June 30, 2010
The Wizards just traded old for young, small for big, and had the salary cap space to do it for barely a payroll ripple.
They also just traded for Yi Jianlian, which negates all of the previously mentioned advances.
Seriously Washington? Yi? Have all those years of basketball games, mostly televised, shown you nothing? This man might be the most destructive defensive player in the league — it's almost as if Eddy Curry's(notes) skinny soul escaped his body three years ago and was immediately drafted by Milwaukee — and his offense isn't exactly sparkly clean. Unless your mom cleaned the tub with missed 19-foot jumpers.
Really, I shouldn't be killing a team for taking a chance on a 6-11 guy who is 22 years of age, except for the way that the guy, really, isn't exactly 22 years of age. Washington only gave up the useful Quinton Ross(notes); and though I like Ross a lot, the team's salary-cap loss in trading this fourth guard for Yi was made up for by New Jersey sending the Wizards $3 million in the deal. And it really doesn't matter.
Because Yi isn't helping.
He just isn't. He'll show flashes, and he'll get hot from 20-feet and may even take in a few 3-point plays (the only way this guy ever gets to the line) by following through and getting slapped on the forearm as his shot goes in, but otherwise he's pretty awful offensively despite his ability to dunk and nail long jumpers. The man boasts a 48 percent mark in true shooting percentage — a stat that takes into account your free throws and 3-pointers along with your regular field goals — and that's just about as miserable as it gets for a power forward.
Keep in mind that this is the guy's all-encompassing shooting mark, a stat created to help him look better, and his entire existence is more or less based on offense. He averaged just one assist for every 36 minutes he played last season, and I'd hardly call this guy a screen-setter. He's also incredibly bad at defense. There really isn't an aspect of the game that this man exceeds in, save for playing big minutes.
What's the risk, you ask? What does it matter, you wonder? Washington needs depth, Yi could still turn out, and there was no payroll disadvantage. It's Quinton Ross, so what's the big deal?
It's the same as it always is with Ernie Grunfeld. Couldn't Washington have gotten more?
For the team's bit of cap space, to start, which allows for the squad to make lopsided deals under the salary limit. Ross, while not a world-beater, is pretty desirable with that limited contract and defensive aptitude. And it's the end of June, not the start of September. Teams aren't as desperate now as they will be towards the end of the summer. So why not pounce on those teams, instead of acting like the second team in three Junes to act desperate and needlessly trade for Yi before the free-agent period officially starts?
It's not the worst deal in the world, far from it. You'd just hope, for a team that was able to clear copious amounts of cap space last February (while, admittedly, not picking up many assets along the way) and take in the No. 1 pick, that the Wizards could have done a bit more with all this salary flexibility than Kirk Hinrich(notes), Yi Jianlian(notes), $6 million from the Bulls and Nets, and the draft rights to Kevin Seraphin(notes).
This isn't a team-killer, and it's not like Grunfeld just bundled a series of future first-rounders for the right to overpay some cap millstone. It's just a trade that could have worked better for Washington. Andray Blatche(notes) should be fine before training camp, teams will be looking to work and worm around the cap all summer, and we haven't even hit the free-agency turn yet.
Grunfeld could have done better, here. At the very least, he could have given himself the chance to do better.