Bloggers Talk: Washington Wizards

For their final match-up at the Izod Center (and we can safely say “ever” now when it comes to the Izod Center), the Washington Wizards feature a considerably different roster compared to the last time we saw them. Here to explain some of the changes, and the future of the organization is Kyle Weidie, from the fantastic TrueHoop Wiz blog, Truthaboutit.

NAS: Obviously, Josh Howard’s ACL injury probably affects your answer, but overall, how do you think the Wizards fare in their big deadline trades of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood? Does Washington have any worthwhile building blocks now?

I was disappointed that the Wizards had to give up Brendan Haywood to “get rid” of Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. It just seems like a commodity like Haywood, an expiring contract and a defensive big man sorely needed by most teams, should have been able to fetch more. The insult is that the Wizards couldn’t manage a pick from Dallas and they had to send cash considerations Mark Cuban’s way. Even Mavs fans were surprised at that one.

On the other hand, you got to commend Ernie Grunfeld for the Jamison trade. Although Antawn was sent to Cleveland … sure, the “rivalry” between the Wiz and the Cavs is dead, but that doesn’t mean Wizards fans hate LeBron and the Cavaliers any less … Grunfeld was able to net the returns of: 1) getting out from the over $28 million owed to the 33-year old Jamison over the next two seasons; 2) Cleveland’s 2010 1st rounder, which will likely be the last pick in the first round, but Grunfeld has a decent history of late-draft finds (Andray Blatche – 49th, Keith Bogans – 43rd, Flip Murray – 42nd, Michael Redd – 49th); 3) Emir Predlzic — Who? Exactly. He’s Bosniak whose rights were previously owned by Cleveland and is a decent prospect; and 4) Al Thornton. Clippers fans were no longer enthusiastic about the former All-Rookie First Teamer (2008), but he has seemingly found new life in D.C. with his hustle and energy.

Worthwhile building blocks? Who knows. Andray Blatche has been great since the trades, but it’s too early to tell if he’s really turned a corner. JaVale McGee has shown some nice promise too and is certainly a talented athlete whose natural skills and size are matched by few, if any, in the league. Otherwise, the Wizards don’t have much that shows valid promise for the future, i.e, someone who could be a star like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans or Kevin Durant (who is already a star). Obi-Wan Kenobi ain’t coming, so the Wizards’ only hope is effectively using the cap space they’ve created and finding a young Jedi via lots of luck in the draft.

NAS: How much of a makeover do you expect the Wizards to go through once the season is over?

Makeover? Uh, probably a decent bit since the Wizards only have six guys under contract next season. This is assuming, safely, that Josh Howard’s $11.8 million team option won’t be picked up and that Quinton Ross takes his $1.15 million player option. That leaves Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Al Thornton, Nick Young and Gilbert Arenas.

Who knows what will happen with Arenas. Recent remarks by Ernie Grunfeld suggest that the team might be open to taking him back, he is under contract after all. But Grunfeld might have been making those comments to preserve Arenas’ trade value, if any exists, which, you know someone might take the bait on if teams with cap room don’t succeed in their Summer ’10 free-agent endeavors. I highly doubt the Wizards will try to void Arenas’ contract.

Randy Foye, if extended the qualifying offer, will be a restricted free-agent. He’s still auditioning for his job with the team, so he could be an additional player on the roster. You also have to consider the following: the Wizards might try to sign Josh Howard to a new contract on the cheap, as he will be coming off a knee injury, they would like to retain Mike Miller (although, I’m sure he will want to go play for a winner, perhaps taking less money to play with LeBron), and James Singleton is certainly looking like a player worthy of contract consideration.

The Wizards will be players in this Summer’s free-agent market, we’re just not sure how large. I’d like to see them be patient and build with young prospects and cap space, i.e., not do anything stupidly crazy like throw a bunch of money at Joe Johnson or Carlos Boozer. So, you’ll likely see the team just try to sign some worthy fillers this summer and save some of the cap space for 2012.

In any case, the makeover has already happened when various parts were shipped out of town. Now it’s all about finding quality players who will form the foundation for the rebuilding project.