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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Epic Off-season Analysis

A) What we have…

The Core (average age = 26.3): These are the guys who shouldn’t be going anywhere this off-season. Looking at this list though, one thing is clearly missing… SIZE.

> Gilbert Arenas (age 24), Caron Butler (26), Andray Blatche (19): Arenas, Butler, and Blatche should be on this team for the next 5 years at least.
> Antawn Jamison (29): Jamison shouldn’t be going anywhere yet, although his expiring contract NEXT off-season will be enticing trade bait.
> Antonio Daniels (31): We signed AD to a 5-year contract last year, so he’ll be around for the next few years as a veteran leader.
> Michael Ruffin (29): In my mind, Ruffin has earned a spot as a bench big-man for the next few years. He won’t demand a big contract, and he’ll always know his role.
> Eddie Jordan: It’s time to give Eddie a contract extension. The grass is always greener on the other side, but I think we need to reward the man for bringing us back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in my lifetime.

Question Marks:

> Jared Jeffries (24): Jeffries is a restricted free agent, giving us the right to match any offer. As a 24-year-old with his size and athleticism, he is certain to receive at least a Mid-Level offer from someone. But is he really worth it?
> Brendan Haywood (26): Haywood is a reasonably priced, relatively young Center. His development has been frustrating. Should we trade him now while other teams still see his potential?
> Etan Thomas (28): We overpaid Etan a few years ago, and his contract is the only bad one on the team. Will anyone take him, and would it cost too much to get rid of him? Maybe we should try to get him playing better next fall, and then look to deal him at the deadline. Why sell low?
> Jarvis Hayes (24): Who knows what to expect from Jarvis at this point. He’s still young, so we still have time to find out what we have.

Developmental Squad:

> Donell Taylor (23), Peter John Ramos (20): These guys need a few more years before we’ll know if they can develop into NBA rotation players. The coaching staff will be working closely with them over the summer.

Roster Filler / Spare Parts:

> Avwee Storey (29), Billy Thomas (30): At age 29 and age 30, Storey and Thomas are likely to be replaced by young guys with higher ceilings. I expect that our 1st and 2nd round picks will take their roster spots.


B) And now on to our options…

Free Agent Big Guys (RFA = Restricted Free Agent):

> Ben Wallace: Big Ben isn’t going anywhere.
> Al Harrington: Is Al Harrington really worth the price he’s going to demand?
> Nazr Mohammed: Mohammed isn’t any better than Haywood.
> Joel Przybilla: Przybilla is a terrific shot-blocker, but you know somebody will overpay for him (Toronto?)
> Nene (RFA): With K-Mart on the outs, the Nuggets are expected to lock up the young and talented Nene, despite injury troubles.
> Drew Gooden (RFA): Say what you will about Drew Gooden failing to live up to the expectations of a top-4 draft pick, but he’s quietly developed into one of the better offensive rebounding PFs in the league. Does Cleveland want to pony up to keep him? Maybe they think Varejao can step in? He could be an interesting sign-and-trade option.
> Chris Wilcox (RFA): A lock to resign in Seattle.
> Reggie Evans: We have him already. His name is Michael Ruffin.
> Zo Mourning: Old. Sick.
> Lorenzen Wright: His best days appear to be behind him.

Rumored to be Available:

> Kenyon Martin: His attitude doesn’t worry me, because George Karl is a dick. K-Mart’s knees however, do worry me.
> Kevin Garnett: We don’t have enough to make this happen. It would take a big package of talented youth from a team like Golden State, Chicago, or Boston.
> Jermaine O’Neal: I don’t see why they would trade him. I think it’s just media BS. He’s not the problem with the Pacers.
> Zach Randolph: His skills are immense, but his attitude is a significant question mark, and his contract is HUGE. Maybe he’d be fine if he got away from the train wreck that is the Jail Blazers?
> Darius Miles: I don’t like his game (or lack of a game, to be more precise). He’s also completely insane.
> Stromile Swift: Physical specimen who has struggled to put it together in Memphis and Houston. However, I honestly think that Houston’s and Memphis’ slowdown offenses are a HORRIBLE fit for him. Stro’s per-40-minute numbers have always been solid, but he’s never gotten more than about 20 mpg. He reminds me of Chris Wilcox, and look what Wilcox did when he finally got extended playing time in a system that suits his skills (31 mpg, 59% shooting, 14 pts, 8 rebounds).
> Jamaal Magloire: With Bogut’s development and the presence of Dan Gadzuric on the bench, the Bucks are rumored to be dangling Magloire. He is overpaid, though.
> Carlos Boozer: Boozer has been rumored to be on the trading block seemingly since the day he set foot in Utah. However, I really don’t see him going anywhere, given his stellar play over the 2nd half of last season (18 points and 9 rebounds per game in his last 30 games). If Utah could find a 2-guard, they could be one of the top 5 teams in the West with Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Boozer, and Mehmet Okur.

Potential Deals:

(Note: I am not implying that these are all good ideas for the Wizards. I am just listing deals that could be possible.)

> Denver – Kenyon Martin for Haywood/Thomas/Hayes: Hayes gives Denver the perimeter shooter they’ve been looking for at the 2, and Haywood and Thomas help with Denver’s interior depth. Given Camby and Nene’s fragility, this could make some sense for the Nuggets.
> Golden State – Haywood for Murphy (must include others to make contracts work… Hayes/Etan/Booth?): Golden State wants to get rid of Murphy’s contract and turn the PF position over to Ike Diogu. Would Haywood get it done? They might see him as a significant upgrade over Adonal Foyle at the 5.
> Houston – Stromile for Wood: This could make a lot of sense for both teams. Swift would fit our up-tempo style, and the Rockets currently have the decrepit Dikembe Mutombo backing up Yao (not to mention Yao’s foot problems).
> Milwaukee: Trade scenarios work, involving Magloire/Gadzuric and Haywood/Thomas. Plus, Milwaukee was the team that tried to sign Etan Thomas two years ago. But do any of these deals really make sense? It would basically just be rearranging similar parts.
> Portland – Thomas/Haywood/others for Randolph: Randolph’s reputation has taken a big hit, enough so that there may not be many suitors for him. If Portland really wants to dump him, a package of good-guy big-guys might get it done. Randolph’s only 24, he’s a 20-10 machine, and his high-post game is ideal for our offense. If Portland would take this package, I would seriously consider it (after doing some hardcore background checks on Randolph). Randolph was a model citizen at Michigan State, so maybe he just needs to be in the right environment.
> San Antonio: Here’s a thought out of left field… what would it take to get Luis Scola’s rights from the Spurs? Luis Scola is one of the best PFs in the world, and given the success of his Argentinean teammates (Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni), as well as his domination of Ben Wallace and Jermaine O’Neal in the 2002 World Championships, there’s no reason to believe that his game won’t translate to the NBA. With Nazr Mohammed expected to leave the Spurs, and Rasho Nesterovic and Fabricio Oberto the only big-men remaining, the Spurs would certainly be interested in Brendan Haywood. If we could work out a deal to get Scola to come to the US in advance, I would gladly give up Haywood and our 1st round pick.
> Utah: Will they shop Boozer? Would they be interested in a sign-and-trade of Jeffries, packaged with Haywood, and possibly our first-round pick?

Thinking outside the box:

> Trade Jamison to get into the top 10: If we could move up and get our hands on someone like LaMarcus Aldridge or Andrea Bargnani, would it be worth the risk? A core of Arenas, Butler, Blatche, and someone like Aldridge would be as talented and promising as any in the league. We could also use 2 first-round picks to facilitate other deals. Some teams in the lottery that might be willing to trade picks/youth for Jamison:
1) Minnesota: The T-Wolves would kill for Jamison, given the rapidly closing window of Kevin Garnett.
2) Houston: Could we get Swift and their lottery pick (plus cap-filler)?
3) Boston: They have been stockpiling young talent, most notably Al Jefferson and Gerald Green. However, Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak aren’t getting any younger. Would the Celtics jump at the opportunity to turn some of their youth into a veteran scorer like Jamison?
4) Chicago: They have been desperate for a PF who can score, would Antawn fit the bill? He might be a nice offensive balance on their front line to Tyson Chandler’s defensive presence.

> Stick with what we’ve got: That’s right, do nothing. Roster consistency is extremely underrated in the NBA. Sometimes it pays to just take some time and let your players develop both as a team and as individuals. Given the relative youth of our squad, this might not be such a bad idea. If we let Jeffries go, we could focus our coaching staff on developing Blatche, and hopefully prepare him for 20 minutes per game. We could use the 1st round pick on a young big guy with a game that suits our system. Standing pat wouldn’t be the worst thing that ever happened, and next off-season Jamison’s expiring max contract becomes a huge trading chip.


C) In the end….

We don’t have much money to sign a FA (although we could use Jeffries in a sign-and-trade), and the pickings are pretty slim anyway. I think Jamison stays for now, since his value will be much higher a year from now when his contract is expiring. I think we’ll let Jeffries go because Grunfeld is not going to overpay to keep him (see Larry Hughes). With Hayes returning and increased time for Blatche, we should be able to replace Jared. We need Etan to work hard in the off-season to get his game back where it was in 03-04. Haywood will probably stay (although I wouldn’t mind a Haywood-Swift deal). Given Wood’s reasonable salary, he’s actually a very good value for us despite his inconsistency. We’ll use our #1 pick (18th overall) on a young big-man (don’t worry, I’ll do a draft preview). Will we use the Mid-Level Exception? Not if it means we’re overpaying someone in a weak FA market. Fiscally, it might make sense to refrain from using it, and focus on next off-season for re-signing Arenas, clearing Jamison off the cap, etc.

So, here's next year’s projected roster:

1 – Arenas, Daniels
2 – Hayes, Taylor
3 – Butler, Blatche
4 – Jamison, Etan, 1st Rounder
5 – Haywood, Ruffin, Ramos, Booth, 2nd Rounder

Arenas will be one year better. Caron Butler should be a bigger factor in his second full season with the team. The return of Jarvis Hayes will give us another scoring option on nights when any of the Big 3 struggle. Jamison will be his usual 20-10 self. And between Haywood and Ruffin, we should manage to get effective interior play.

Making panic moves now for the sake of change could be devastating to the long-term future of the team. As constituted above, this team should win at least 45-50 games, and we would be set up nicely for what should be a FAR more interesting off-season in 2007 (Jamison’s expiring deal, ridiculously loaded draft, tantalizing free agent pool).

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