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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Wizards

The case against Kevin Durant going to Washington

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The persistent rumor of Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City for Washington reared its head again when Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned “rumblings” of Durant narrowing his 2016 choice down to the Thunder and Wizards.

Let’s break down the case for and against the Wizards as a Durant destination

Should the Thunder be worried about Durant leaving?

Absolutely. By the time of his free agency in 2016 he’ll have played 9 seasons in the league and the media pressure will be eating at his legacy if he hasn’t won a championship yet. The Thunder will have had 4 seasons after the James Harden trade to prove they made the right choice and Durant will have to consider whether the next 4 years will be any different. That Oklahoma City’s inability to win a title so far has been so heavily affected by its owners refusing to pay the luxury tax or amnesty Kendrick Perkins, may also rub Durant the wrong way. Oklahoma City’s owners are not doing everything in their means to win a title.

Why Washington?

Those making a case for Washington are doing so for two reasons. First, Washington, D.C. is Durant’s hometown. Secondly, Washington has appealing young players like John Wall and Bradley Beal along with other pieces like a centre in Marcin Gortat, to help Durant contend immediately after making the move. Playing in the weaker Eastern Conference also helps the new Wizards become a powerhouse, albeit if Lebron’s Cavaliers and Durant’s Wizards are both in the East and West no longer has a Thunder with Durant, the days of conference imbalance may have shifted.

The case against

I have a hard time buying into the Wizards as this major a threat for Durant, for the same reason the years of Kevin Love to the Lakers rumours never sold me. The problem is most of what Washington can provide is similar to Oklahoma City’s case. Durant playing in his hometown has sentimental appeal, but does it have more sentimental appeal than staying in Oklahoma City with the love he has for the city and long time teammates there? Likewise, Washington has young talent, but playing with the Wizards talent like John Wall, Bradley Beal and an older Marcin Gortat is not a more elite core than playing with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, etc. The Eastern Conference would only be easier than the West in the first two rounds which hasn’t been Oklahoma City’s problem. Facing down a conference final-Finals combination like Cleveland and the best West team isn’t an easier task to the title than the Thunder have now. If Durant is dissatisfied with Oklahoma City management and coaching, this doesn’t play in Washington’s favour as their current ownership/management/coaching core of Ted Leonisis Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman has often been derided.

As mentioned before, the key reason for Durant leaving Oklahoma City is losing faith the franchise can win him a title. Does moving to the Wizards really solve this problem for Durant? Or is it just a lateral move?

I haven’t even mentioned yet that Oklahoma City will also be able to offer Durant the highest maximum salary, likely the biggest contract the league has ever seen at that point. Durant is the type of competitor who would take a pay-cut to land in the best situation, especially with his sizeable marketing income, but it’s another reason why Washington has to provide a clearly better situation than Oklahoma City, not just one as good.

Is there better candidates?

So if he leaves, what we likely have is a Durant who’s played 9 seasons without winning a title and despite his love in many ways for playing in Oklahoma City, has to find a better spot to achieve in goals and fulfill the potential of his career.

What I want is a team with two other veteran superstar players, like Miami had. Then when adding Durant, they become a “super-team” everyone should fear. The part that’s playing against Oklahoma City is that the cap is expected to rise heavily due to a new TV deal, which could give more teams the available cap-space to chase after Durant.

There’s 3 teams that stand out to me:

L.A. Clippers – No star wants to go the Lakers anymore, so the Clippers may as well take their place for the L.A. team who’s success attracts the big stars leaving their teams. More-so, in terms of willingness to spend whatever luxury tax it takes, surely Steve Ballmer would be the utter opposite of Oklahoma City’s owners. Durant joins two other superstar talents in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and while Paul would be heading into his 12th season, he has the skill and smarts to age beautifully, especially if he’s the 3rd scoring option of this core.

Getting Durant to L.A. is tricky financially, as Paul, Blake, J.J. Redick and Spencer Hawes combine for 56.2 million already signed in 2016-2017 and this is before considering Deandre Jordan’s likely sizeable next contract. The cap in 2016-2017 is estimated to be at something like $88.8 million based on a 45% increase from 2015-2016, but Durant may also have to be paid something like $25-30 million in his first year to match the increase.

Why I believe it can work is if the cap blows up this heavily in the summer of 2016, there will be more capspace than free agents to sign with it which could lead to a comically insane bidding wars for the free agents available. Because of this, teams may realize the sharper move is to absorb contracts from other teams to make use of their capspace. Therefore if it takes the Clippers moving Jordan, Redick, Hawes or other contracts to make room for Durant after he agrees to sign, considering the cap conditions this may be a fairly easy roadblock to get past. The important number is that Paul and Griffin’s combined 43 million owed in 2016-2017 is so far below a projected cap number like $88 million, that fitting Durant after a few moves looks more than feasible.

Houston Rockets – The appeal is similar to the Clippers. They have two stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard and would promise a super-team to Durant. In addition the owner/GM combination of Les Alexander and Daryl Morey is one of the most reliable and committed in the league. The upside is a more complimentary fit, with a defensive anchor in Dwight beside Harden and Durant instead of two offensive stars like Paul and Blake. But Dwight also represents the downside, as he’d be heading into season 13 and has a style of game expected to age less gracefully than a player like Chris Paul. Dwight will always be both gigantic and a smart players, so I expect he wouldn’t be chopped liver, but the longevity of the trio is less clear-cut.

Financially the Rockets are set to make a run at Durant. Dwight Howard will likely opt out of his 23.3 player option in the summer of 2016 considering the new TV deal’s prices and the bidding war that will come with it and could cost more than Durant to keep. However, Harden only makes 16.7 million in 2016-2017 so this helps make the combination more affordable. Trevor Ariza’s 7.8 million in 2016-2017 is the only other notable contract for the Rockets, unless Terrence Jones is extended a year early. In any case like the Clippers, moving contracts that aren’t Harden and Dwight probably won’t be hard.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Oh, did you forget these guys? Yes, the immediate question is if Lebron James is blocking Durant from SF and Kevin Love is blocking Lebron from going to PF again, how do you start all three? But to me it’s not out of the question that eventually Cleveland decides its favorite lineup is Lebron at power forward and Kevin Love at center, a godly mismatch even before adding Durant at the three.

Financially it’s the most difficult of these options, considering Lebron will also be getting a new contract with the TV deal. Kevin Love has an opt out in the summer of 2015, but financially he may feel the best decision is to opt in, then get a mega contract the summer after. This is before considering Kyrie Irving’s 14.8 million and Anderson Varejao’s new 10 million extension. Getting all of Durant, Lebron and Love would likely require both Love signing next summer at a smaller deal and moving Irving and Varejao’s contracts first. Otherwise perhaps the Cavaliers just let Kevin Love go in free agency and still manage to win over Durant into playing with Lebron and Kyrie. Either way, if Durant’s goal is to win a title the frontrunners are the teams with the most talent and Cleveland fits that bill.

Written by jr.

November 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm

How the Marcin Gortat trade shows once again the Wizards don’t get it

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English: Gorat, 2011

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wizards and Suns made a fun trade this week, the Suns sending Marcin Gortat to Washington for injured Emeka Okafor and a top 12 protected first round pick. The Suns also sent Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee to Washington, but they are expected to be waived.

Gortat is a good center despite his off season last year. He’s 7 foot, athletic, can rebound and can hit the midrange shot. With Okafor’s injury, the Wizards were left shallow at the C position. With Gortat they undoubtedly have a better chance at making the playoffs.

The problem for the Wizards isn’t Gortat’s caliber of play, it’s that he’s an unrestricted free agent next summer. Therefore as soon as this season is over, the Wizards will have nothing in return for the first round pick they gave up. They traded a long term asset for a short term asset.

Now you may say, if they re-sign Gortat, doesn’t that give them long term value for the 1st round pick? Not entirely. The Wizards were already set to have over 15 million in capspace next summer, meaning they already had the capspace to sign Gortat. Even if having Gortat now increases their chance of re-signing him if he likes the team situation, there is not necessarily value in this. Signing Gortat for a presumed over 10 million a year contract, comes with an opportunity cost of other free agents signings for the same amount. The only way having this “dibs” on re-signing a 30 year old Gortat becomes valuable, is if for the presumable over 10 million a year long term contract he produces at a level that can’t be replicated on the free agent market. If re-signing Gortat doesn’t have any more value than the next best option for their capspace, that eliminates the value of securing him early.

In my opinion, there’s no reason to believe that Gortat’s UFA contract will provide a better bang for your buck than the alternatives for the same price. This is especially true considering that with Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Rudy Gay if he opts out, the Wizards may prefer any of these FAs to Gortat. The Wizards may find themselves having reserved a table in the middle of the restaurant at the cost of a 1st round pick, only to walk-in and find the window seat is free, making their reservation unused.

For the most part, the value of the trade for the Wizards will be felt in 2013-2014 and no later. By next summer they will have one less positive value asset than if they kept the pick. The Wizards under Ernie Grunfield have proven to me they don’t understand asset strategy and why increasing asset value over time, not decreasing it is how you win. It’s not as much about the chance of the 2014 draft pick turning into a core player for the Wizards, it’s that the pick is a trade asset. For example if all went well, without this trade the Wizards may have spent their capspace on a Gortat or a free agent like Deng, Gasol, Randolph – then in addition, been able to trade the 2014 pick for an upgrade on Gortat’s level. In other words, you may get two Gortat caliber starters for the price of one by waiting. Or another example, perhaps if shopping both Otto Porter and the 2014 pick by next summer, the opportunity to trade both for an all-star comes. But by not having the pick and only offering Porter, they can’t make the deal.

By trading away the 2014 pick for a short term asset, the team will have less trading opportunities heading into the 2014-2015 season. This is of course all in addition to potential value of hitting on the 2014 draft pick. For example when the Toronto Raptors traded away a late teens pick in a short-sighted move for Jermaine O’Neal, they lost an opportunity to draft Roy Hibbert or other eventual starters available like Nicolas Batum or Serge Ibaka. In that same draft the Wizards made a successful pick in taking Javale McGee, eventually having enough trade value to be dealt for Nene when he was a strong asset.

With moves like a 1st for a rental Gortat, franchises like the Wizards live paycheque to paycheque. They buy short term gratification like chasing after a playoff spot they may not even get, but sacrificing assets hurts their potential in the long term. The two moves perennially struggling franchises make in all four major sports, is overpaying players and trading first round picks for short term veteran contracts. Unfortunately for the Wizards fanbase, only half a decade after disastrously giving a post surgery Gilbert Arenas 6 years, 111 million and trading a 5th overall pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye in a calendar year, they’ve once again made similar mistakes by giving John Wall a maximum contract and trading a 1st for half a season of Gortat. I guess when you keep the GM that gave the Arenas deal and made the Miller/Foye trade, you’re inviting the losing into your house and giving it a glass of wine.

Written by jr.

October 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm

NBA Mock Draft Version 2.5 – With pre draft grades and comparisons

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Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving looks like the 1st overall pick (Image by Chamber of Fear via Flickr)

This will be my final mock draft unless a game changing trade occurs. The picks are based on what I have heard through the usual suspects on the internet – Chad Ford (ESPN.com), Jonathan Givony (Draftexpress.com), Ryan Feldman (thehoopsreport.com), Ken Berger (CBS.com), Adrian Wojnarowski (Yahoo.com) with a big scoop of my own instincts. Truthfully they did most of the leg work for the actual order. I added grades for each pick and comparisons. Consider that my contribution. Here is the Mock Draft 2.0:

EDIT – Why  not. Here’s the Mock Draft 2.5, edited the morning before the draft with all the latest information. For optimal accuracy.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – PG Kyrie Irving

There’s been talk lately of Cleveland switching to Derrick Williams #1 to pair him with Brandon Knight, perhaps a better pair together than Irving and a non PG at 4. The problem I see with that is the chance Knight doesn’t make it to #4 with Utah’s interest in him at #3. I say they take Irving.

My Grade: A. The correct choice, Irving is not only one of the best bets for all-star production in the draft, but gives the Cavaliers a badly needed leader for the post Lebron era. No need to overthink it, take Irving.

NBA Comparison: Mark Price

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The Orlando Panic

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Yesterday was one heck of a day for the Orlando Magic.  Not one but two blockbuster trades.  Away go two of the team’s starters (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) plus two more rotation players (Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus).  In come Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu & change.  Stunning, I cannot remember a team so drastically remaking itself so quickly after so much success.

My initial thought was that this wasn’t wise.  Typically when we see teams that almost win the whole shebang do violent changes to themselves in the name of “we’re still not good enough!”, it doesn’t work.  A great team that functions a particular way isn’t likely to be able to re-made with a very different set of talent and become significantly better, and it has a very good chance of getting worse.  If the franchise really believes that the team’s current slide signifies that the team’s better days are behind it, then I get why they’d make the change – but why would you react so dramatically after such a small sample size?

More likely is that the team had simply been unhappy with Lewis and Carter because of their poor play in last year’s playoffs and they just wanted them gone for comparable talent.  I get that, but if I were running the franchise I’d try to look at very specific weaknesses and address them with as minimal disruption as possible.

The most interesting part of the trade to me is the acquisition of Arenas.  To be honest, when I watched the Magic struggle against the Celtics last year, the thing I kept thinking about was not Lewis or Carter, but Jameer Nelson.  Nelson was playing better than Lewis and Carter at the time, but Nelson’s issues to me seemed more systematic.  The best thing you can do for Dwight Howard is get him guy’s with great court vision.  If Howard had a Rajon Rondo (or obviously a Nash, a Kidd, a Paul, etc), I think he has those super-dominant games we see him have against every team much more consistently.  Do that, and the Magic probably win some titles.

So what do the Magic do?  They keep the mediocre-passer, great-scorer Nelson, and acquire another mediocre-passer, great-scorer in Arenas.  Yikes.  It’s as if they read in the manual that it’s good to have a great combo guard scorer 6th man, without considering that that really only makes sense when your starting point guard isn’t also a combo guard.

Sigh.  Well, I’m certainly not going to guarantee this won’t work.  The team is going to end up looking significantly different, and there’s always the chance that it settles into a functioning system that is superior to what was before, but I really doubt I’ll ever come to the conclusion that these trades were the result of a master plan.

As far as the other teams involved.  Washington clearly made a smart trade – the goal was to reduce their long term cap hit from Arenas who couldn’t possibly fit into the Wizards’ future.  Phoenix, unlike Orlando, is far enough away from contending that a big shake up makes sense presuming they want to become contenders again – it may or may not work, but with Nash at the helm, at this point it seems a lock that the offense will always be good, and Gortat may give major help to the defense.