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The NBA Draft: Wizards Moves, Blake Griffin and the Future

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Michael Lee
Washington Post Sports Writer
Friday, June 26, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post staff writer and Wizards Insider blogger Michael Lee was online Friday, June 26, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the immediate aftermath of Thursday night's NBA Draft and the ramifications for the Wizards.

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Michael Lee: When I was asked to do a chat today, I almost took the approach of the Washington Wizards in the draft and just passed. But despite sleep deprivation over the past few nights -- Wiz trade, Shaq trade, NBA draft -- I decided to answer your questions while I ate a bowl of cereal this morning. I know everybody wants to talk about Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, DeJuan Blair and Jermaine Taylor, who got swapped for $2.5 million but is looking to make a fourth of that next season in Houston. And, oh yeah, there were a lot of trades around the league. So, let's go...

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washingtonpost.com:

Michael Lee: I thought I'd put this up to see what you guys think over the next hour. I know the poll on the Wizards Insider had fans favoring Foye and Miller over Rubio. But let's do another poll.

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Washington, DC: Miller and Foye for Rubio.

I'm thinking Brad Daugherty for Roy Hinson, and Charles Barkley for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry.

Michael Lee: Vlade Divac for Kobe? I don't know how good Rubio is going to be, but when I saw him in Beijing, most people there thought he was pretty special. Coach K said Rubio had "it." If Rubio turns about to be the second coming of Steve Nash, then this could be terrible. But if he is "all hype" then it won't be too bad. I understand what the Wizards' plan is -- they need players who are ready to play now -- but I found it quite assuming that Rubio slipped to them at No. 5.

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Little Falls, Minn.: My Timberwolves drafted three point guards- Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Nick Calathes (who will be playing in Greece for at least one year). They must be planning to trade one of them and I would guess it will be Rubio. Do you have any clues on what's on the mind of the T-Wolves' management?

Michael Lee: Your Timberwolves actually drafted four point guards (Ty Lawson got traded to Denver, which was a great move by the Nuggets). After they took Lawson, I was thinking, "Did Minnesota forget that it doesn't need to have another workout to find a starting point guard? They can really add players right now."

I think Rubio, they can wait for him. He can stay in Europe another year, possibly. Calathes already has a guaranteed deal in Greece, so he can be stashed over there for a year. I just think that when the T-Wolves have that many picks, they should try to get a few more guys who can join the team this season.

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Washington, DC: Michael: Poor Randy Foye. First traded for Brandon Roy, now for Ricky Rubio.

The trade reminds me of some of the worst draft pick trades: Brad Daughterty for Roy Hinson, Kobe for Vlade, Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippen.

Michael Lee: I thought about that the moment Rubio slid down to No. 5. Roy then Rubio. Fortunately, he won't have to worry about Rubio being a big star immediately -- especially if Rubio goes back to Europe. He mentioned that he took a lot of heat in Minnesota because he was hurt the year that Roy really blew up. Now he comes to Washington and has a new comparison. Roy is already a stud and Rubio has tons of potential to be a stud, but you hope Foye can just focus on being the best Foye. He can't worry about who he was traded for anymore. But we certainly can write about it.

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Baltimore: Yo mike I didn't think about it until you mentioned it in that blog post, but Shaq has really left carnage in every place he has left...Orlando, Lakers, Miami, Phoneix...does that reflect negatively on him?

washingtonpost.com: Shaq To Cavaliers

Michael Lee: I didn't go in depth, but I did mention that the return on Shaquille O'Neal has diminished over the past three years. Miami went from a championship to a first round exit to the worst record in the league. Shaq was traded to Phoenix, which went from a hotly-contested second-round series with San Antonio to a first round exit to not making the playoffs.

I also think that the way things ended in those last two situations in particular don't reflect well on him. Orlando needed almost 13 years to get over him and the Lakers needed five. I don't think Phoenix and Miami will be haunted by his absence. Those teams were begging to get rid of him. Kind of sad for an all-time great.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike,

Thanks for the great reporting. I've been a little taken aback by all the claims about Abe Pollin's cheapness. Say what you will about Pollin (e.g. putting too much faith in Wes Unseld's GM skills for years; over-eagerness to re-sign Arenas in spite of his knee problems), but he's a major philanthropist who has committed significant resources to the District. He privately financed the Verizon Center, revitalizing Penn Quarter. It's just sad to see so many misinformed, critical comments about his cheapness when he has tried to do so much for this city.

Michael Lee: You make some really good points. I'm sure a lot of these comments are made by angry/emotional fans who have noticed a history of questionable basketball decisions the past 30 years.

But I agree that people are a little off base. I mean, the Wizards are still poised to spend $76 million on team that currently is not going to win a championship next season. That is a lot of money, and they will pay the tax for it.

Spending money does not make you a contender. Does anybody recall the New York Knicks? Are Knicks fans happy with James Dolan because he repeatedly paid more in luxury tax fees than the Charlotte Bobcats payroll (exaggerating here)?

You have to be realistic. If your team is not a contender, then you shouldn't spend aimlessly just to make a statement. People need to step back and really think about what they are saying. This is a business. Businessmen usually don't make money making it rain on mediocre teams.

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Bethesda, Md.: Bill Simmons ranked Gilbert's contract as the worst in the league. Agree or disagree?

Michael Lee: Right now it is hard to dispute that. He has had three knee surgeries, played 18 games the past two seasons and has a $111 million deal. I don't see how you can call it a good deal on June 26, 2009. That, however, can change this season and upcoming years if Arenas comes back to the form that made him a third-team all-NBA player in 2007.

Arenas is hard at work, has lost 20 pounds, and is expected to start training with super trainer Tim Grover this summer. He can help the Wizards get some sort of return on that gigantic investment. Right now, they have two games to show for the deal.

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Re: The lousy trade the Wizards made: So now we know the trade was terrible. First, if they had stayed put, they would have gotten Ricky Rubio. I don't buy all of this "he's not ready." He played in the gold medal game in the Olympics and gave the US a run for their money.

Second, what do you think Minnesota would have been willing to give up if he was there and the trade hadn't happened yet? I bet more than Miller and Foye.

Third, I think it's bogus that Grunfeld is getting all these props for getting rid of bad contracts. In each case he is the one who signed them. And don't forget the Knicks saved us from having a terrible Ared Effries contract.

We had a 19-win season and I got Randy Foye and Mike Miller for my loyalty watching all those terrible games.

This is why it is terrible being a DC fan sometimes.

Michael Lee: Looking back, you wonder if they could've gotten more had they been a little more patient. But who knows? Minnesota was obviously going to move Foye and Miller since both will be free agents next summer and the new general manager was looking to get some new blood in the organization. I wasn't immediately blown away with the trade, but I also don't know all of the offers the Wizards had to consider. They are clearly under some pressure to have players who can contribute now with their core guys getting older.

But before you get too depressed, let the guys play together first.

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Virginia: Michael,

Referring to Rubio, you wrote "I know his agent, Dan Fegan, didn't want him in Washington". Why would his agent not want him to be in DC? We are a pretty big media market and have a very diverse population, especially when you compare us to Minnesota. Is it based on the history of our franchise?

Michael Lee: Playing in D.C. had nothing to do with the market or the organization. It had everything to do with placing his client in a situation where he was the primary ball-handler and decision maker. That wasn't going to happen in Washington, where a guy named Gilbert Arenas aka Agent Zero will dominate the basketball. Fegan is the agent who brought Arenas to Washington, so he doesn't have a problem with the organization. It's not like his alleged disdain for the Golden State Warriors. This is purely about basketball and creating the best environment for his client to blossom and shine.

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Leeburg, VA: Ricky Rubio expressed concern in playing in "Cold Weather Cities." His agent explicity said he didn't want the kid playing for Washington...

My question is: had we drafted him, could he have just said "No," stayed in Spain and come out again next year? Essentially leaving us with nothing?

Michael Lee: Once a team drafts someone, it has that players' rights. Rubio can go wherever he likes right now (Spain, Italy, Greece, Russia), but he is the property of the Minnesota Timberwolves -- until he gets traded; if he gets traded. Remember how the Wizards had the rights to Juan Carlos Navarro, who was selected in 2002 and traded five years later to Memphis?

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Sec 400: Michael,

I suspect there is a lot of negative reaction to the Wiz not taking DeJuan Blair last night, but the move actually makes sense to me. If Blair signs for $800,000, it's really double that from the tax. Throw in the $2.5M cash they got for the pick, you're up to $4.1M for Blair alone. Throw in the $3M or so for the saved first rounder and the $3M in luxury tax from that, and you're up to $10M saved. And they added two veterans!

Do you see the moves as crafty or cheap? What sort of veteran might be available at a starting salary of $5M or so?

Michael Lee: Thanks for doing the math, Sec. 400. That is very good breakdown of what occurred. As I mentioned earlier, the Wizards would've spent more money on players who they would have to develop over the next few years. But after living through a 19-63 season, the Wizards didn't want to be a developmental team once again. They wanted to add some pieces who can help and provide insurance if/when Caron Butler and/or Gilbert Arenas are forced to miss time with injuries. Miller and Foye can help them get to the playoffs now. Rubio and Blair would be great picks for the future -- but the Wizards aren't worried about anything except the immediate future.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike, why do you think the Wizards passed on DeJaun Blair at 32. I thought it would have made sense even though I think EG is not done dealing, but he is the exact type of player we need ini that post, forget his height. Let me know what you think.

Thanks

Michael Lee: I don't think the Wizards wanted to spend more money, including adding on to the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax with players who they will have to develop and/or stash on the bench. I totally understand their reasoning, but I was really shocked that they passed on Blair.

Not only would he have fit a need (a rugged, banger who can rebound), but after interviewing him in Chicago, I would've loved to have him in this locker room. He's a funny guy with tons of personality.

I couldn't believe that he slipped that low. I know he is short and has bad knees, but he was one of the best players in college basketball's best conference. He also was supposed to go in the mid-first round, possibly the lottery and slid all the way down.

The second round has produced some great players this decade (Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Carlos Boozer). While I don't see him being in that elite class, I thought Blair could be like a Big Baby Davis in Celtics. It's good that he's going to San Antonio, where he can learn how to play ball and be like a Malik Rose 2.0.

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DeJuan Blair: So, Michael, what did Blair do to get shoved down into the second round? His knees can't be that bad. What else is there?

Michael Lee: I'll answer this along with another one.

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Cheverly, MD: Why wouldn't they take Blair in the second round? This seems idiotic to me. We need some bangers off the bench. He would have been a cheap solution who owned the second pic in the draft. He couldn't handle Howard or even old Shaq, but I would take him banging on the inside against most other big men.

Michael Lee: I don't know if it was idiotic. But I certainly think the Wizards could use him. They could also use the $2.5 million they got for Jermaine Taylor to get a more seasoned veteran in free agency.

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Washington DC: There must be some other trade coming to justify having 9 guards on your team right?

Michael Lee: I know, right? I can't see the Wizards settling on this being the team that goes into training camp. They have to add a veteran big. They have way too many guards right now, and with Shaquille O'Neal joining Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett in the East, they are going to need another big body who can defend.

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Lansdowne, Va.: Michael,

If Ricky Rubio is sure to be an all-star for the next decade and the Wizards are fools for making a trade before knowing if they had an opportunity to draft him...then why did he "fall" to 5? Were the teams drafting 2-4 equally foolish as well? Or was there some credibility to the power of "hype" over substance?

Michael Lee: He didn't want to play in Memphis and made that very clear. Oklahoma City had a point guard and didn't want to alienate Russell Westbrook. Sacramento was the only team he worked out for and the Kings wanted Tyreke Evans (who the Wizards had rated higher on their draft board). I wouldn't call it a fall. Rubio is 18. Nobody knows how good is going to be, but most agree that he won't be a great player immediately. Fourteen years ago, Kevin Garnett went No. 5. Did teams go with substance over "hype" back then? We won't know for a while.

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DC: What do you make of the Rockets lack of movement? Are they pretty much going to stand pat and focus on bringing Artest back?

Michael Lee: Lack of movement? They spent about $6 million on draft picks. Yes, they didn't trade Tracy McGrady or get a big to support the injured Yao Ming, but there are several months to make some roster upgrades and sign Artest or whatever. I don't think Daryl Morey is going to stand pat unless he cannot find something he likes. I see him trying to make a big deal this summer.

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Largo, Md.: Hey Mike, what are some big men the Wizards might think about bringing in. Could Antonio McDyess help this team?

Michael Lee: McDyess could definitely help this team. The question is, does he want to play here? And how much would he cost? He left a ton of money on the table (about $7 million) to leave Denver and resign with Detroit last summer. He is hungry for a championship, so you have to assume that he picks a team that he sees has the best chance of winning. Would you put Cleveland, Orlando and Boston ahead of Washington?

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Rubio AND Flynn: Is it clear one of them will be traded ?

Michael Lee: I'd be surprised if both stay with the Timberwolves. I think Minnesota took Jonny Flynn because they wanted to guarantee at least one quality point guard played with them next season.

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North Carolina: Why do you think Orlando gave up on bringing back Hedo so quickly or do you think they see Vince as an upgrade?

Michael Lee: I see two things. I don't think they were thrilled about possibly giving Turkoglu $10 million a year. I also think Otis Smith realized that he had to get rid of Rafer Alston after he spent the entire NBA Finals complaining about having all-star Jameer Nelson around. If you are going to mope about adding a good player to your team, then you aren't about winning. He put himself ahead of the team and they had to move him.

You put those two factors together and I like the acquisition of Vince. He's from Central Florida and was frequently at Magic playoff games this summer. I think he will be charged up about being on a contender for the first time in his career. I think this is a great deal for Orlando. Vince is a great scorer and he can make plays for Nelson, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Will there be an announcement today about the Wizards acquiring a big man--Marcus Camby?

Michael Lee: That'd be nice, huh?

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Manchester, England: Are we now looking at an arms race in the East similar to what happened in the West in 2008?

Michael Lee: Oh yeah. I'm waiting on Boston to do something. Cleveland had to make a move after Orlando nearly swept them in the conference finals, and Orlando had to make a move to stay relevant just in case they lost Turkoglu in free agency. The Wizards, of course, needed to make a move to add more depth and versatility to their roster. Now, you just have to expect the next move (getting another veteran big) to balance out everything.

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Richmond: Are the Nets becoming like the Grizzlies of the east, giving away their best players for nothing?

Michael Lee: No, the Nets are the Nets of the East. You have to remember that before Jason Kidd got there, the Nets were consistently bad. They still have some promising pieces with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, but they are rebuilding now and just decided not to deceive their fans anymore. I do wonder if this latest move was made to lower payroll in order to make the team more attractive in a sale. That's pure speculation, though.

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trade and forwards: Michael,

I am on the side that the Wizards did a great job with the trade. We got two players who can play in the NBA.

Even if we did not trade and still got Rubio, who is to say that he would become great? Also we got rid of several binding and expensive contracts (but EG was the one who caused them in the first place).

My question is what forwards are available out there that would fit with the Wizards?

thanks.

Michael Lee: I don't know. I went over the list of potential free agents this summer and it was not that impressive. Antonio McDyess would be nice, but that might be a difficult move to pull off. Rasheed Wallace isn't coming to D.C. to play for Flip Saunders. The remaining free agents were Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox, Brian Skinner and Mikki Moore. Grunfeld may have to go the trade route. That is really unpredictable.

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Worthing, UK: Mr. Lee,

Were there any early entries to the draft who ended up going unpicked and/or lower into the second round who would have benefited from staying in college and/or overseas another year?

Thanks.

Michael Lee: Wow, more love from across the pond. The obvious name that jumps out is Jrue Holiday, who could've been a lottery pick with another year at UCLA. He found a good landing spot at 17 in Philadelphia (Eddie gets a point guard if Andre Miller leaves). Ohio State center B.J. Mullens definitely could've used another year in college and he fell all the way down to No. 24. In the second round, I'd have to go with Jody Meeks and DaJuan Summers.

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Rockville, Md.: Since the Caron trade, I can't think of a single move Ernie has made which has had an impact on this team and these latest moves don't look as if they will take the Wiz to the next level. How would you rate the job Ernie has done in the past few years?

Michael Lee: Since the Caron trade, I think Grunfeld has erred in signing the complementary pieces for the big three. Darius Songaila was a hard worker and a solid reserve, but was never really a great fit for a team filled with athletes. He gave him five years at $21 million. He made a great move in signing DeShawn Stevenson for less than $1 million after Jared Jeffries left for New York. A motivated Stevenson was a great pickup, but two years into a four-year deal, the Wizards are already looking to move him.

His draft choices have yet to pan out, although the jury is still out on JaVale McGee and Nick Young. Oleksiy Pecherov flopped here.

I thought it was good to take a chance on trading for Javaris Crittenton, but it remains to be seen how he fits with this new guard-heavy roster.

It's hard to judge this Foye-Miller deal because we haven't seen them play. Until then, no one knows. But you can certainly understand why he made this deal, because for the first time in a few years, the Wizards have a capable backup for Caron Butler in Mike Miller and they also have Arenas insurance with Foye.

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Miami: If the Suns goes ahead and deal Stoudemire shouldn't they try to move Nash and officially start a total youth movement?

Michael Lee: Yes. I think they should go all in. If they trade Stoudemire, Nash has to ask out, too. No way he wants to be part of a rebuilding project. He wants a championship and that is not happening in Phoenix. He will be a free agent in 2010, so the Suns might as well get something for him.

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Hagerstown, Md.: The Wizards certainly have needs to fill. Why did they trade their pick for the 32nd and then trade it for financial considerations? What are they telling their fans with these moves? Are they in financial trouble or do they really think they have the talent to win a championship?

Michael Lee: I'll answer this again. You cannot assume that they are in financial trouble because they don't want to go overboard in luxury tax payments. The Wizards are slated to pay a lot of money in tax penalties, but you want to pay the tax if you are in a position to win. Shoot, the Lakers sold a draft pick and dumped salary at the deadline last February. Is Jerry Buss cheap? No. He just wants to spend wisely. Say what you will about the futures of Rubio or possibly DeJuan Blair, but they don't want to go berserk on salary when it won't ensure success.

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Davidson, NC: There had been a lot of talk here on the Davidson campus about where Steph Curry would be happiest, and he himself seemed to be leaning toward New York. In your opinion, is Golden State a good pick for him? Better than New York? What if Minnesota had still had him as an option when their turn came?

Michael Lee: When I saw that Curry got picked to go to Golden State, I felt bad for the dude. On a team with Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette, when is he going to shoot? I'm hoping that he is part of this reported Amare Stoudemire deal with Phoenix. The Suns would be great for him. I thought New York was the best fit for Curry. He'd be great in Mike D'Antoni's system. Minnesota did have him avaliable and passed on him twice. I hope he's wearing a Suns uniform when all is said and done.

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Michael Lee: I tried to get to every question I could, but there were too many. I appreciate everybody for stopping by, but I have to get going. This really was fun and I'm looking forward to doing it again. Alright, people. Peace.

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