It is only the end of January, still more than two weeks away from the All-Star break, yet many struggling NBA teams are already clearing salary cap space for a tempting off-season.
With names ranging from reigning MVP LeBron James to superstars like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire, this summer’s free agents may determine the league’s future for years to come.
To the Washington Wizards however, I offer a riskier, albeit significantly cheaper strategy. Rid yourself of suspended superstar Gilbert Arenas along with Javaris Crittenton, in hope of obtaining a franchise-altering player.
But the best answer might not be James or Wade, and clearly, Washington should not jeopardize its future by trading for a disgruntled superstar, such as Tracy McGrady. The Wizards need Kentucky’s freshman phenomenon John Wall, instead.
Through only months into his first season in college basketball, Wall has distanced himself from a relatively weak draft class. At age 18, he is blessed with the explosiveness of Derrick Rose, a John Stockton-esque feel for controlling the game, and Chris Paul’s creativity. Wall, moreover, exhibits the unique ability to improve others, as demonstrated by the transformation of fellow UK freshman DeMarcus Cousins into an immediate force in the post, and the improvement of veteran teammate Patrick Patterson.
Washington is led by veteran head coach Flip Saunders. He is best remembered for numerous playoff struggles, yet he developed Kevin Garnett into a superstar in Minnesota. More impressively, Saunders helped Garnett thrive around mediocre veterans.
The Wizards, on the other hand, would provide Wall with two NBA players on the edge of elite status in Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Wizards guard Randy Foye, the team’s fourth leading scorer, would then become a viable backup.
The entire plan hinges on the lottery, but luckily, the Wizards have the league’s fourth-worst record (14-30), which therefore would give them the fourth-best percentage of landing the Number 1 selection. Best of all, the NBA has a rookie salary cap, and for first round draft picks, the league requires a player sign for two years with each year costing the team approximately $4.5 million. LeBron, Wade, Bosh or Amar’e will be in the stratosphere of $20 million per season, in my opinion.
Washington would then still have the money to pursue another top flight free agent, if necessary. Brendan Haywood, a free agent, could be let go, and management could acquire Knicks forward David Lee, another free agent, as an upgrade in the post.
The NBA is left drooling over Wall’s potential to be one of the elite floor generals in the coming months; nevertheless, his primary concern is to direct Kentucky to its first national title since the days of Tubby Smith.