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Ted Leonsis's 'Open Note to Wizards Fans'

Ted Leonsis hired his son, Zach, as an intern this summer and gave him the assignment of researching what made NBA teams champions over the past 20 season. The results of that research could be found in Leonsis's latest blog post about his plans for the franchise. Leonsis has never hid his desire to build a franchise through the draft and he has come to discover that the foundations of the seven championship teams from that period of time were acquired in the draft.

"That drafted player has been the identity of the team, the leader of the team, and for the most part, the team's best player," Leonsis writes, citing the examples of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon (whom he still calls Akeem the Dream), Dwyane Wade and Paul Pierce.

Leonsis offers an extensive look into his plans for the Wizards and that likely means that the franchise is not seeking to hit a homerun in free agency. Leonsis writes:

"I am loathe to the notion of adding one free agent to solve all of the ailments of a franchise. We have seen time and time again that there is huge risk in signing a max free agent without having true infrastructure, system, and a core already built. We have seen in the NBA and the NHL that young players drafted and developed correctly, are the best way to build a great team. A team that wins championships."

By Michael Lee  |  June 23, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
 
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Next: Ernie Grunfeld discusses a 'new era'

Comments

EG may not realize it, but his job is on the line. If JW doesn't work out and/or the team does not improve quickly, EG is history.

Not sure if I agree with this. Uncle Ted has said that he wants to build through the draft, with youngsters. He knows from his experience with the Capitals that that is not a quick path to success, and he has already indicated that he expects next year's Wizards team to struggle. If Wall goes bust, that might very well doom EG and/or Flip, but since Wall seems to be the consensus no. 1 pick, it could be said that the league's judgement was wrong, not just EG's. I don't know how long EG's "rope" is, but I suspect that it's longer than just this year.

Posted by: rufus_t_firefly | June 23, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

The question is how bad do EG and Ted want that pick. Would they trade Gilbert?

I think the real questions are whether the Pacers would want Arenas at his near-max salary and, if so, whether the Wizards would want the contracts that the Pacers would have to include in the deal to make it work under the cap. If it was just a question of trading Arenas straight up for the no. 10 overall pick, I think the Wizards would make that deal twice.

Posted by: rufus_t_firefly | June 23, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

EG should have known (and maybe he did) how flawed the Wizards roster was last year even with Arenas back in the lineup. Possibly he was operating the team under guidance from Mr. Pollin to make a run at getting back in the playoffs. I'm sure EG wishes he had used the No. 5 pick last year to Stephon Curry or another young player to build around.

EG's back is to the wall to come up with another No. 1 draft pick that is higher in the draft such that there will be another potential foundation player. I don't think that Ted will keep him from spending the $3M to acquire a pick or using it to package with our other pick to move up in 1st round. Ted knows the team will be in the lottery again next year and isn't going to tie up big money in a player like Rudy Gay just to appease the fan base and I applaud him for this. It's going to take 2-3 years of good drafts to even be in position to get a marquee free agent to add to the mix.

Posted by: wizfan89 | June 23, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Everyone's job is probably on the line as well they should be, but now that Ted is pulling EGs strings his job is probably fairly safe. He's been given a blueprint to execute and will draft accordingly rather than trying to put a team of his own design together.

Posted by: divi3 | June 23, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

LOL I think Ted forgets that the drafted player is often the team's biggest bust, too. Drafting 19 year olds doesn't yet qualify as a science.

A lot of it is the luck of the draw, and Ted got really, really lucky this year. With his basketball franchise, that is.

Posted by: Samson151 | June 23, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Does Ted also realize that those drafted players also had quality around them that may not have necessarily come by way of the teams draft.

I think he gets it, but you also cannot harm or hinder the greater success of your team just for the sake of the draft.

Duncan came in and the Admiral was there.
Majic came into a championship squad already.
Larry Bird came into a veteran squad.
Michael Jordan made players around him great with Pippen, etc.

The draft is an important avenue, but is only part of the equation.

In particular, lets say we trade Gilbert to Indiana for the 10th pick and Gilbert actually has changed and is a viable asset.

I don't think any asset in the draft at the 10th pick would ever measure up to Gilbert if Gilbert regains his mojo and especially with John Wall.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | June 23, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

All the alleged signs, all the so-called expert predictions indicate that John Wall is the closest thing to a lock on NBA stardom since LeBron....

Few doubt that his impact will be anything less than that of Derrick Rose....

If all this holds true then Ted and Ernie both have gotten themselves quite a bit of breathing space.

As to the possibility of Indiana trading it's mid first round pick for Gilbert Arenas, sheesh, dream on... Gilbert, as Michael Wilbon suggested in his column, is here until at least mid-season... when his numbers and ability to jell with the Wall will make him either more tradeable or virtually indispensible, respectively.

What the Wizards need, and what the rest of this draft (which is EG's true test) must provide is a second center (Orton, Alabi, Whiteside, Pittman, depending on where the team drafts) and a potential starting three who can defend and shoot the long ball (Henry, Anderson, the list is pretty extensive)...

Posted by: khrabb | June 23, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I love the quote about him being "loathe" to add high price free agents.
You think he's still bitter about overpaying Jagr?

My only worry is that he sees the Caps/Wizards as one big entity rather than separate situations. Pro basketball is a man's game. The Wizards could use a MLE veteran who's battle-tested. A few suggestions Ted:

Al Harrington
Udonis Haslem
Travis Outlaw

Outlaw is the youngest of the bunch but he'll be entering his 6th season I believe.

Posted by: elfreako | June 23, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

In almost all of the cases that Leonsis cites, major trades factor into the Championship run (e.g. KG-Allen in Boston, Kobe himself was part of a trade combined with Shaq-Odom and later Gasol who LA dealt for, Wade-Shaq, etc, etc).

Artest is an example of a significant free-agent signing that helped LA, but I'm hard pressed to think of a case where an NBA franchise successfully built through free agency. Is this right?

Related question, perhaps this is because of things like the Bird rule (e.g. the elite of the elite rarely change teams, so major power alignments and re-alignments don't tend to happen via free agency -- unlike in baseball and the NFL over the past decade and a half where there have been some free agent moves that tilted the balance of power within the league)?

Posted by: JPRS | June 23, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"I am loathe to the notion of adding one free agent to solve all of the ailments of a franchise. We have seen time and time again that there is huge risk in signing a max free agent without having true infrastructure, system, and a core already built."

The next line should read:

But if Durantula comes available I'm on it like white on rice!

Posted by: divi3 | June 23, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

From the department of far flung rumors:
Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche and #30 for Elton Brand, Jason Kapono and the #2.

Posted by: midlevex_ | June 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"From the department of far flung rumors:
Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche and #30 for Elton Brand, Jason Kapono and the #2."

Yeah, that's not gonna happen.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"Artest is an example of a significant free-agent signing that helped LA, but I'm hard pressed to think of a case where an NBA franchise successfully built through free agency. Is this right?"

It's almost never an either/or thing. Most winning teams acquire talent through a combo of the draft, free agency, and trades.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

This is still a #1 - 5 league in my estimation. KOBE BRYANT doesn't win championship's without GASOL in the center position, and didn't. So do we build the franchise around a strong center or a great guard?

From everything I'm heard and read regarding COUSINS and WALL, the consensus seems to be there are less ?-marks around taking WALL than COUSINS. As much as I would like to draft a #5 with the first pick, none of the choices there give the appearance of becoming a DWIGHT HOWARD or a SHAQ. So I'm for playing it safe, and getting a guard who can develop into the #1 #1 in the NBA - WALL.

Posted by: glawrence007 | June 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I heard this past weekend that the agent for JW has some ties with the Orlando Magic and he is pushing for a GA trade because he wants JW to be numero uno in DC.

Anyone else hear anything else about that?

I am hoping that Ted and EG will wait and give GA and JW a chance to click. Since GA is in Chi-town training again, I am thinking that he has every intention of proving everyone wrong and coming back in tip-top shape.

Maybe all the JW talk will light a fire under GA and he will have a career year.

TEliasB

Posted by: TEliasB | June 23, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

From the department of far flung rumors:
Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche and #30 for Elton Brand, Jason Kapono and the #2.


Posted by: midlevex_ | June 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Dude, get off that stuff, this ain't Alice in Wonderland.

Posted by: glawrence007 | June 23, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

" I am thinking that he has every intention of proving everyone wrong and coming back in tip-top shape." TElias

That's the GA we know and love, not the pistol pickin' crazy in the locker-room.
He has an absolute penchant for being the underdog and proving the world wrong. And he's in dog-heaven right now that's for sure. He WILL play with WALL. He ain't going anywhere.

Posted by: glawrence007 | June 23, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

"Sources near the situation say Grunfeld has one more year to get the Wizards moving in the right direction or he'll be replaced next summer. This draft and the impending free agency is important to Ernie's job security and as a result some insiders believe he Wizards could be extremely active on draft night, a role usually played by the Portland Trail Blazers."
http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=16541

Ernie's ass is on the line as it should be. No spin from Melodeous Thunk can change that fact.

Posted by: closg | June 23, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

LOL I think Ted forgets that the drafted player is often the team's biggest bust, too. Drafting 19 year olds doesn't yet qualify as a science.
Posted by: Samson151

Yeah, but at least these days it's a $3M a year mistake instead of a $17M a year one.

Posted by: ts35 | June 23, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, but at least these days it's a $3M a year mistake instead of a $17M a year one.

Posted by: ts35 | June 23, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

TOUCHE`

Posted by: glawrence007 | June 23, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

As for Ted, I think he's got it in good perspective. He's not saying he'll never trade for a big name or sign one in FA. he's saying he wants to at least build in a base of talent through the draft. I think that makes a lot of sense, especially economically.

Doug Gotlieb has spent the morning on ESPN comparing DeMarcus Cousins to Benoit Benjamin.....ouch.

Posted by: ts35 | June 23, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"I am loathe to the notion of adding one free agent to solve all of the ailments of a franchise. We have seen time and time again that there is huge risk in signing a max free agent without having true infrastructure, system, and a core already built."

Yes, but a lot of championship teams have been built by TRADING for impact players with some moron who doesn't know what he's got.

Examples: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Robert Parish, Earl Monroe, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Dennis Johnson, Kevin Garnett, etc.

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | June 23, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I think Gilbert Arenas has poisined our brain.No matter effort he put to make a remarkable change in his basketball life, please do not forget that he can go back to square one any time before we know it.I am confident that he could do well with Wall,His knee will be fine even if he could not be to his preinjury situation but i can not take a chance if some body realy want to take him.Selling him with the 10th pick and taking a bad two years contract from Indiana is a perfect house cleaning.The trade with 76ers is a joke.why we need a damaged body for this ball club? a trade with orlando is perfect for wiz if they could get the reserve center,bass and a bad contract but not v. Carter.Golden state might still take him.

Posted by: gtefferra | June 23, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

If there was a club willing to take on Arenas' $80mill contract, the deal would be done instantly.

But no team is dumb enough to take on Gil's deal, so he is ours for now. All we can do is hope that somehow he thrives being a completely different player than we've ever seen from him before.

Posted by: divi3 | June 23, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Artest is an example of a significant free-agent signing that helped LA, but I'm hard pressed to think of a case where an NBA franchise successfully built through free agency. Is this right?

Posted by: JPRS | June 23, 2010 11:12 AM |

I would think LA Lakers would qualify as a team built though free agency.

Shaq was sign as a free agent out of Orlando.

Without him there is no way that team wins a championship without him.

Although with that said signing Karl Malone didn't help them much.

And I wouldn't exactly say that the steller team of the Nets and Pistions of this decade were built though the draft.

Anyone trust Joe Dumars with a draft pick?? LOL, sorry Joe I shouldn't have went there.

Posted by: dcinmd1 | June 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

If Arenas plays 70 games the Wiz win 35 to 42 games this year and make a bid for the #8 seed.

Posted by: jeremybozz | June 23, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

As much as I am "loathe" to agree with Wilbon on most things recently, he's correct. Trading Gilbert before his value is established would be foolish AND difficult. Go Justice!

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | June 23, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

As much as I am "loathe" to agree with Wilbon
Posted by: WestCoastBullet

You should have stopped right there. I've stopped listening to Wilbon about anything in specific regards to sports in DC.

Posted by: ts35 | June 23, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"And I wouldn't exactly say that the steller team of the Nets and Pistions of this decade were built though the draft."

Like I said, it's usually a mix of all 3, and if anything, FA is usually the least vital of the 3:

Pistons: Tayshaun Prince (draft), Rasheed and Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton (trade), Chauncey Billups (FA).

Nets: Kerry Kittles and Kenyon Martin (draft); Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson,(trade).

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

My only worry is that he sees the Caps/Wizards as one big entity rather than separate situations. Pro basketball is a man's game.
Posted by: elfreako

As opposed to hockey?

The Wizards could use a MLE veteran who's battle-tested. A few suggestions Ted:

Al Harrington
I don't know if I would call Al Harrington battle-tested. He's basically Jamison without the character.

Udonis Haslem
Travis Outlaw

Outlaw is the youngest of the bunch but he'll be entering his 6th season I believe.

I don't have a specific problem with Haslem or Outlaw. I doubt Haslem is coming to the Wiz unless we overpay him. Probably true for Outlaw as well.

Posted by: ts35 | June 23, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

ts35,
I actually agree with you, I just tempered my criticism (still riding the US Golden Goal high), because every once in a while he'll elicit a chuckle from me on PTI. But, then again he can do that show from Chicago.

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | June 23, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Absent the Wiz overpaying them, the only way 30+year-old vets like Haslem will sign on here is if they have no better options/offers. Haslem will.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I do like the troika though of Haslem, Outlaw and Harrington....

"Which one of these is not like the other ones, not like the other ones, not like the other ones...."

Posted by: ts35 | June 23, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Without looking a the stats I like the energy Outlaw brings and he can finish some assists for Wall with some serious Al Oops.

Posted by: WestCoastBullet | June 23, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"Without looking a the stats I like the energy Outlaw brings and he can finish some assists for Wall with some serious Al Oops."

In that case, you should probably look at the stats. Outlaw has been primarily a spot up shooter the last few years.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I don't know how I feel about Leonis's free agent approach for the Wizards. I mean I absolutely love that strategy when it comes to the Capitals as it's much easier to find quality hockey players then basketball players and with the salary cap you need to keep cost down. It also works in the NFL, though I must admit I'm really enjoying the way the Redskins are building their team.

However the NBA is a different animal. Once you get past pick 10 it becomes very different to find much more then average players. In fact picks 10-20 in the NBA draft are probably the equivalent of third round picks in the NFL draft. 5-9 is like the second round and pick 5 is like having the 32nd pick in the NFL draft.

The Celtics were doing it this way for a while and were able to acquire great players in Pierce and Jefferson, however until they traded and formed the Big 3 they were a laughing stock, and Danny Ainge was in danger of loosing his job.

Building through the draft will probably get you to the playoffs however without shrewd maneuvering through free agency and trades you won't get very far. See the Bulls a few years ago and the Hawks as they stand presently.

Posted by: RedskinsXXVI | June 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

In that case, you should probably look at the stats. Outlaw has been primarily a spot up shooter the last few years.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

be fair, while slim definitely chucks it more than he bangs it, he's more than capable of finishing the break. just hit up youtube got some nice vids of him finishing over my man Rudy Gay, as well as Pau gasol, a serious joint in Yao's Mug, and enough Al Oops to make you rethink that statement. Sometimes it's better to actually watch the person play basketball rather than just regurgitating stats or talkin sh!+

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | June 23, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The Celtics were doing it this way for a while and were able to acquire great players in Pierce and Jefferson, however until they traded and formed the Big 3 they were a laughing stock, and Danny Ainge was in danger of loosing his job.

Building through the draft will probably get you to the playoffs however without shrewd maneuvering through free agency and trades you won't get very far. See the Bulls a few years ago and the Hawks as they stand presently.

Posted by: RedskinsXXVI | June 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

you do realize you cited TRADES as the driving force behind the Celts resurgence. I dunno how many Fas the brought in Daniels,Shelden Williams. Ted didn't say much about trades, and even then the Celts traded either draft picks or players they drafted, but not so much free agency.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | June 23, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

"Sometimes it's better to actually watch the person play basketball rather than just regurgitating stats or talkin sh!+"

That's pretty funny coming from a guy who just admitted he got all his info from youtube.

I've seen Outlaw play plenty. And, as a result of seeing him play, I know he's primarily a spot up shooter, youtube clips notwithstanding.

hell, I'm sure if someone looked hard enough they could find one or two posts of you not saying something stupid. Doesn't alter the overarching reality, however.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

"Sometimes it's better to actually watch the person play basketball rather than just regurgitating stats or talkin sh!+"

That's pretty funny coming from a guy who just admitted he got all his info from youtube.

I've seen Outlaw play plenty. And, as a result of seeing him play, I know he's primarily a spot up shooter, youtube clips notwithstanding.

hell, I'm sure if someone looked hard enough they could find one or two posts of you not saying something stupid. Doesn't alter the overarching reality, however.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

right. so you didn't try to take a shot at WestCoastBullet's comment about Outlaw's energy and potential to finish alley oops with john wall by saying that outlaw is primarily a shooter?I understand that his bread and butter is the perimeter game, but the video of real IN-GAME action shows that Outlaw has the ability to finish at the rim over a bigger defender, or on the break with the alley oop pass. I dunno if WestCoastBullet meant that the Wiz were gonna run the alley oop like Jackie Moon and Downtown FunkyStuff Malone in Semi-Pro, but i think he was talking about open court excitement and monster dunks,two things clearly evidenced on several youtube videos. But this type of thing is to be expected of you. Make it all about whatever you think about me, and forget about your far off assesment of Outlaw in regards to finishing at the rim.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | June 23, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse


"Sometimes it's better to actually watch the person play basketball rather than just regurgitating stats or talkin sh!+"

That's pretty funny coming from a guy who just admitted he got all his info from youtube.

Posted by: kalo_rama | June 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

i don't get it. Is youtube a statbook, or a site where you can watch videos?Did i admit to "get all my info from youtube?" or did i say i just watched a video of him dunking on people. I understand this is a tough one for you, but Outlaw dunks the ball......a lot. You can't refute it. You can say he shoots more jumpers than he dunks the ball, like i said

be fair, while slim definitely chucks it more than he bangs it........
Posted by: lilhollywood10 | June 23, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

but then you wouldn't be able to make a snarky comment b/c we'd be agreeing.


Posted by: lilhollywood10 | June 23, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

The Celtics were doing it this way for a while and were able to acquire great players in Pierce and Jefferson, however until they traded and formed the Big 3 they were a laughing stock, and Danny Ainge was in danger of loosing his job.

Building through the draft will probably get you to the playoffs however without shrewd maneuvering through free agency and trades you won't get very far. See the Bulls a few years ago and the Hawks as they stand presently.

Posted by: RedskinsXXVI | June 23, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

you do realize you cited TRADES as the driving force behind the Celts resurgence. I dunno how many Fas the brought in Daniels,Shelden Williams. Ted didn't say much about trades, and even then the Celts traded either draft picks or players they drafted, but not so much free agency.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | June 23, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I was talking about doing it the Caps way in general which has been drafting players and either trading for cheap but savey veterans (Eric Berlanger/Joe Corvo) or simply signing them as free agents (Knubble/Morrison). Leonis seems like he's going to follow the same blue print as the Bulls, Grizzlies, and Hawks in recent years, which is mainly drafting players and supplementing them with role players in free agency.

So in the end maybe it was all a presumption on my part that he was going to avoid blockbuster trades like the Celtics made for the Big 3 and the Lakers for Pau Gasol. However part of the Caps M.O. has been avoiding big name free agents (A-Train) and trades (Pronger) all together which is fine because they've drafted very well, but the NBA is a different animal all together.

Still Ted Leonis is a smart man, if anyone can figure out how to navigate the waters of putting together an NBA Team it's him.

Posted by: RedskinsXXVI | June 23, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

dcinmd1,

Good point regarding Shaq and the Lakers.

Posted by: JPRS | June 23, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

So, who would trade Ovie for Sidney?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | June 23, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Ted said he wouldn't sign a MAX contract free agent if the team didn't have the correct INFRASTRUCTURE. So if there are supporting role players for every position like LA had before they signed shaq then it has the roster of an elite team. Think about it, the only way to get cap space for a max contract free agent and have low salary young players is through the draft when young players can't negotiate contracts much. It makes sense but its not the quick fix most fans want.

Posted by: jefferu | June 23, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

"I am loathe to the notion of adding one free agent to solve all of the ailments of a franchise."

GOOD! Do not add LBJ!

Actually it's the smart trades and thorough research that builds good teams. You got to have a wise GM to do that. And a smart coach as well. Knee-jerk reactions in getting rid of our own player(s) and acquiring one almost always ends in disaster.

Posted by: RedCherokee | June 24, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

These letters and other things are good but the bottom line is he needs to put a winner on the court

Fans like interaction but want WINNERS on top of everything

If a winner is put on the court, fans will come flocking quickly

If not, they won't go no matter how nice the owner is and cheap the tickets are....

Posted by: Bious | June 24, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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