Friday, 25 October 2013

Death by Trade Machine #1 - Washington Would Like to Make the Playoffs

Cap mechanics of PFP's proposed trade.
Mired in mediocrity for a number of years, the Washington Wizards have not featured in the NBA playoffs since signing Gilbert Arenas to his infamous $111M contract extension in July, 2008. Former #1 overall draft pick and franchise point guard, John Wall, (with a new contract of his own to boast) would like to change that. Wall does not need any reminding of the status of his Wizards, though, with recent reports suggesting that he intends to label each pair of game shoes throughout the upcoming season with the word 'playoffs'. Amidst a flurry of offseason signings and retooling, Washington appear to have been grouped in at the lower end of the Eastern Conference (along with the new-look rosters of Cleveland and Detroit) as a team considered likely to make a playoff push. This level of newfound optimism is not unique to media circles, either.

Following a strong finish to this past season, the Wizards elected to solidify their roster by retaining three-point specialist Martell Webster and investing the 3rd overall pick in the draft in Georgetown product, Otto Porter Jr. Persistently for Washington, however, health has been a lingering concern, one that has swiftly diminished the brightness of their outlook in seasons past. Despite fans finding solace in an unfamiliar level of stability and direction in recent franchise manoeuvres, a cloud of injury and uncertainty still lurks, with key piece Emeka Okafor sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disk in his neck. This sombre news only compounds the reality that starting centre Nene has struggled to stay on the court, appearing in just 72 games for the team over an 18 month span.

With this in mind, Washington seems a perfect starting place for the introduction of the 'Death by Trade Machine' column, as Prophecies from the Parquet looks for suitable trading partners and the right balance to put these dwindling Wizards back into the May basketball schedule, and restore the team to its former glory. And where better to start the search than one of the teams immersed in season-long indifference, with little desire to win now. I speak of none other than the Phoenix Suns, a team presently stuck in the unwanted quagmire of being an unequivocally bad team, but not quite bad enough. The Suns spent their summer amassing assets for the future, and simultaneously throwing in the proverbial towel for the upcoming season. The team is left with the problem, nonetheless, that the roster still contains a number of legitimate, rotation NBA players - among them are starters Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. This Phoenix duo, one of whom has not been shy of publicising his feelings about the organisation and its state of affairs, seem a near perfect fit for an exchange with the injured Emeka Okafor's expiring contract.

A simple swap such as this, perhaps with an added sweetener - such as one of Washington's handful of underdeveloped young forwards - would accelerate the aims for both parties. Placing Gortat in the Wizards' frame would form (health permitting) an intimidating frontline with Nene, while Dragic is a proven player capable of logging heavy minutes at either guard spot. Dragic could conceivably complement the current setup of the Wizards' backcourt, offering a preferable alternative to their present backups, whilst arriving at an affordable, manageable price. For Phoenix, removing two of the primary holdovers from a previous regime, and two competent players at that, would likely result in a shift further down the standings, but not one that the franchise appears altogether opposed to. The cap cost is not too great for a Washington organisation quite clearly grouped into 'win now' mode, with Gortat's deal due to expire at season's end, and Dragic (theoretically) arriving at the aforementioned respectable rate. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how these two situations develop, respectively, as we can expect both to resurface in the Death by Trade Machine clouds across the year.

‘Death by Trade Machine’ is a regular feature running on this blog, where PFP contributors teleport themselves into the minds of NBA front offices (through the wonders of the ESPN NBA Trade Machine), and attempt to conjure solutions to the nagging issues of NBA teams. Trade ideas may be centred on team balance, salary cap questions, rumoured player dissatisfaction, or any combination of these factors. NOTE: These posts in no way are intended to serve as forecasts or predictions for future transactions, but rather as a laid back way of indulging in the insanity of NBA player movement. 

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