Friday, July 04, 2008

Arenas Puts Money Where Mouth Is - What's Next for the Wizards?

So often, many of us who are accustomed to seeing professional athletes take the money and run. Call it cynicism. Call it being a realist. No matter how you shape the statement, the NBA is a multi-billion dollar business. And that's just counting player salaries.

What happened yesterday was refreshing. After having two maximum offers of $127M over 6 seasons on the table from both Washington and Golden State, Arenas followed Antawn Jamison's lead and signed for $16M less than was on the table from his hometown team. Why? Because Arenas knows that even with Jamison and Caron Butler, the Wizards are at least a piece away. This move should also allow for the Wizards to stay within the luxury tax threshold and keeps the DMV's (DC, Maryland, Virginia) single most marketable athlete in place.

At the end of the day, Arenas, who missed 69 games during a contract year, got his money, kept his word and did it all without the help of an agent. Also, plenty of credit goes to Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld as well as Wizards Owner Abe Pollin, who have all three of their best players locked up until at least 2010-2011. Now that management have completed this vital task in keeping the optimism high in Washington, the real work truly begins.

Looking ahead for the Wizards, here is their roster as I see it.

PG: Gilbert Arenas, Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young
SF: Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire
PF: Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche, Darius Songalia, Oleksiy Pecherov
C: Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas

Drafted: JaVale McGee
Free Agent: Roger Mason Jr.
Possible Signee: Vladimir Veremeenko

As it stands, the Wizards are a much deeper team than anticipated after two years of heavy deputization by the bench. However, there is a glut of iffy talent backing up Butler and Jamison. Unfortunately, the Wizards do not have the flexibility that other teams have in terms of being able to trade away expiring contracts. In fact, the Wizards have no expiring veteran contracts with the pricy Thomas ($14.2M over two years) and Daniels ($12.8M over two years) coming off the books in 2010. Daniels represents good value given his ability to run a team and be a calming influence to young players. Thomas's health is a concern. Not to belabor the point, but how many teams will willingly get in line to claim the $8.7M owed to serviceable forward Darius Songalia over the next two years with a player option (which he will most definitely take) for $4.8M in 2010-11.

All of this accounted for, where does that leave the tenuous position of head coach Eddie Jordan? For three straight seasons, the Wizards have succumbed to the Traveling LeBrons and only in the first series did they have a realistic shot at winning the series. In the not-so-distant past, Jordan has criticized Arenas for poor shot selection and selfishness. Though Jordan has been an excellent regular season coach, his nearly non-existent playoff output may signify that he is soon to be on borrowed time if the Wizards struggle out of the gate like last season.

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