Let’s face it. We’re all disappointed with the Washington Wizards trading the 46th overall pick, especially considering that this year’s NBA Draft was touted as one of the deepest in recent memory. There were several talented prospects still available, but the Washington Wizards opted to sell the pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for $1.8 million. Russ Smith, Patric Young, and even Sim Bhullar were all available, and yet the Washington Wizards management chose not to use the pick. Here are the potential pros and cons of this strategy.
With the Washington Wizards bringing back veteran Andre Miller as the backup point guard for next season at $4.6 million, the need for cap space is obvious. The Washington Wizards have stated that they would like to keep their core from last year together and re-sign both Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, and they could use all the money they can get. By not drafting a rookie, the Wizards avoided paying the minimum salary of $500,000 to a player who would most likely not contribute too much this season. While $500,000 might not seem like a substantial amount, every penny counts in this critical free agency.
The Wizards stated that they sold the pick because all of their draft day targets had been selected. By receiving an additional $1.8 million, this leaves the door open for a future draft day trade whereby the Wizards can buy a player or move up in the draft. Although the $1.8 million does not directly result in more cap space (the money goes to ownership), additional cash never hurts.
By trading the pick, the Wizards have opened up a roster spot rather than guaranteeing a second round pick’s place on the team. Second round picks are not guaranteed contracts, but there will be some good undrafted talent available for the Wizards. Khem Birch and Deonte Burton, who were both projected to get selected in the second round, have been added to the Washington Wizards’ summer league roster.
With key players such as Bradley Beal and Nene missing extended periods of time last year, it is imperative to have veteran players on the bench that are capable of fulfilling their roles. Drew Gooden in particular was a revelation, and his resurgence was only made possible due to the roster flexibility.
While Miller played well for the Wizards in limited minutes, he will be turning 39 this upcoming season and I would have liked to see a younger player given a chance to make an impact. Also, a second round pick would have cost just $500,000 compared to Miller’s $4.6 million.
No team wants to become the Atlanta Hawks of the 2000s, making the playoffs every year but failing to pose a significant threat. By chasing good but not great (Ariza and Gortat) free agents, the Wizards are in danger of having peaked last year, especially with a healthy Bulls team as one of several upstart threats to a deep Wizards playoff run. Young talent is extremely important in the NBA, as evidenced by the management styles of teams such as the Thunder and 76ers, and the Washington Wizards could use an infusion of young talent across the board.
While many questioned this decision by Washington Wizards management, it may have been much ado about nothing. Wall and Beal are still improving every year, and it is not a stretch to believe that the Wizards can continue to build off of their successes with the same team from last year, especially with the Pacers’ current state and the Heat facing much uncertainty. I think it makes sense for the Wizards to try and keep Gortat and Ariza as Wall and Beal continue to grow into the superstars they are poised to become.
Eventually, they will need to be replaced, but by that time the backcourt will be ready to shoulder more responsibility. For now, if we are able to spend the additional $500,000 in retaining Gortat and Ariza, it will have been worth it to have sold the pick.