Trade crowds Wizards' frontcourt
Addition of Okafor, Ariza could hurt Seraphin, Vesely
If there's one thing I've learned during my three-plus decades of Bullets/Wizards fandom, it's that it takes some time to judge the true merits of an Ernie Grunfeld trade.
For instance, at the moment, 2009's Mike Miller/Randy Foye-for-Ricky Rubio trade merely looks "mind-numbingly shortsighted." But I harbor an inescapable hunch that within five years that deal will graduate to "second-worst trade in the history of the franchise" (still behind Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond).
Wednesday's Rashard Lewis-for-Emeka Okafor/Trevor Ariza special resides in B-/C+ territory. I don't hate it with as much vitriol as, say, Insider John Hollinger, but I don't love it as much as Kornheiser/Wilbon on PTI. It eats up the Wizards' cap flexibility for the next two years, but they weren't getting an Eric Gordon with that cap space and instead added some veteran polish at two positions.
But the deal does hold immediate fantasy implications for both the Wizards and Hornets.
And before we get too judgmental, let's remember that Grunfeld did pick up a mid-first-rounder for the 2010 draft that he parlayed into Kevin Seraphin. Seraphin turned out to be one of fantasy's most pleasant sleeper success stories of the 2011-12 season. And for that same draft, he also acquired the No. 23 pick, which he turned into the promising Trevor Booker.
I bring those two deals up because if you enjoyed the flashes of fantasy value Seraphin and Booker displayed this past season bottle those memories. In 2012-13, both players will be coming off the bench as part of the swampy, eight-headed miasma that will be the Washington Wizards' frontcourt rotation.
Let's take a look at the Wizards' depth chart as of this writing (which should be locked in for the next calendar year, save for Andray Blatche likely getting amnestied and adding a Cartier Martin or two):
PG: John Wall, Shelvin Mack
SG: Jordan Crawford, Bradley Beal (most likely via draft)
SF: Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Booker, Chris Singleton (if no Beal, maybe Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Harrison Barnes)
PF: Nene, Seraphin, Booker, Blatche (I think you can cross off the possibility of Thomas Robinson)
C: Okafor, Nene, Seraphin
Here's a comparison of the Wizards' frontcourt prospects; think of what it was like to own a Sacramento Kings backcourt or wing player last season. Between Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Terrence Williams, John Salmons, Donte Greene and Francisco Garcia, you had players rising and falling in terms of minutes and fantasy relevance on an almost-daily basis.
What I see for Washington is several frontcourt players struggling to average 24-29 minutes a game. Yes, you now have serviceable veterans available to start at small forward, power forward and center, but those minutes will come at the expense of some promising younger players. And some of these veterans (Okafor, Nene) sport rich and vivid injury histories.
Before Wednesday's deal, Seraphin projected as a starter alongside Nene, and a fine eighth- or ninth-round pick. He now drops into endgame territory. Vesely drops into the same range, and out of the draft in shallow-to-medium leagues. Nene and Okafor are both still draftable as No. 2 centers, and will produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 points and 8-9 rebounds per game, with 1.0-1.5 blocks per game as gravy.
Ariza could be intriguing. He had a nice little run the second half of last season when he reined in his shot selection and posted some admirable across-the-board box scores. Save for Vesely undergoing some sort of radically shot-altering European blood therapy or the greatest round of Lasik surgery in recorded history over the summer, Ariza has to be the starter come opening night. His bounce-back campaign went virtually unnoticed in New Orleans, but there's potential here for some real value.
If you want to draft a Wizard before the eighth round, I'd stick to the backcourt.
John Wall's production will benefit from Okafor's and Ariza's presence. If the Wizards get their hands on Bradley Beal (and his reliable jumper), I see Wall leaping into 18-point, 9-assist territory, with 1.5 steals and a block. That block per game at the PG slot is a very underrated aspect of Wall's fantasy résumé. And his 3-point shooting has absolutely nowhere to go but up; Wall shot 7 percent from behind-the-arc. As in "seven." As in 3-for-42.
Jordan Crawford and (probably) Beal will duke it out for the starting role at shooting guard. If the pick is MKG or Barnes, Crawford's value jumps into the seventh round, because the Wizards don't have the cap space to land an impact shooting guard.
Now let's look at the currently stripped-down Hornets' rotation:
You can count on Rashard Lewis getting bought out, and figure that Chris Kaman isn't coming back. With this deal, Davis' value takes a large leap, as he's all but guaranteed the starting job at center. Just remember that Ayon provided some nice value down the stretch last season, so if Davis struggles early, this could be a time-share through Thanksgiving.
I'd project Davis' value around early Dwight Howard territory: 10 points, 9 rebounds and 2.0-2.5 blocks a night. Basically somewhere between Roy Hibbert and JaVale McGee, which means mega-block upside.
The Hornets will sign a couple of free agents to beef up at small forward and power forward, but both Smith and Aminu could make for solid endgame fliers. If the Hornets re-sign Carl Landry, Landry becomes a sleeper. As Ayon proved last season, the Hornets have minutes to burn up front, and those minutes will result in under-the-radar fantasy value. And interestingly enough, given 28-30 minutes per game, Aminu's upside and skill set probably projects out to something close to Trevor Ariza.
Ultimately, from the Hornets' perspective, this trade was about freeing up the cap space to lock down Eric Gordon.
If that happens, it means New Orleans got the best player out of this particular deal, not to mention cap flexibility and the prospect of some additional young upside. One final fantasy note: Don't forget that the Hornets also own the No. 10 pick, which could turn out to be a frontcourt starter in the Perry Jones III/John Henson range.
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