At 5-20, Wizards fans are already focusing on the 2012-2013 season. Next season promises a lot of change, but how much of it?
We’ve already seen some of that change when Flip Saunders being fired two weeks ago. Randy Wittman has taken over on an interim basis, but seems unlikely to get the full-time job this off-season. There’s no question that Randy Wittman has placed a higher emphasis on accountability and discipline but it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to do enough in the win column to keep the job. However, that isn’t all his fault given the roster he’s been handed by Ernie Grunfeld.
Things get more cloudy when it comes to Grunfeld’s future. His contract is up at the end of this season, but are he and Ted Leonsis still in lock step? As Ken Berger of CBS Sports recently wrote, there’s been no indication from Leonsis that anything has changed in his relationship with Grunfeld. But bring up Grunfeld’s name to Wizards fans and you’ll hear boos like the ones that fill the Verizon Center after Andray Blatche misses another one of his twenty foot jump shots.
If I was a betting man, I’d wager that Grunfeld will be back as team president once again next season. I don’t agree with that potential decision at all, but this wouldn’t be the first time a much maligned GM would get a contract extension. In 2005 the Detroit Lions gave GM Matt Millen a five year extension. Later during that 2005 season Lions fans began the “Fire Millen” movement. It took until September of 2008 for Millen to be fired. Could we see a “Fire Grunfeld” movement if Leonsis was to give Ernie an extension this summer? Once again, if I was a betting man, I’d bet we would eventually.
Last season was the first full season of Ernie Grunfeld’s “rebuild plan”. But we’re certain to see the most drastic change we’ve seen during this “rebuilding era” next season.
Starting shooting guard Nick Young and veterans Ronny Turiaf, Roger Mason, and Maurice Evans are unrestricted free agents after the season. Joining them on the free agent market will be starting center JaVale McGee, who will be a restricted free agent. It’s a near foregone conclusion that all the unrestricted free agents will leave and walk free this July. JaVale McGee is the interesting case. Even while being extremely raw in the post, having a propensity for goaltending shots, and doing remarkably stupid things on the court, the fact remains that he is 7’1″ and unbelievably athletic and just turned 24 years old last month.
This past December when free agency opened up after the lockout, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was a restricted free agent and signed a 4 year, 43 million dollar offer sheet with the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers quickly matched and he remained in Los Angeles. Both JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan are young and athletic shot-blocking 7 footers that provide little more than highlight reel dunks on the offensive end of the court. This leads most to believe that McGee will likely receive a similar offer sheet to the one that DeAndre Jordan got. Granted, JaVale McGee has a higher knucklehead quotient than DeAndre Jordan, but this is the NBA and if you are 7 feet tall and can play even a little — you will get paid.
If JaVale McGee does sign an offer sheet that would pay him 10 million per year, will the Wizards match? No one knows, but Michael Lee of the Washington Post wrote last month that sources say the Wizards are prepared to match any offer sheet McGee would get this summer.
Even more change is expected with buyouts and the amnesty clause. Andray Blatche is the amnesty clause candidate if he can’t be traded. Right now Blatche is due over 23 million dollars over the next three seasons. As unlikely as he is to be traded, there have been reports that Grunfeld has talked to the Bobcats about a Tyrus Thomas for Andray Blatche swap. Either way he’s unlikely to be a Wizard when training camp opens next fall. It’s also all but a foregone conclusion that Rashard Lewis will have the remaining one year and 23.8 million dollars left on his contract bought out for ten million dollars this summer. Shipping Blatche and Lewis out of town would fall squarely in the addition by subtraction category.
Potentially we’re looking at four of the Wizards’ five game one starters all gone this off-season (Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, and JaVale McGee), and almost certainly three will be gone. That would be a major step forward in this supposed rebuilding plan orchestrated by Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis. Going forward the Wizards could build around John Wall and his continue development into his third season, this summer’s upcoming high lottery pick, and good young role players like Shelvin Mack, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, and maybe even a reined-in Jordan Crawford. We also have to include some free agents that will have to be added this summer.
Not extending Ernie Grunfeld’s contract. Hiring a discipline-oriented head coach and allowing Young, McGee, and Lewis to catch a one-way flight out of Washington, DC while kicking Blatche to the curb would mark the the real beginning of this “rebuild”.
The Wizards’ record in the 2012-2013 season may again end lacking in wins, but the roster must improve in talent and the organization must rid itself of the losing atmosphere that is deep-rooted inside the walls of the Verizon Center.
Before the Wizards will become winners they must begin to prepare like winners and rid themselves of the losing personalities. That alone is a bigger win than any regular season win the Wizards could get this year or next.