Posts Tagged ‘nba free agency’

“In the Desert” by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”
                               

When the Denver Nuggets traded Nene to the Washington Wizards several months after signing him to a hefty, long-term deal, the word out of the Mile-High City was that the front office had “buyer’s remorse.”  They made the trade in exchange for young center JaVale McGee, he of the Gumby arms, French nickname, “limitless potential” and ultimate confusion in regards to the rules of basketball.  A report from last night claims that JaVale is mulling over a five year, $50 million offer from the Nuggets.  What is there to think about, Pierre? Oh wait, Brook Lopez just got a max contract.

“Epic Vale” is a great shot-blocker, and an equally great goaltender.  While some of his antics are overblown, the most maddening ones are those that don’t make the Manichean highlight/lowlight reel.  With Denver and Washington last season, McGee had one of the worst on/off differentials in the league.  He routinely moves out of the way of players driving to the basket in order to go for blocks.  He actually manages to block some of those attempts, but here’s the rub: McGee has a tendency to send blocked basketballs out of bounds instead of to a uniformed player on his team, or to himself.

As Mike Prada at Bullets Forever pointed out way back in March, McGee’s relatively high PER (player efficiency rating) doesn’t actually mean he has helped his team win if garnered through statistically misleading means.  McGee’s offer comes from a Denver team that has, since trading away Carmelo Anthony, been more about the sum of their parts than featuring specific players.  $10 million per year is a substantial amount of a team’s $58 million salary cap.  But my real question is this: how does a team who felt buyer’s remorse on a proven center’s $13 million per year contract (Nene) go all in on JaVale McGee (career 8.6 ppg, 6.0 reb)for $50 million over five years?

For the sake of disclosure, I watched every Washington Wizards game last season.  And the season before that, etc.  I’ve followed, with great interest and despair, the career of JaVale McGee.  I have seen so many “breakout” games by this guy that I was barely fazed by his “breakout” game versus the Los Angeles Lakers in this year’s playoffs (others agreed).  McGee spent 15% of his time with the Wizards dominating basketball games, 50% of the time not contributing one way or the other, and 35% being abjectly awful.  Although former Washington Wizards are known to have great careers in other cities, I think that this contract sets too high a bar for a guy who has very little drive to become great.  The level of vitriol written herein can perhaps be attributed to bitterness.  Watching a player move on after he was painstakingly nurtured on your team is frustrating, and although I objectively wish him well, the guy who watched him all those years will be laughing his ass off in a mixture of incredulity and relief as he signs his new deal. (C. Dirks)

PG

SG

SF

PF

C

John Wall Bradley Beal Trevor Ariza Nene Emeka Okafor
Shelvin Mack Jordan Crawford Chris Singleton Trevor Booker Kevin Seraphin
Jan Vesely Andray Blatche

2012-2013 Salary: $59,364,062 (including Beal and Blatche)

2012-2013 Expected Salary: $52,245,560 (including Beal, excluding amnesty candidate Blatche)

Expected Salary Cap Space: Around $6 million

RFAs: (none)

UFAs: Roger Mason, Jr., Cartier Martin, Maurice Evans, James Singleton, Morris Almond, Brian Cook

Strengths: After trading away Rashard Lewis, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee for Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, and Nene, the Wizards have shown their commitment to being a good defensive team: a refreshing change for fans in Washington who, even under the marginally successful Eddie Jordan-era Wizards, haven’t seen a good defensive team in many, many years.  McGee (a.k.a. “Epic Vale”) was among the top shot-blockers in the league, and boasted the highest PER (player efficiency rating) on the team, but the poor souls who watched the Wizards on a consistent basis (this panelist included) know that McGee’s stats were not an indicator of his effectiveness on defense.

All of the players in Washington’s “new” roster are extremely athletic and a few have the reputation (Ariza, Okafor, Vesely, Singleton) for being tough defensive players.  Wall and Beal both have the potential to be great defensively, but Wall was often burned by opposing teams in his second year, and Beal is, until further notice, unproven.  Still, this team should terrorize opposing offenses with their length, speed, and athleticism.  Washignton’s real strength last year was their effectiveness on the fast break (third in the NBA at 17.9 ppg).  Look for this to be further improved, now that they’ve added a sharpshooter in Beal, and get a full season with Nene, Vesely, and Ariza running the floor with the “one-man fastbreak,” John Wall.  With more competent teammates, Wall will be more effective in the fast break and the open court.  Mike Prada of Bullets Forever made an appropriate tool to measure the detriment Wall’s teammates were having on his assist total last season, and the need for such a tool was evident to anyone who watched how frustratingly often Wall’s 2011-2012 teammates flubbed open shots after a bit of playmaking from Wall.  Despite these hardships, Wall averaged eight assists per game, and that number should rise this season.

Washington’s frontcourt has been significantly upgraded, and starters Ariza, Nene, and Okafor should provide a huge rebounding boost over incumbent starters Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, and Kevin Seraphin.  Booker and Seraphin should be excellent role players on this team, and this panelist believes that Seraphin, who showed significant polish and effort once McGee was sent out of town, could wrestle significant minutes, and maybe even the starting job, from Okafor (if minutes aren’t computed by salary).

Needs: The Wizards addressed their need for rebounding (see above) in their trade with New Orleans.  But they still have one glaring weakness: shooting.  The only players on Washington’s roster with any ability to shoot from beyond the three-point line are Jordan Crawford (29%), Ariza (33%), Singleton (35%), and presumably, Bradley Beal.  Those numbers aren’t exactly encouraging.  Ariza should benefit from playing alongside a playmaking backcourt, and may perhaps return to the form of his best season with the Lakers in a best-case scenario.  Put simply, the Wizards are one of the worst jump-shooting teams in the NBA, and desperately need another shooter to take the scoring pressure off of Bradley Beal, and the defensive pressure off of John Wall.  Wall suffers the most from Washington’s shooting woes, as defenses feel free to converge on him in the driving lane, not fearing kick-outs to shooters who are more likely to miss a shot than make it.

Potential Free Agent Targets:

  • Roger Mason, Jr. (UFA, WAS, SG) and Cartier Martin (UFA, WAS, SG/SF) – Both of these players were serviceable shooters last season for the Wizards.  Mason is a well-liked, well-respected veteran who can hit from deep, especially when he’s on a hot streak.  Cartier Martin is a high-character guy with an excellent haircut who has an outside shot, and shows some ability to make cuts to the basket.  Neither of these players are long-term answers, but could likely be signed for the veteran’s minimum, and fill a significant need.
  • Jeff Green (UFA, BOS, SF) – “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Green isn’t the best three-point shooter available, but he is a solid midrange jump-shooter, a smart player, and a competent rebounder at the SF position.  He’s also a Georgetown alumnus (he graduated this year, after sitting out the NBA season due to a heart ailment), and by all accounts a bright, professional human being.  But to make this a valuable signing, the Wizards would have to hope his heart ailment: a) hasn’t atrophied his game; b) won’t cause him to miss any more time; and c) keeps his price low.  Signing Green for between $3 million and the mid-level per year would be an intriguing pickup for the Wizards
  • Carlos Delfino (UFA, MIL, SF) – Carlos Delfino isn’t going to radically restructure your team, but he provides dependable three-point shooting (career 36%) at the small forward position, something that Washington will need.  Chris Singleton, touted as a defensive specialist, and developed as a three-and-D prospect, hasn’t shown that he can excel at either aspect of that player tagline, and shouldn’t necessarily be tolerated on the court when better options are available.  Delfino and Ariza sharing time at the small forward position in Washington seems like a good plan of action going forward, if Washington can nab Delfino for an affordable price on a short-term deal.
  • Mickael Pietrus (UFA, BOS, SF) – Decent three-point shooter, mean on defense. Pietrus would be a relatively good fit on this Wizards team, but is overvalued due to his contributions with Orlando and Boston in recent years, and will likely sign with a more established contender.
  • Jodie Meeks (UFA, PHI, SG) – Philadelphia is likely to re-sign the inexpensive Meeks, as he is one of their only players who can hit jump shots outside of Louis Williams.  But he could be an excellent fit in limited minutes with the Wizards, and is a career 37% three-point shooter.

Potential Trades:

  • Dwight Howard (ORL) to Washington for Emeka Okafor, Jan Vesely, and Trevor Booker – Dream on.  Orlando wouldn’t do it.  Dwight would bitch endlessly before faking a back injury and leaving the following summer.
  • The Wizards have very few tradable assets, and since they’ve just acquired Ariza and Okafor in positions of need, they are unlikely to make any other trades.  Another issue with the Wizards is that most of their second-string talent is still playing on rookie contracts, making salary matches difficult.  Look for the Wizards to make one or two minor signings in free agency, and let the great experiment begin!