is basically a throwaway. Ariza won’t be in Washington next season and he probably doesn’t want to be a Wizard now. And Oubre, just 23 years old and unlikely to be re-signed by cap-strapped Wizards had they kept him, is now someone else’s potential or problem. And all the Wizards got (or gave) was the experience.

But Ariza is back to be the microfracture surgery to Washington’s ground-down joints under the Grunfeld Regime. He’ll make the team better (and let’s also be honest about the Rivers/Oubre addition-by-subtraction part of the equation). But Ariza won’t save the day and he won’t save the defense. It’s pointless to ask but what’s next?

  • Trade Evaluation: Sidestep (vs. Forward or Backward)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Midrange (vs. Extreme Facial or Layup)


Sean Fagan

This time, it only took the Washington Wizards and Ernie Grunfeld becoming the laughingstock of the League to complete one of his patented “shuffle the deck chairs” moves. Did you expect anything different?

A few weeks before I made a joke to this site’s founder that the Wizards would make a play for Trevor Ariza, because not only was he a surplus of goods on a Phoenix team that didn’t want pay his salary, but Ernie needed to make a play for the eighth seed in order to save his job. To me it looked like the ideal the “paint around the edges” trade that Grunfeld has been making for years, just nudging the Wizards into the realm of competency if not anywhere near contending in the Eastern Conference.

“Nah,” he replied, “Ariza is strictly West Coast, and he is also pretty washed at this point.”

Let it be known that “washed” has never stopped Ernest Grunfeld before.

By acquiring Ariza, the Wizards managed to rid themselves of one seeming malcontent (Austin Rivers) but also parted with frustrating yet eternally promising Kelly Oubre. It is patented Wizards logic: trade young for old, trade promise for that short burst of relevancy that Ariza shoots straight into your veins. But never try to develop a player internally if he is anything less than a 5th pick because the Wizards will take that potential and set it on fire before your very eyes.

In what amounts to a dumpster fire of a season — where the Wizards are without a starting center, the stars are sniping at each other, and the head coach looks like he is part of a daily hostage video — there was a brief window where the Wizards could have traded one of their “big” three and actually started the process towards building the next incarnation of the team.

Instead, we are here, once again shortsightedly mortgaging the future because the Wizards have never had a toy they couldn’t break, have never found a young career they couldn’t set back by years, and are steadfast in employing an individual who seems intent on scorching the earth and salting it thrice over before admitting that perhaps the NBA has passed him by and that whatever “fans” of the team mutter his name like an expletive.

This trade is the danger of letting Grunfeld remain head of the Washington Wizards. It is disingenuous, myopic and self-serving. It is Wizards’ basketball and I for one am not entertained.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (or backpedaling like Arenas on defense)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Extreme Facial (like Wall getting his s^*$ rejected)


Conor Dirks

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that… Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”
Endgame, by Samuel Beckett

The Wizards traded two second round picks and the No. 19 pick in 2015 to move up and select Kelly Oubre, a semi-underachieving forward at Kansas under Bill Self (which is kind of a Bill Self specialty) who had loads of potential but just as many questions. Turned out the kid had a killer personality, and played the game as violently as you might hope for a player on a team thrashing against its own denouement.

He was a bad shooter until he wasn’t, and then he was again. He fouled on every play as a rookie, improved enough to get deployed on the perimeter for the Wizards as they fought through the East, and then got sucked into whatever it is the Wizards do on defense these days. He looked like a French mime juggling a trio of penguins every time he drove with the ball, until he looked confident, until he looked just a little fearsome. And more than every so often, you knew he could do anything a basketball player might be able to do. Even if he couldn’t do it all now.

In contrast to Otto Porter (“Who?” is my knee-jerk reaction whenever I hear his name), Oubre never passed up a shot. Sometimes, that manifested in joyously big games, with Kelly’s trademark grin seasoning every windmill dunk or shot-put 3-pointer. Sometimes, that manifested in frustration, with Oubre trying to shoot through an extended long-ball slump with teammates open and calling for the ball.

If this sounds like a eulogy it’s because these Wizards are fucking dead. The trade is part of that, but it’s really just the logical next step in the death throes of an inane management philosophy. The Wizards stopped trying to reinvent themselves after Porter’s first good season. Now, all they do is package up potential, ship it to their opponents, and take back players, like Bogdanovic, Ariza, Miller, Foye, and others who will never move their needle beyond the 5th seed in the East. And that’s the best case scenario.

Saying that the Wizards won’t be able to afford Oubre next year admits that he’s a player worth keeping around, or at least trying to get creative enough to retain. But it also doesn’t jive with what Washington got in return for Oubre. If you think he’s valuable enough to get a deal Washington can’t match, surely he’s more valuable than a half season of washed-up Trevor Ariza.

Maybe you think Oubre is good enough that the Wizards can’t match the offer he gets, and that he’s not as good as Porter, so the choice is between Otto and Oubre. For reference, Porter’s salary will be $27,000,000 next year. The market for Oubre suggests that he won’t command anything near that. Is Porter, who is in the midst of a godawful season, worth the difference in their skill level? Why not trade Porter and actually clear up your cap problems, rather than deal Oubre and kick the can down the road into the maw of the infinite clown once again? In the alternative, if Oubre is affordable, he’s a good bench player to have.

Maybe you think Oubre isn’t good. Well, in some ways you’d be right. But it’s a short-sighted point of view for a player who is only 23, and has shown the ability to improve (and, sometimes, regress) aspects of his game. He was viewed as a project when he was drafted. What does that mean if it doesn’t mean being patient?

Wizards fans are so fucking used to this nonsense that they’ll all develop their lines and forget that other front offices find creative ways to get what they want, and don’t lay down and die when their entirely foreseeable cap problems obstruct their plans.

  • “We couldn’t sign him anyway.” Sure you could if a few trades got made and the bid on him wasn’t too high.
  • “He was a bum.” That’s reductive, and in complete contrast with #1, so make sure you’re consistent!
  • “We already have Otto.” First…do we? I kid. He exists, of course. Who are we talking about? Right, Otto Porter. Does he still play for the Wizards? Sure, yes. He does. But these two players are not mutually exclusive. They’re fairly different! And anyone who thinks they know what Oubre would fetch on the RFA market is kidding themselves and playing directly into the kind of Grunfeldian resignation that makes this a miserable basketball market. Fucking try something for once. Christ.

In short, the Wizards traded away a great kid for a great guy. Trevor Ariza is smart, funny, competent, and in some ways a polished version of half of what Oubre optimists think he could be. Ariza isn’t interested in driving off the dribble (Oubre’s biggest area of growth this year), but he’s a reliable corner 3-point shooter that fits very well with John Wall. Ariza will have some good games. And then he’ll leave over the summer and the Wizards will be totally fucking broke, with all of their money tied up in Wall, Beal, Porter, Mahinmi, and poor Troy Brown Jr.

Challenge yourself to look at the bigger picture. It’s grim, but necessary work. At some point, the Wizards need to rebuild. And it has to be through BIG trades that materially change the makeup of this team, or through the draft. If you go through the draft, you have to pick smart, develop well, and then either flip a few of those assets with a max player for an upgrade to one of your “stars.” Or find the right roles for the players you draft on the team you have.

Kelly Oubre had a place on this team. And this trade is worse than pointless: it sucks.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (Ernie furiously chewing gum while saying “yeah, yeah, yeah, Marshon, yeah”)
  • Grunfeldian level: Extreme Facial (Snorting tooth dust)

Media Day, Washington Wizards, Truth About It, 2015, NBA, Verizon Center, Adam McGinnis, Kelly Oubre, GMan


John Converse Townsend

Ernie Grunfeld is trying to run things back. Trevor Ariza is a Wizard again in D.C.

How the [redacted] did we get here?

In 2010, Grunfeld moved his $111 million mistake, Gilbert Arenas, to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis.

“This trade allows us to continue to rebuild around our core group of young players and provides financial flexibility as we move forward,” Grunfeld said at the time. “We’re thrilled to have been able to accomplish those goals while also getting back a two-time All-Star in Rashard Lewis, who brings us versatility, 3-point shooting and a veteran presence.”

Lewis offered neither versatility nor 3-point shooting. He was traded two seasons later, along with the No. 46 pick, for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.

“We are pleased to add two more solid pieces as we continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed,” Grunfeld said the time. “Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish.”

Remember that the 46th pick was acquired as part of a three-team trade that sent ‘well-developed’ and ‘exemplary team-first’ players Nick Young and JaVale McGee as far away from Washington as possible (Denver at the time).

Okafor played his last full-ish season in the NBA, and was traded a year later, while Ariza played two solid years, including a career year in 2013-14. Grunfeld then let him walk (and maybe Trevor wanted to walk).

Now he’s back. But in exchange for Kelly Oubre, who is playing the best basketball of his life, and Austin Rivers, a player Grunfeld signed as a second-unit savior summer.

“Acquiring Austin gives us another versatile, experienced player who provides scoring and playmaking,” Grunfeld said at the time. “He is coming off a career year and his ability to create offense for himself and others will help our second unit and allow us to play a variety of lineups throughout the season.”

None of what he said about Rivers, who’s best strength is jab-stepping and driving right, came to pass. And Oubre wasn’t a simple draft pick: he cost the Wizards two second-round picks and the 19th overall selection, Jerian Grant.

In a roundabout way, the Wizards traded Gilbert Arenas’s beard to rent the 2018-19 version of Trevor Ariza (he’ll be 34 and an unrestricted free agent next season).

Eras have come and gone, head coaches, too, but the Wizards under the influence of this team president, and his championship “plan,” have not changed. Predictable also-rans.

Grunfeld, shielded by so many secret extensions, is trying to run things back. But the open truth is this: He’s out of ideas.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (con gusto)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Apotheosis (wake up, Leonsis)


Adam Rubin

I will focus less on the individual players in the trade and more on what the trade itself tells us about the current mindset of the Wizards’ front office (and ownership). Namely, they are living in fantasy land.

It’s true that the team needs leadership, Austin Rivers was not playing well on the court or playing nice off it, and the Wizards had no intention of re-signing Oubre. However, renting Trevor Ariza to help stabilize the locker room for four months does nothing to help the team’s long-term prospects. The Wizards are in salary cap hell with only five players under contract next season. With the possible exception of Tomas Satoransky, Oubre was the only player on the roster who could command a draft pick or a rotation player on a multi-year contract in return. Washington got neither.

This team is headed for disaster this coming summer and every move they make (or don’t make) should be singularly focused on the future. NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported that the Suns will look to flip Kelly Oubre and there is a robust market developing for his services. So, it’s possible we will soon find out what other offers were out there for one of the Wizards’ only tradeable assets.

Which brings us back to the big picture. The Wizards are perpetually in win-now mode. That team-building concept was defensible when Gilbert/Caron/Antawn were running wild and Wall and Beal were ascending up the ranks of NBA’s best back-courts. But that’s not where we are today. The 11-18 Wizards are at the bitter end of a six-year run with this core. Trading a young asset for an expiring veteran contract only prolongs and exacerbates the inevitable rebuild.

This move only makes sense if you are trying to save your job or you are trying to grab some playoff revenue sharing. For the rest of us, it’s just more of the same.

  • Trade Evaluation: Sidestep
  • Grunfeldian Level: High (He outdid himself by figuring out a way to give up two second round picks in this trade even though the Wizards had none to offer)


Bryan Frantz

Is this the Grunfeldiest move of all of Grunfeld’s moves? You take your only young, affordable asset, pair him with an offseason mistake, and swap them for a washed-up veteran, in a clear attempt to pull out a few extra wins and salvage what is already a lost season.

Prior to this offseason’s moves, I opined that Washington had five assets on the roster (not including draft picks): Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Satoransky. On the afternoon of Saturday, December 15, the Wizards are down to probably one asset: Beal. Wall’s pending monster contract was always going to be tough to trade, but his play this season has made it nearly impossible to trade for value — did you even see ESPN suggest a Wall and Troy Brown, Jr. for Enes Kanter trade?

Porter has been awful this season, with even his few outbursts having minimal impact on the team (Washington is 5-4 when Porter scores 15 or more points). His value is rapidly fading, and the longer the Wizards wait to move him, the worse the return will be. Satoransky has become the kind of piece that you’ll get little on the return for, but he’ll turn into a key role player on a contending team that uses him correctly.

And Oubre, the only Wizards draft pick between Otto Porter and Troy Brown who was still on the roster, is now gone. The return on that fifth asset? A veteran wing who will be gone at the end of the season.

Everybody else is covering the many negatives to this trade, and they’re all very correct. Here’s all I can say for possible silver linings: First, I love Trevor Ariza and there are many, many players Ernie could have traded for that I would be less inclined to root for; Second, shipping out Austin Rivers is the correct thing to do and theoretically opens up minutes at point guard for Satoransky (and maybe minutes at the 2 or 3 for Brown?).

Here are, of course, the counterpoints: You basically traded Marcin Gortat and Oubre for half a season of Ariza, who will likely do just enough to help you get a worse draft pick and get humiliated in the playoffs; the Wizards still have to fill a roster spot, and they’ll almost definitely use that on a veteran guard who will take the minutes Satoransky and Brown should be getting.

I just want to point out again that Washington currently has zero players on its roster drafted in the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. There are only five Wizards draft picks on the roster: Three came in the top three overall picks of their respective drafts, one didn’t play in the NBA for several years and now is given the middle finger by the head coach at every opportunity, and the other is on pace to be the next Kelly Oubre.

  • Trade Evaluation: Backwards (like where the team is going, fast)
  • Grunfeldian Level: Elite (like the Raptors swapping DeRozan and Poetl for Kawhi and Green — except the exact opposite of that)

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.