A week before the NBA draft, the Washington Wizards traded the expiring contract of Rashard Lewis and a 2nd round pick to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Over at the Wizards board on RealGM, I went on record as strongly disliking the trade.
The argument in favor of the trade was that it provided some certainty. The Wizards could be assured of having a couple solid players on the roster without worrying about the mercurial nature of NBA free agency.
My objection: it dealt away ALL the team’s cap room for at least the next two years in exchange for a couple guys who will help the Wizards contend for the 7th or 8th playoff spot for the next couple seasons — not compete for a championship within the next 3-5 years. In effect, the Wizards won’t have cap room for the foreseeable future because of pending contract renewals that will come due.
The counter to my objection has generally been to talk about the difficulty Washington would have recruiting free agents. But, there are more ways to use cap room than merely signing free agents, and preserving the flexibility to pursue some of those “ways” would have been preferable to the trade they made.
And the events of this offseason demonstrate that.
While some NBA teams have been overpaying players, others have been snapping up relative bargains. Dallas, for example, claimed Elton Brand in the amnesty waiver draft for just $2.1 million. His production last year was worth $9.4 million, according to my salary formula.
Brand’s teammate Lou Williams — a combo guard who scores efficiently — signed a mid-level deal starting at $5 million. His production last year was worth $8.8 million.
The Spurs re-signed the criminally underrated Danny Green for three years and $12 million total ($4 million per season) — Green’s production last season was worth more than $7 million.
Phoenix recently amnestied Josh Childress, a SF who has disappointed in the desert. And, while Childress hasn’t been worth his contract, he’d be an asset to a team as an off-the-bench swingman for 25-30% of his deal.
Had the Wizards bit the financial bullet and bought out Lewis for $13.7 million, and followed that up by amnestying Blatche, they would have had sufficient cap space to outbid Dallas for Brand, outbid Atlanta for Williams, and outbid San Antonio for Green. Then they could have used minimum salary deals to bring in depth players.
Or, they might have been able to use the cap space they traded to New Orleans to do what the Hornets did — acquire 23-year old PF Ryan Anderson in a sign and trade with the Magic.