NBA Wizards 

Standing Pat? The Washington Wizards’ Draft and other notes

The reaction on Wizards twitter wasn’t great when the Washington Wizards ended up trading their lone draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash considerations. The cash fills out the bottom line of the roster. It essentially represents money that doesn’t count for or against the cap, but it gives the Wizards the freedom to spend a bit extra on free agents that they may be targeting.

“We felt like it was best to move the pick for cash considerations,” team president Ernie Grunfeld said. “This way it opens up another roster spot for us to get someone established.”

This is a classic Grunfeld move, looking toward free agency. He’s never been the best at drafting talent and free agency has always been something he was adept at. Michael Lee of the Washington Post reported that the Wizards moved the pick for just a shade under $2 million.

The Wizards don’t have the biannual exception this season, but they will have the full midlevel exception. Their priorities are re-signing Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat back to the team with Gortat being the biggest priority of all. Both of them are going to test the market, so unless they’re willing to return to the Wizards at a discounted rate, they’ll need all the money they can get. If trading the pick for cash makes Ted Leonsis feel more comfortable when free agency comes around, so be it.

Gortat is expected to cost the Wizards as much as $13 million. Ariza’s market deal will probably be somewhere around another $10 million with Nicolas Batum making a figure just north of that. The Wizards will need to dedicate at least $20 million to both of these players if they want them back. They both have bird rights on the team, so if the Wizards need to go over the cap mark of about $63 million they can.

But now that they’ve filled a roster spot with cash, they can dedicate a bit more money to the cause of retaining both free agents. It was a move that most Wizards’ fans didn’t like, but it’s justifiable. And Ernie is going to need as much help as he can possibly get if he wants to keep this team together–and he does. “We like our nucleus. We’d like to keep our nucleus together. We have a fairly deep team,” Grunfeld said.

Grunfeld said that the Wizards were focused in on “two or three” players they wanted to draft. He said he couldn’t specify who those players were, but they were drafted by the time it was the Wizards’ turn to pick. “We saw opportunities to maybe move up. Nothing really came up for us,” Grunfeld said. He said they were looking for the best available player and didn’t think that anyone on the board was going to contribute to the Wizards this season.

And that isn’t surprising. The Wizards core has said they’re looking for established veterans to come in and help. They aren’t really interested in bringing along a second round rookie. And Grunfeld also said that the developmental projects that they’re focusing on right now are Otto Porter and Glen Rice, Jr. Neither player got a lot of playing time last year, so maybe with a year under their belts they’ll be able to see the floor some.

They’re going to need extra wing minutes for both positions. Bradley Beal and Ariza played hefty minutes last year and Beal did that while struggling with injuries. Teams haven’t prepared for Porter and Rice, so it’ll essentially be like adding two new talents to your roster. If they’re ready to contribute next season, it’ll put a nice spin on a Wizards’ roster that will look relatively the same.

Porter and Rice should be able to contribute to the team and play a bit more next season. It will be a big disappointment if they can’t and they’d both go down as two more mistakes in the Wizards’ draft history. Then, trading this pick will look a lot worse.

Grunfeld said that the Wizards weren’t exactly looking to throw their names into the conversations about star free agents. He said that they have to see what happens, but their priority is keeping their nucleus together. That’s something that we also should’ve expected from the Wizards this season. If they’re looking to go all-in on Kevin Durant in a few years, they’ll need to save their money for that.

But what should worry Wizards’ fans is every team around the Eastern Conference improving and making changes, while the Wizards have remained relatively stagnant. Sometimes, consistency is the best and continuity is great. But should the Chicago Bulls swing Carmelo Anthony and the Miami Heat make upgrades to their roster, the Wizards will look worse in comparison.

You should never react to what another team does via free agency because there are no guarantees that things will work. But you should never look to leave the roster the same as it was last year because teams know what you’re going to do at that point. There are going to be tweaks with coaching and things of that nature. Plus, if Porter and Rice are ready to contribute those are going to be huge pluses. But still, a roster that your opponents know is a roster that your opponent loves.

We’ll see what happens for Washington going forward with their roster, but they should be looking to make upgrades at every position. They’ve got to get better if they want to advance to the Conference Finals like John Wall says they can.

Another side note: The 2012 second round pick used on Tomas Satoransky looks worse by the day. The Wizards learned that Satoransky signed a multi-year deal with Spanish team FC Barcelona. Grunfeld said that the organization and Satoransky talked about his future and that he feels this was the best opportunity for him to continue to develop.

He’s stated before that playing behind John Wall isn’t ideal for him, and he’s probably right. Wall is an All-Star, max contract point guard in his early 20’s. This is obviously his team right now, and Satoransky wouldn’t get very much playing time if he can’t contribute in other ways. The Wizards could use some depth at the position, but if Satoransky wants to play big minutes, staying overseas is what is best for him.

But we were supposed to see Satoransky play by now. There are reasons that we haven’t, but it’s pretty disappointing to not have such a talented player on this roster at this point.

The Wizards are going to continue to look toward free agency for the answers. They’ve already solidified Jerrell Eddie  and Deonte Burton to participate in Summer League with them. They’re going to have summer league practices up next and hopefully they’ll find some pieces they think they can contribute. The undrafted free agent pool is very attractive this year and a plethora of players that the Wizards worked out will be there.

Other Draft Notes

  • I really am not sold on this entire draft class being as great as people think it is, but I do like some of the picks that were made. Some of the teams filled an immediate need, and that’s good for teams that are rebuilding and reshaping their rosters.
  • My favorite moment of the night was absolutely Isaiah Austin being honored by the league. What separates the NBA from the rest of professional sports leagues is the respect and reverence that they give to their players. Austin will never play a minute in the NBA, but they treated him like he was a retired veteran in the Hall of Fame last night. That had to be a special moment for a kid with his dreams crushed so quickly.
  • We honestly knew that the Cavaliers were going to take Andrew Wiggins number one, right? It looks like they didn’t make the final decision until the afternoon and they even provided some fluff about the Philadelphia 76ers looking for the pick to try to get a sweet deal for it. Oh, Cleveland. Never change.
  • I like the move for Doug McDermmott and the Chicago Bulls. I thought the trade was pretty decent for both sides. Denver got two prospects they really liked plus they got Arron Afflalo back earlier in the day and he fills an immediate need. The Bulls get a secondary scorer for their team and a versatile offensive threat. Even if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t come, they’ll be in pretty good shape it seems.
  • Zach LaVine seemed to mouth “Fuck, man” when he was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves. There were already so many questions about him and how he’d pan out on the next level. That isn’t a very good sign for him or the Wolves if he’s upset. He should be happy that he was taken in the lottery–I don’t doubt that he is. He’s divisive, at this point, it seems. But he’s a lottery pick, nonetheless. I didn’t really like the pick for the Wolves, but if he’s a superstar it won’t matter.
  • I didn’t expect Dante Exum to fall to number five. I thought the 76ers would take a stab at him with the third pick, but I really love the situation he’s in. He’s got so many weapons around him in Utah–especially if they are able to bring Gordon Hayward back. All I can think about is him drawing the defense and kicking to Trey Burke or Hayward. And this sends Alec Burks to the bench so he can be the initiator of the second offense. It’s a pretty sweet deal for Utah, if you ask me. I think Exum is going to be the best player in this draft down the road. Utah just got themselves a gem.
  • Jabari Parker to Milwaukee just feels right. He said all the right things about the city and I think he genuinely means that. He was viewed as the best prospect in the draft by some accounts, so Milwaukee fans should be happy about the pick. He seems like a great kid that will come in and score 18 points per game instantly. It’ll take him some time to become accustom to the NBA, but it’ll happen.
  • I absolutely love the prospects that the 76ers brought back last night. Joel Embiid has the chance to be the best back to the basket center this league has seen in years and Dario Saric could be a very versatile wing piece down the road. They got two extra draft picks in the future from the Saric deal, too. And, what makes it even sweeter, is that Saric says that he may be returning to Philadelphia as soon as next season.
  • I’m kind of losing my feel of Sam Hinkie as Philadelphia’s GM. Mainly because he keeps using the strategy of stockpiling assets to someday swing a major deal. But I think he’s forgetting one huge factor: it takes time for players to develop. If he keeps drafting project after project, the value on some of them will be lost. You can’t keep mortgaging working players for future draft picks and potential prospects. If you have a prospect in a bad situation–Michael Carter-Williams–he’ll continue to learn and practice bad habits. It’s hard to build a good culture when you continue to play badly. He’s getting a lot of pieces that don’t logically fit together and that isn’t how you build a team. I know he’s trying to follow the Rockets’ model, but they were actually a good team prior to trading for James Harden. Hinkie should try to actually put a good team on the floor, at some point.
  • I love the draft that Orlando had. But they did a bunch to get Elfrid Payton. Saric, plus two future draft picks? Just to move up two spots? That’s insane. They must really love what Payton can become–I do too. But I don’t think Denver wanted Payton and Chicago probably didn’t there either. McDermott was the guy at 11 all the way and they didn’t really need to make that move. But kudos to them for getting their guy. Pairing him with Aaron Gordon can be dangerous in five years. He’s a great passer and a a solid floor general. They’re just going to have to be extremely patient here with him.
  • The Boston Celtics had a decent draft. Marcus Smart looks like a very good two way prospect and so does James Young. Young is going to provide a lot of versatility out on the wing with his ability to put the ball on the floor and defend both wing positions. This just makes me thing that Rajon Rondo is going sooner rather than later–but this doesn’t exactly mean that. Just look at how appealing the Celtics’ package to Minnesota can be now. Smart, Young, a future first, Olynyk and Jeff Green’s contract for Love and Kevin Martin. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. So don’t be so sure that Rondo is 100% gone. I’d say that it’s about 50%. That figure goes up if they can’t swing Love or sign Anthony.
  • The Suns had a peculiar draft. TJ Warren was a really weird pick for them, but they need help on the wing. Getting Tyler Ennis as insurance for Bledsoe if he walks kind of makes me wonder. Are they willing to match a max deal for him? All signs point to that, so I wouldn’t read to much into that.
  • The Charlotte Hornets had a really nice draft. Noah Vonleh provides them with a combination of size, offense and shot blocking up front to complement with Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller. Even though they traded Shabazz Napier, they got a good piece in P.J Hairston still and got some money back from the Thunder to fill their bottom line. They’re going to make a splash in free agency this offseason. I’m not sure who it is yet, but I do have an idea.
  • The Miami Heat getting Shabazz Napier just isn’t really fair. I love the pick for them. They don’t have to feel any pressure to bring Mario Chalmers back and if they’re looking to get Kyle Lowry and keeping their big three together, they’re instantly the favorites in the Eastern Conference again. The more ball handlers the merrier.
  • Spurs gon’ Spur. Kyle Anderson is the most Spurs pick that you can think of. I really love the pick for them–I actually had him pegged to go there. He’s going to be really good working with Popovich. I can already see it.
  • The draft was really exciting, but for none of the reported moves that we heard about prior to the event to happen is so NBA. I didn’t expect them to happen and they didn’t. Especially not with Kevin Love.

 

 

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