Grading the Wizards offseason?
First let me say I love John Wall and think he will become a major star, so the Wizards did well there. But that was a no brainer pick that anyone on the planet could have made, so I’m not going to give them major credit for drafting John Wall. I also am a Kirk Hinrich and a Yi Jianlian fan so I give them some credit there. Yi and $3 million for Quinton Ross is a huge steal. Yi can play a little SF and even C, but will mainly be playing PF. His versatility alone makes him worth the extra $3 million against the cap. Not to mention he is a superior player and has larger upside. What I’m really grading them on here is the rest of their draft day strategy which I think was a resounding failure.
First off I was excited for the Kirk Hinrich trade that brought cash (reportedly $3 million) and the 17th overall pick to the Wizards for some future, conditional 2nd round draft pick. That is easily a steal. Hinrich has a bit of a costly deal, especially if he isn’t getting 30 minutes a night, but he can play both guard spots and isn’t a selfish player. Washington would need to bring in a veteran guard, preferably a combo guard given Arenas injury history, and considering that it was a weak point guard year in free agency the Wizards made the right move. Although Hinrich is pricey you got to figure they would have been paying $5-7 million for any free agent signing, and have to sign them to a 4-5 year deal. Hinrich is done after two years, so in the long run the Wizards saved money. He is a solid mentor for John Wall, and considering the amount of resources they put into the guard positions last year, Hinrich’s deal isn’t that bad. On top of that the Wizards get a bit of cash and the 17th overall pick which contrary to what many NBA insiders believe has a lot of value.
So while Chicago would be making the pick, the Wizards would have three picks between 17 and 35, which is perfect since there is still a good bit of talent available in that area. And if there was one thing the Wizards needed it was talent, particularly in the front court. At the start of the day the Wizards had 6 players on their roster of those two were guards Arenas and Nick Young, two were Small Forwards Al Thornton and Quinton Ross, and two were big men Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. With the Chicago deal and knowing that you were grabbing Wall your back court was pretty much set. And Nick Young can possibly get some minutes as a SF (not ideal, but possible), so the big need for the Wizards was big men, particularly ones who could play center since McGee is your weakest link.
So when the 17th pick comes up it would make sense the Wizards would grab a big man, even if they have to reach a little bit. Well they didn’t disappoint, they grabbed a big man alright and reached quite a bit to do so. Washington selected Kevin Seraphin from France. While every draft pundit talks about his upside, they also talk about how raw he is. While time will tell when he will come over and play in the NBA, many insiders believe he is at least 1 if not 2 years away from playing with the Wizards. Now stashing foreign players can have a lot of value, but not when you only have 8 guys (and that includes Wall and Hinrich) on the roster, and zero front court depth. The Wizards shouldn’t have been so focused on Seraphin’s upside, as they should have roster need. If they wanted an ‘upside’ player they could have taken center Daniel Orton, at least he fills a bigger need, and could give them minutes this upcoming season.
Washington compounded their problem by trading their 30th and 35th picks for the 23rd and 56th to move up to draft PF Trevor Booker and grab center Hamady N’diaye with the 56th pick. While I am a big fan of Booker, because I love his work ethic and passion, I don’t know if anyone else was going to grab him before the 30th pick. And while it would have been a bigger reach I would have rather seen the Wizards take him at 17 overall than trade the 30th and 35th picks to move up for him. N’diaye is in all likely hood a D-league player, and truly might never develop into anything more. So there is absolutely no value from that pick. Had they grabbed Booker at 17, the Wizards could have then taken either Hassan Whiteside or Dexter Pittman (both centers) at 30, and either Darington Hobson, Devin Ebanks, or De’Sean Butler (SF’s) or Jarvis Varnado, Jerome Jordan, Gani Lawal, Keith Gallon, or Soloman Alabi (all big men) at 35. Any way you cut it that is a much better draft and roster going forward, sure Seraphin could end up being an All-Star caliber player, but so could any of the guys I just mentioned. And they can all play (and fill a need) this year for a team still without any depth at center.
What is also frustrating about the whole Trevor Booker draft trade is that the Wizards had an extra $3 million in their pocket from the Hinrich deal. $3 million is the max amount a team can trade in a single deal, and is the going rate for late 1st round picks. Given the fact that Minnesota had multiple picks they might have been interested in selling the pick outright, and if not we know for a fact that Dallas bought 25th pick for $3 million dollars. Does anyone really believe that Booker would be off the board by then? Washington should have just bought the 23rd or 25th pick for $3 million and maybe a future 2nd rounder. While I realize the Wizards aren’t made of infinite resources, trading the $3 million for a pick is well worth the price. Particularly when you have an empty roster, and major needs. A draft pick in the early 20’s is going to be guaranteed only roughly $2.5 million over two years, and then the team will have a couple option years and restricted free agency. That is a ton of value and well worth the extra $3 million dollars. That would have meant that for some conditional 2nd round pick (and sacrificing cap space) the Wizards would have gotten Hinrich, Seraphin (or a better player) and Booker. That would have been a huge steal. Instead now that money just offsets part of Hinrich’s deal (though it doesn’t change his cap number). And instead of having a good young player under team control (which makes him a highly tradeable asset), cheaply the Wizards will have to go out and sign a free agent. If they want anything more than a warm body (which given their team, they will need to find) they will have to be paying $3-4 million a year over 4 years to a player who might not be any better than what they would have acquired with their picks. Because remember if they had just bought Booker, they would still have the 30th and 35th picks, which combined wouldn’t eat up as much cap space as some middling free agent that the Wizards had to overpay.
What’s even worse for Washington is the fact that the 31st, 44th and 50th picks were all basically sold, and at each spot a center was taken. Washington could have bought their way out of their biggest need, and even if the Jerome Jordan’s or Solomon Alabi’s don’t work out at, they are at least worth trying. Because if they do become just even effective backups they are absolute steals for the middle of the 2nd round. I think the Wizards missed a huge opportunity to grab some young players to cheaply fill out their roster and needs, to help give them financial flexibility and trade value going forward. While I love getting Hinrich, Wall and Booker, the Wizards could have done so much more and didn’t maximize thier assets (especially since they got another $3 million in the Yi trade). Had they used that $6 million to add some more assets aka players (maybe even a Euro guy in the 2nd round) I would have loved their draft day and offseason. Instead for now that $6 million is just sitting in Washington’s bank account, and to make it even worse they will have to pay even more than that to fill out their roster. Washington did well to get extra value for their cap space in the Hinrich and Yi deals, but they could have done a lot better. Right now I give them a C-, which I think is pretty generous.