Five Offseason Concerns: No. 1


I've got all the answers right here. (AP Photo)


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?


I'll be there if you need me. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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.

By Michael Lee |  April 20, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
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Micheal, I've got to disagree with you.
Backup center seems to be the number one need.

The two guard can easily be addressed via trade if Grunfeld can discourage Abe about the need for a salary dump.

There will be a lot of teams over the luxury tax threshold because of the unexpected decline in the threshold.
Etan and James's expiring deals will carry some value. Hamilton in Detroit, Redd in Milwaukee, and Dunleavy in Indy, are just three two guards which should be available in a salary dump.

Young finally started to actually play a little D going down the stretch. And Critt shows some ability to run the point and defending two's which could relieve Gil of some ballhandling and allow him to get looks "off the ball". So there could be solutions at the two in house.

Going into the playoffs, you can never have enough bigs. The Wiz played a series of power forwards at center all year. I see McGee as more of a high energy combo guy then as a true space eating center. Even with a healthy Haywood, the need for another center is glaring.

Etan is a great guy, but hoping that he gets healthy enough to bang in the lane seems to be a fading hope. I'd pick Thabeet if he's available, and use Etan's expiring contract in a deal to pick up another long range shooter.

I don't see a lot of centers out there on the market to get. Besides, Haywood is coming up on Free Agency, I don't think the Wiz can afford to be in a position to get held up by Haywood cause he's the only option at the 5.
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | April 20, 2009 12:00 PM

Whether or not we get Griffin, we have to make a move to package some players because we have too much money tied up and more players than roster spots. We have 14 players under contract, 2 draft picks, and the rights to Veremeenko, but only 12 players can be active. We have to include the pick in the package if we don't get Griffin, but my question is what trade options are we looking at in either circumstance?

Posted by: gorebd82 | April 20, 2009 12:05 PM

If Nick Young gets it together and starts playing consistently up to the level of his physical talent, 2-guard isn't a huge need. if he doesn't, it is. But in either case, it's not nearly as big a need as a low post scoring and physical rebounding presence on the front line.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 20, 2009 12:09 PM

Veermenko's rights (assuming they even still have them) are irrelevant. He doesn't count against the Wizards' cap, luxury tax, or roster limit until they actually sign him to a contract, which hasn't happened yet (and probably won't).

Assuming they don't re-sign Juan Dixon (a pretty good assumption) the Wiz will have 13 players under contract, which leaves two roster spots open for the first and second round picks.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 20, 2009 12:13 PM

When you have a team that went 19-63 you have to go for the best player available because it is obvious we need help at every spot.

And drafting for the 2 guard spot doesn't seem like a good idea. Who in this draft is going to come in as a rookie and contribute better than Nick Young today?

Posted by: lameotron | April 20, 2009 12:18 PM

Good question, Mike. But you have to consider the financial issue in a potential trade as well.

When we acquired Jamison, he was on a MAX salary deal. Given our luxtax position, acquiring a MAX player (or close to it) is just not feasible without Abe make huge luxtax payments in 2010.

So any deal with the pick would likely have to send out Stevnson, Songaila, Pecherov (expendable/excess 2010 contracts) and NOT the expiring contracts of James and Etan.

The list of reliable veterans who would upgrade our rotation for some combo of the pick, Stevenson, Songaila, Pech, etc is pretty short. Kirk Hinrich? Leandro Barbosa perhaps? Mike Miller?

Unless Abe truly gives Ernie a blank check, his options are going to be limited.

Posted by: TheFunBunch | April 20, 2009 12:20 PM

As of last week, this team had the full 15 max players under contract. I believe Dixon is the only one not under contract for next year, so assuming the status quo, plus 2 picks in the June draft, that puts the roster # at 16.
Here are the guys I have being on the roster going into next year, excluding the June picks:

5 Guards - Arenas, Crittenton, James, Stevenson, Young
6 Forwards - Butler, Jamison, Blatche, McGuire, Songalia, Pecherov
3 Centers - Haywood, McGee, & Thomas

We can argue who plays where, but as of now, only Dixon is not on the team next year. 14 guys on, 2 draft picks; always possible to trade the 2nd draft pick, but there's not much room on the roster, so it seems that Grunfeld may need to trade more bodies than he gets back, which most people would welcome...

Posted by: -CN- | April 20, 2009 12:25 PM

Nice comments from GM.

I like what I've seen from Nick and Critt. It is good to hear Nick playing 1-1 with Gil. I loved Nick's give and get curl around Arenas late in the Cavs game. That took some fore-thought and chemistry. I applaud Ernie for picking up Critt. I think he has legit NBA-sized skills and heart.

At the elite level shooting guards, I think size and range are getting re-defined in the NBA. Take Bryant's size and Arenas's range as a standard. I don't see that type of contributor in this class. I loved Steph Curry in college, but I can't see him working at a starting role for a playoff team. Why draft an average player?

Three of the last four drafts -- McGee, Young, Pech, Blatche -- the Wiz have picked size first. I've no reason to think that it won't continue. Thabeet currently has limited skills, but you still can't teach seven foot three. Sorry, Micheal, I think you got it wrong too.

Posted by: EWE1 | April 20, 2009 12:27 PM

"As of last week, this team had the full 15 max players under contract."

My bad. I forgot Pech (easy enough to do, really). But it still doesn't necessitate a trade. Second round picks aren't guaranteed a contract, so they can always cut their second rounder loose with no financial consequences if it doesn't look like he'll be a contributor.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 20, 2009 12:37 PM

Please no Dukies on this team!

Posted by: jeremydvid | April 20, 2009 12:59 PM

Not sure about Pesh's contract specifics, but since he's on his rookie contract, I think there's 2 options the team does not have to pick up (First 2 years are guaranteed for 1st round picks, followed by 2 1-year options, for a total of 4 years, then the 1-year tender). I'm assuming the team probably had to decide prior to this past season on whether to pick up the option for Pesh (& Young for that matter, since they STARTED their rookie contracts the same year).

That said, this team has, in essence, 4 players in 'contract expiring' years: James, Thomas, Pesh (1 year team option for '10-'11)& Haywood. I don't imagine James, Thomas & Pesh returning under any circumstances, so this time next year, that could prove to be good trade fodder.

That's a lot of room for the summer of '10 and also a top 5 pick for this year, so Grunfeld has some tools to work with, but there's a lot of things he's working against, such as the economics, finding a trade partner, etc.

Posted by: -CN- | April 20, 2009 1:39 PM

If no Griffin I don't mind a trade or drafting Rubio. Rubbio may not come out due to buy out, and can be used as future trade bait (reads, Wizards have an asset that does not count against salary cap next season).

He can also be used as insurance policy for Gilbert's knee. If Gil's knee does not hold up (God forbids), then Wizards may have to start the "young player movement, Rubio would not be a bad piece to build on. The advantage of drafting Rubbio is allowing us to wait and see for a year.

Of course, the downside is we do not get immediate help for the next season. But how much can a rookie help a playoff team is a question. So I will draft Rubbio if no suitable trade can be work out.

Posted by: sagaliba | April 20, 2009 1:44 PM

If they go 2 guard, Harden is a very good choice. Yeah, he was unimpressive in the tournament, but the kid can play. He understands the game. He is already a better basketball player than Nick Young. Not a better scorer, but a better player. I hope NY finally comes around, but I have my doubts.

Posted by: mdaggie98 | April 20, 2009 3:42 PM

If we dont get blake, go for Evans, he is big like Derrick Rose and just as quick. His jumper is not quite NBA quality yet but he could blossom into a good NBA player just like Devin Harris.

Posted by: ged0386 | April 20, 2009 4:49 PM

I think in todays game if you can take a scorer and have him play with a point guard ala CP3 that opens up the bigs with athletic ability but not a large skill set like Tyson Chandler. GA can be that person tosing passes to blatche and McGee. Mike James and Dixon might be gone along with stevenson.

Posted by: ged0386 | April 20, 2009 4:55 PM

"Do the Wizards trade the draft pick if it's not Blake Griffin?"

Let's hope not.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | April 20, 2009 6:53 PM

"Micheal, I've got to disagree with you.
Backup center seems to be the number one need.

Posted by: flohrtv | April 20, 2009 12:00 PM "

If backup center is the #1 need, then why did they draft JaTravel last season?

AJ is cemented at the 4 with his 50 mil contract, and AB is the backup 4. Behind them are other draft picks such as OPech and DMac and of course there's DSong.

AB is not a 5 in this league.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | April 20, 2009 7:41 PM

Butler + #1 pick and Thomas for Chris Bosh (as long as he agrees to an extension), unless they get Griffin. Griffin is exactly what they are missing, tough rebounding and inside scoring. Toronto is going to lose Bosh they should make this deal.

Posted by: realityvision | April 20, 2009 8:08 PM

If we donot get the #1 pick package the pick along with ETan, DSON, and James or any combination therof for the best lower round pick we can get.

Preferably Tyler Hansbrough.

There migh be some team out there that might want our 2-5 pick and willing to take our deadweight along with it in some form.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | April 20, 2009 8:40 PM

lol what is there to think about or debate this team had a 19-63 record yes there were injuries but even if healthy they might make it out of the 1st round withthe team structured as is.

In my opinion a 19-63 team has a lot of dead weight other then Mcguire, Mcgee , the rest of the reserves are expendable..

Jamison ideally if Griifin is drafted should move to be the 6th man how can a 19-63 team have any guaranteed positions!

Posted by: TheBeatDontStop | April 21, 2009 8:30 AM

Based on my web research:
1. James and Thomas have PLAYER OPTION contracts. The Wiz are stuck with them, unless they can be packaged.
2. Dixon is gone.
3. McGuire is not under contract - Will they pay (Roger Mason, Jr?)
4. Critt, Pesh, and Young are TEAM OPTION. When must they exercise two of these?
This leaves two spots (Dixon and Pesh) for the draft choices.
Wait for 2010-11

Posted by: lrmc623 | April 21, 2009 10:02 AM

... if the goal is to play in the finals (win the championship) with-in the next 2 years, keep the 'Big 3.' Trade the pick, if it is not #1, and James and/or Etan for a vet.; trade the 2nd Round pick for a future pick or do the classic (pick a foreign player and keep him over seas for a couple of years).

If the goal is to cut cost and try to make the playoffs, trade Jamison (yes it will hurt but it's good for the 'long-term'; think Mike Miller, Larry Hughes, K-Mart [all have shorter contracts that Jamison]).

Remember, it all comes down to what we're playing for. I guess we will see exactly what Abe and Ernie want us playing for very soon, the playoffs/the championship, or the historic 'keep the cost low...'

WE CAN"T DO BOTH!

Posted by: fishin41 | April 21, 2009 11:00 AM

Alot of the posted suggestions make sense, my take is if it is not Blake Griffin, trade the pick, based on what has happened in the last two seasons...Brendan Haywood seems to be the MVP for the wizards and not Arenas considering what happened when we didn't have just Arenas in the line up the year before and what happened when we were missing both players this last season. The absolute untouchables should be Haywood and Arenas, somewhat untouchables should be Butler, JaVale, Young, McGuire, Jamison, Songaila and the ones that should be considered gone if there is a good return are Thomas, Critt, Pesh and the following should just be gone: Mike James, Juan Dixon and who ever else that i just can't remember.
Another pick to consider drafting and keeping in Europe is Rubio.

Posted by: tee_man | April 21, 2009 2:10 PM

There's NO dOUBT the wizards biggest need is at 2. Critt, is a good nd developing backup for gil. Nick young is coming but we need a Catch-Shoot/good def. shooter like Rick Halm.. whoever thinks sending CB3 nd others 4 bosh is stupid, because we'll still be looking for another piece.
Heres my line up based on what we have. starters-backup
Gil-Critt
Nick Young-stevenson
Butler-Dominic
Jamison-Blatche
Haywood-McGee.
You got extra big bodies like Darius nd Etan.
The rest such as Pech, James, Dixon, nd even Etan need to just disappear. The only thing is theyve under achieved so much that no team wants them. Blatche needs to step up, Stevenson better show up, but James, Dixon, Pech and Etan need to be let go.

Posted by: frankremard | April 21, 2009 2:15 PM

When the Bulls were picking last year, they had an overpopulated backcourt. They still drafted Derrick Rose and look at where they are now. We have Brendan Haywood, but is he really the answer? What we lack is defense. I'm not saying Hasheem Thabeet is the answer (he seems to disappear against bigger players) but this guy has tremendous upside. I can definitely see him as a Dikembe Mutumbo-type defensive presence. We can definitely score--I think everyone in the league knows that. But we wouldn't be able to play defense against fifth graders.

Posted by: jja1j | April 21, 2009 4:46 PM

I think we definitely need to get rid of either butler or jamison. Im not sure if this team is championship material even with the big three healthy. I suggest packaging a deal that includes: our 1st round pick, a expiring contract like etan thomas, and either jamison or butler( preferebly jamison) for Amare stoudimiare. Phoenix wanted to get rid of him at the trade deadline. With this deal we get a superstar and phoenix gets a star in jamison, a future star in the 1st round pick, and an expiring contract in etan thomas. If its not griffin than we need to trade the pick. We have enough young guys.

Posted by: pkjeremeg12 | April 21, 2009 5:20 PM

There should be no question about the #1 need of the wizards, and that is defense in general. we have players who can score and who can create on the offensive side of the ball. Ive seen rubio play and as good as he is he wont help us go from playoffs to championship. he can create but he is no cp3 or nash. there are two players in this draft that can help the wiz. of course griffin, and thabeet. a young dikembe was the perfect player to compare him to. mcgee is all skill and no heart. with the way the celtics, cavs, lakers, and magic all pound inside, our backup center needs to be able to take it more than mcgee can right now. its not all his fault. he just not a big guy. it'll take him at least another 2-3 years before he can contribute the way t. chandler, or dalembert can. now if you dont get either 1 or 2 pick, then trade the pick and second pick and if we still have the pick from the griz, trade that too. find some1 to pick up pech, etan, and james.

and has anyone else noticed the way blatche really picked up his play towards the end of the season? he was knocking down jumpers beating his man to the lane everytime (even thugh he rarely converts the layup) he is showing flashes of major improvement. the same can be said for nick on the defensive end. he has really been putting in work. and please remember this was only his second year in the league. when a team only wins 19 games it is easy to point out everyone but lets not kick ourselves by shipping guys who are developing into really good players. and despite what many people think on here, our mvp is definietly haywood. we loose caron, we lose a few games.. we lose gil, we lose even fewer. we lose haywood, our season is in the crapper. our overall best player is caron. he does it all. his overall numbers are only matched by lebron and kobe. if we trade one of our big 3. it would have to be aj. as much as he gives us rebounding and scoring downlow, he takes away from us on the defensive end when we play teams with dominate inside guys.

Posted by: maggicman11 | April 23, 2009 1:17 PM

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