John Hollinger is an NBA analyst for ESPN who evaluates pretty much every move and player in the NBA. He has a system that he uses called PER that basically shows how efficient a player is (for example in his system a guy who scores 20 points a game on 15 shots is going to be ranked higher than a guy who scores 20 on 20 shots. There is a lot more to it and involves all aspects of the game but you get the gist.) For Wizards fans though he has been a pretty critical of the Wizards most recent trade with the Hornets in involving Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. His initial dismantling of the Wizards immediately following the trade can be read here: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2012/story/_/page/wizhornetsdeal-120620/new-orleans-hornets-get-better-end-deal-washington-wizards.
His basic problem with the trade was that he thought the Wizards could have done better with the cap room that they have and sometimes not using it at all would have been the best option. He argues that the Wizards pretty much guaranteed themselves to mediocrity over the next 2 seasons because they wasted all of their cap room over the next 2 years by acquiring these 2 guys and now their current team is basically what they are stuck with. He thinks the Wizards could have used their salary cap more wisely, possibly saving it up for next off-season, spending it on an amnestied player, using it for a trade, etc… And he does have a point because the Wizards are likely to be pretty mediocre for the next 2 seasons but really we are still in the rebuilding stage so I think that we would have been anyways so in my opinion there isn’t much loss there. It would have been interesting to see if we could have either worked out a better deal with the expiring Rashard Lewis contract or bought him out and used that cap room either this year or next to acquire a key piece to the puzzle that way. As for picking up an amnestied guy, I don’t really think that is a big deal because usually they are amnestied for a reason and most of these guys are veterans who are no longer living up to their contract and are perfect that is a piece away from being a title contender. The Wizards are certainly not that team, especially not if Ariza and Okafor were not on the roster.
While a couple of Hollinger’s points are valid, I think he is blowing this thing way out of proportion. He acts like the Wizards were going to be a good team over these next couple of years had they managed their cap situation better. I really don’t see any way they could have been much more than mediocre over these next 2 years without significantly risking their future. Every Wizard fan knows that this team is young and growing and most of our guys won’t be entering their prime for a couple of years. This is really a rebuilding process for the Wizards as Wall/Beal/Seraphin/Partly Nene/Booker/Whoever else develops is our future and Ariza and Okafor are really just stop gaps to improve the team in the meantime as they help our young players grow so we can start contending in 2 years. In 2 years, Nene and Okafor’s contracts will come off of the books and then we will have the money to resign our current guys that we want for the future as well as a solid free agent (hopefully SF). Our young guys will be entering their prime and we will be ready to contend. I really just don’t think that the Wizards sacrificed their future (past these 2 years) at all with this trade and while maybe we could have gotten a better player for Lewis, I think that Hollinger is vastly overrating how bad of a trade this was for the Wizards as we were bound for mediocrity these 2 years anyways as it is part of the rebuilding process.
Then when I thought Hollinger had gotten out all of his pretty unnecessary anger to the Wizards, he entered this little blurb in his latest analysis of the Elton Brand amnesty: “And finally, let me mock Washington one more time. Rather than taking on Emeka Okafor‘s gargantuan $26 million for the next two years, the Wizards could have up to $10 million available to bid on Brand for a one-year deal that wouldn’t mess up their 2013-14 cap space; that amount almost certainly would be a winning bid. They’d also have a better player, and one who could actually play power forward. Remember, cap space isn’t just about free agents; Washington’s thinking that way cost them.”
First off let me explain how the amnesty process works: a team can amnesty one player that they had under contract when the new CBA was formed (Nov 2011). So it can’t be a guy they just traded for (ie. Nene) or a guy they just signed/re-signed (ie. Deron Williams with the Nets), he has to be on the same contract that he was on the time of the new CBA. When amnestying a player the team cuts him off their salary cap but still must pay him (he does count toward the salary floor but thats another matter). Then the player goes through a bidding process where each team can bid on his services and the team that bids the highest gets the player for whatever they bid and must pay the team that amnestied him that money. For example: Elton Brand is set to make about 18 million next season. The Sixers amnestied him so now none of that counts against the cap but they pay him the full amount. Then lets say the Mavericks place the highest bid for Brand’s services and it’s 6 million dollars. Then Brand goes to the Mavs and the Mavs pay the Sixers 6 million for Brand basically. If nobody bids for an amnestied player he becomes a free agent.
Now for what Hollinger had to say. On the surface what he says makes sense. Instead of paying Emeka Okafor about 13 million for the next 2 years we could have had Elton Brand next year for half that and had a ton of salary cap next season once Brand comes off the books. We could have done this by not trading Lewis and just buying out his contract and saving us 10 million (which we would have had to use on Brand). 2 things here: first off like I said I understand his premise and that is that the Wizards screwed themselves cap wise next year. What I am saying is I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. We will have that money freed up the very next year. LIke I said that will give the Wizards youngsters another year to grow together and I think they will be ready to go in 2 years when we will have the money to spend. Secondly, he is so worried about the Wiz being in mediocrity these next 2 years. Yet his plan for this season was to sign Elton Brand and I guess sign another SF to a mid level deal of some sort (probably an Ariza type)? Did he think that basically trading Brand for Okafor would make the Wizards some sort of contenders this year? It’s fair to say that the deal handcuffed the Wiz into mediocrity in 2013-2014, but the 2012-2013 season was basically going to be mediocre no matter what the Wizards did and Hollinger pretty much made my point by ripping us for not having the money to go after the great Elton Brand. Am I applauding Ernie Grunfeld and the rest of the Wizards front office for basically forcing us into mediocrity for only one season as opposed to the 2 that Hollinger suggested? No, I just don’t think it is nearly as bad or as big of a deal that he is making it out to be because in my opinion the Wall/Beal/Seraphin tandem won’t be ready to be a true contender for a couple more years.