Wizards All In Next Year With Recent Moves

With the Eastern Conference opening up more and more by the day, the Wizards are one of the few contending teams in the conference actually getting better. The Bulls are the only other team near the top of the conference that has added significant pieces to their team. Think about it. The Heat lost LeBron. The Pacers lost Stephenson. The Nets lost Paul Pierce. The Raptors mostly stayed the same. And while the Cavs added LeBron, they still have a young, unproven roster around him that will take time to gel.

The conference really is up for grabs, perhaps more so than at any other time in the past decade. Of course that could shift if the Cavs get Kevin Love, but at the moment, the Cavs seem unlikely to trade Andrew Wiggins. No matter who wins the Eastern conference next year, the NBA champion will almost positively come from the Western Conference. But that’s not a reason to throw the towel in if you’re in the East. Especially for a team like the Wizards who have been so starved of any playoff success in the past 30 years.

The Wizards haven’t made any earth-shattering moves this offseason, but they’ve quietly made smart moves that will keep them flexible in the long-run and competitive right now. Letting Ariza walk in free agency was the right move. Not because $8 million per season is too much for him, but because it allows the Wizards to pursue hometown superstar Kevin Durant in the 2016 summer. Replacing his value with the aging, but still effective Paul Pierce was one of the more deft moves we’ve seen Ernie Grunfeld make in his tenure with the Wizards. Even more recently though, the Wizards have signed three big men who will be key contributors for the Wizards off the bench. Continue reading

Wizards Choose Unlikely Replacement For Trevor Ariza, Eye On Durant In Future

Coming off of a surprisingly successful second round exit in the playoffs, the Wizards had two players to re-sign: Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza. Having both guys be right in the middle of their prime and coming off of career years, it was predictable that they would get huge contracts in free agency. Most Wizards fans were a little queasy at the idea of re-signing, and likely having to overpay Gortat and Ariza, just to remain a good, but not great team.

They completed the first part, giving Gortat a huge payday, what he called “the best day of my life.” The deal for Gortat, worth $60 million over the next five seasons, seems like an overpay, especially on the back end, but was probably necessary to keep Gortat. Good centers are scarce in the NBA, and Gortat averaged a double-double last season. But, the real question mark was Ariza. Would he really get paid? And by paid I mean PAID. Don’t get me wrong: Ariza had a very good season last year. He was Washington’s best perimeter defender and shot 41% from 3, the best clip of his career from deep. But really, he’s just a catch-and-shoot corner 3 shooter. He benefitted from John Wall’s career year more than just about anyone else on the Wizards’ roster. He was the guy who got the open looks in the corner, off of Wall’s drive-n-kick dishes. That’s no fault of his, but it is to say that Ariza’s offensive production was largely the result of an All-Star point guard who created open shots for everyone else. He’s the type of player that can be replaced. He’s the ultimate ‘3 and D’ guy: he hits 3’s and plays good defense. Those are the kind of players you can find in free agency for cheap.

Ariza was a big piece of the Wizards' success last year, but he is replaceable.

Ariza was a big piece of the Wizards’ success last year, but he is replaceable.

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Rockets Miss Out On Bosh And Parsons, Add Ariza

Houston’s mastermind plan of adding Chris Bosh and then matching the Mavericks’ offer sheet to Chandler Parsons ended up being nothing more than a pipe dream. The Rockets lost out on the Bosh, and then strangely, and somewhat surprisingly, decided not to match Dallas’ offer sheet to Parsons. It’s a serious blow to the Rockets, who many were starting to project as the second best team in the West, assuming they retained Parsons and added Bosh. Without those guys, the Rockets are left with a Howard-Harden duo and mediocre supporting players. It’s a team that is still in the playoffs, but decidedly less imposing. They couldn’t even make it out of the first round with Parsons.

The Rockets supposedly let Parsons walk for financial reasons. That’s somewhat understandable. Matching the 3 year/$46 million deal that Parsons got from Dallas would’ve been Houston’s way of saying they believed they could win a championship with a Howard-Harden-Parsons nucleus. Keeping Parsons would have hamstrung their cap for the next few years, and only given them minimal space to add other quality players. Is Parsons worth over $15 million per season? The Rockets didn’t think so. He’s only 25 years old. He has been a very productive player in the NBA so far, and is fairly versatile. His numbers might be a tad inflated playing on the up-tempo Rockets. Most fans think of him as purely a shooter, thus fitting the typical stereotype, but that really is not Parsons. He’s a good shooter, but his game is much more versatile than that. Parsons is good at putting up shot fakes and scoring off the bounce. And he’s a much better passer than he gets credit for. It’s tough to find quality footage on YouTube of Parsons’ game in college, other than the pair of buzzer-beaters he hit and general highlight clips. But in college, he basically served as a point-forward for Florida. He has great vision for a player of his size, especially one who’s primarily a scorer. Continue reading

Grading the Deals Made on the First Day of Free Agency

Nearly all of the focus on this free agent season surrounds the Heat. How much less money will Wade and Bosh take? Is LeBron really going to take the max? Are they going to add some second-tier free agents? For now, all we really know is that their roster will look significantly different next season. For now, let’s focus on the deals that have been made. There were three deals today worth examining.

1. Wizards re-sign Marcin Gortat for 5 years/$60 million.
Washington had its hands tied. They had been so irrelevant since the departure of Gilbert Arenas, until last season. Reaching the second round and taking two games from the Pacers, the Wizards finally had a taste of success. The Wiz pretty much had to re-sign expiring Gortat in order to keep any momentum going. Gortat is firmly in his prime right now, 30 years old, and complements Nene well. And the East is weak enough to make plenty of barely-above-average teams feel like contenders. The Wizards are not winning an NBA championship with a Wall-Beal-Ariza-Gortat nucleus. They can contend in the East, but that is much different than contending for a title, as we saw in the Finals when San Antonio whooped Miami. This may be a deal that looks pretty bad on the back end when Gortat is 33 or 34. Right now though, good centers are hard to come by, and Gortat is one of the few guys who can do this. Are the Wizards deluding themselves into thinking they’re a legitimate threat to the title? Yeah, probably. Is this a move purely to stay falsely relevant? (Nodding nervously.) But, if the move keeps the Heat from poaching Gortat, then I’m all for it. Continue reading

Day 1 of Free Agency Is Every NBA Fan’s Worst Nightmare

In the NBA, free agency is supposed to be the time of delusion. The time where bad teams convince themselves if they can just sign that one guy, they’ll be contenders. Those teams rear their ugly heads and leak out rumors that their aim is to sign LeBron and Carmelo, with promises of multiple titles. Teams make ridiculous sales pitches that will obviously never happen. But it’s really too entertaining to dismiss. The crazy rumors. The ridiculously overpaid contracts. The insanity of it all inevitably leaves indelible stains on some franchises’ futures. Just ask the Magic, who were still paying Gilbert Arenas over $20 million last season for him to sit on the couch and troll Roy Hibbert.

Imagine how crazy free agency can be. Now magnify it a couple million times. That’s what happens anytime LeBron is a free agent. LeBron is good enough to make whatever team he’s on a contender. So, when he’s a free agent, the league collectively loses its you know what. Hell, Vegas won’t even put up its 2015 title odds, until it knows jersey LeBron will be wearing.  Continue reading

The 15 Best Free Agents Not Named LeBron or Carmelo

NBA free agency starts at midnight tonight. Almost all of the free agent talk so far has been focused on LeBron and Carmelo. Where will LeBron end up? Will he take a pay cut? (No.) Will Carmelo join or create a Big 3? Is he headed to Miami? (Just stop.) Chicago? (Hmmm.) Rockets? (They certainly want him.) New York? (Sorry Knicks fans.) Let’s put aside the LeBron and Carmelo talk for just a second, and rate the rest of the free agents. This free agent class is by no means loaded once you get past LeBron and Carmelo, but there are still some very attractive free agents this summer that could alter the NBA landscape.

A Few that Didn’t Make the Cut

A couple guys didn’t make this list, but will be targeted by several teams. Patty Mills had a stellar run in the Finals and is bound to be overpaid by someone in the league. Plenty of teams will only remember how well he shot the ball in the Finals and be willing to offer Mills the starting job and a salary raise. His speed and pace gave the Heat fits. Speaking of the Heat, they will have to figure out what to do with the Big 3. Obviously, the Heat will do all they can to keep the Big 3 together and make another run at the Finals. There’s no way they’ll let Dwyane Wade go. He’ll probably play his entire career in Miami, and the Heat will offer him a Kobe-like extension, based on what he did for the franchise in the past, not what he will do in the future. Wade could be in this list based on previous ability and his name, but in terms of ability, he doesn’t belong on the list. He looked finished in the Finals. The Heat breezed through the weak East, beginning with their first round sweep of the upstart Hornets. The Hornets look like an up-and-coming team in the East and are trying to keep their point-forward Josh McRoberts, one of the best passing big men in the league. Michael Jordan loves McRoberts and calls him a “connector”, basically meaning Jordan would’ve loved playing with him since McRoberts only passes the ball. A connector is just another word for a glue-guy, and McRoberts is that. Continue reading

Top 75 NBA Trade Value (Part 2)

In case you missed Part 1, click here.

Group U: “We’ll Listen, But He’s Way More Valuable To Us Than He Is To You”

75. Tony Allen
Not bad paying one of the best perimeter defenders in the league $5 million per season for the next three years. Allen is already 32, but just ask Kevin Durant how tough it is to score on Allen. Allen was the reason the Grizzlies very nearly sent the MVP home packing in the first round. Someone as good on defense as Allen would fit on any team, but there’s perhaps no better fit than Memphis’ Grit and Grind basketball. Continue reading