As Bullets Forever's Mike Prada identified a month ago, Washington also faces a devastating cap figure for 2009-10. Owner Abe Pollin isn't one of these brave billionaires who can afford a $100-million payrolls. So, the Wizards really need to cut at least $8 million of '09-10 salary. Once Thursday passes, the degree of difficulty will become much greater.
But based on reports, it seems instead of unloading expensive veteran Antawn Jamison or hot prom date Caron Butler, the team is considering trying to attach a bad contract to the high pick to slink under the tax while maintaining a talent base.
Sean Deveney of Sporting News has the latest dispatch on the state of Washington's pick.
Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld insists he can do this is in ways that do not include breaking up the troika of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas, including packaging the team's lottery pick with a bad contract.Arenas is as close to untradable as you can get in today's NBA; a half-year into a six-year, $100+ million contract, he hasn't made it onto the court for one possession. Jamison's age and contract length (through '11-12) mean the Wizards can't exactly expect a bounty -- to deal him, you're only likely to get expiring contracts and potentially a low pick or minor prospect. (J.J. Hickson and Wally Szczerbiak's Expiring Contract have made up the rumor du jour.)
Butler could fetch some fun. You'd think a contending team (Portland, perhaps) would be willing to take on one of Washington's smaller bad contracts for the honor of dressing Butler. Conceivably, the 'Zards could clear $12-14 million of '09-10 payroll in dealing Butler, and would likely get at least one decent asset (Travis Outlaw? Sergio Rodriguez?) in return.
Ivan Carter of the Washington Post guesses that Grunfeld would try to attach Etan Thomas' $7.4 million contract or Mike James' $6.5 million to the top pick in a cost-cutting deal. It's truly impossible to perfectly assess the value of the pick. Drafts vary in quality, and no system accurately translates college stats to the pros. You can't definitively state that by keeping its pick Washington will win x extra games.
But we can look at history, at what our records suggest a particular pick could be worth. Roland Beech of 82games has done some rough math, and indicates that top-5 picks are, on the whole, pretty damn awesome. You should really be knocked over to give up a top-5 pick (as in the Boston-Seattle deal for Ray Allen). Losing such a valuable pick for basically cash ... that seems less than prudent.
Jamison, strong as he is, will make $50 million over the next three seasons. You'd save roughly $14 million total in the attached bad contract salary by trading the top pick. A No. 3 pick will make less than $13 million over the same three-year span. So basically, keeping Jamsion over the pick (and bad contract) costs $23 million. And you go from a decent shot at having a homegrown star from the Class of '09 to having zero shot at a homegrown star from the Class of '09. It does not make sense to trade the pick just to save Jamison.