Five Offseason Concerns: No. 1
The Washington Wizards are soon expected to hire Flip Saunders but there is still plenty that needs to be done for this team to be considered a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference.
Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld faces some difficult decisions this summer and may have to make a roster tweak or two -- or maybe even shake up the roster considerably. The team will have more than $76 million tied up in player salaries next season, and that total will increase with the likely addition of a high lottery pick. Owner Abe Pollin has said that he is willing to pay the luxury tax in order to win a championship, but with the hard cap expected to drop down to about $68 million next season, the Wizards will have a humongous penalty -- and no guarantee that this team will advance beyond the first or second round.
I thought of five issues that the Wizards will have to resolve between now and training camp, or at least the trade deadline:
1. Do the Wizards trade the draft pick if it's not Blake Griffin?
What happens if the Wizards wind up with the No. 2 pick -- or lower -- in a one-man draft? The Wizards have the second-best chance of winning the draft lottery on May 19. Blake Griffin is the consensus pick to go No. 1 in the NBA draft and there doesn't appear to be any competition for that spot.
After him, it could be either Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio or Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet. If Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood are healthy, there won't be many minutes left at those positions -- although Rubio is quite intriguing. The Wizards will pick no worse than fifth, but would it be in their best interest to spend $2.5 million to $4 million on a player who might not contribute right away? Grunfeld was able to trade away the Wizards' last lottery pick in 2004 (Devin Harris) for a veteran contributor in Antawn Jamison. That move helped the Wizards make four consecutive playoff trips. But is there a Jamison-type contributor out there this summer?
With Brendan Haywood and three all-stars, the Wizards greatest need would appear to be at shooting guard, and Arizona State's James Harden (who reminds me some of Michael Redd) is the best available at that position. He had a really unimpressive NCAA Tournament performance, but most draft boards still have him in the top five. Arenas has already said he wants to be a "real point guard" next season so it might not in their best interest to get a Brandon Jennings or Tyreke Evans to play alongside him, either. Problem is, there aren't many shooting guards considered top five picks. USC's Demar DeRozan, Davidson's Stephen Curry, Louisville's Terrence Williams and Duke's Gerald Henderson won't go until late in the lottery -- at best.
Maybe it's not a bad idea to just take Rubio and play him alongside Arenas.
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