Washington Wizards all-star guard John Wall went public with his desire for the franchise to acquire another talent at the start of the July 1 NBA’s free agency period when he told ESPN reporters last week that “we are one piece away” from contending for a championship.
Wall elaborated to reporters: “You got to add another star. You got to have three guys,” while he revealed that he was actively recruiting Indiana all-star forward Paul George to team up with him in the District. George ultimately ended up being traded to Oklahoma City in a lopsided deal considering the one year that he has left on his contract.
FILE – In this April 8, 2017, file photo, Indiana Pacers’ Paul George (13) tries to get position to shoot against Orlando Magic’s Terrence Ross during an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla. Two people with knowledge of the details say the Pacers have agreed to trade George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in a stunning deal that gives MVP Russell Westbrook a new running mate. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
The Thunder traded guard Victor Oladipo and rookie big man Domantas Sabonis for George and no future draft picks, basically prying away the all-star George for two everyday role players that won’t provide anything of major value in place of George. Where were the Wizards at in their negotiations? Wizards General Manager Ernie Grundfeld has an uphill mission trying to rework Washington’s roster that is dangerously close to the salary cap but did he just miss his chance to add that “one piece?” Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this question.
Riley: When you’re short on assets like the Wizards are it hurts from a fan’s perspective to see players like George, DeMarcus Cousins and Chris Paul get shuffled around to other teams for practically nothing. Did the Wizards miss on George? Who knows? We don’t know if Grunfeld presented an offer or if Indiana just had its mind dead set on not trading George within the conference. Now Washington finds itself in the dangerous position of readying itself to hand big time money to average forward extraordinaire Otto Porter Jr. in hopes that he develops into a player close to George’s caliber. The Wizards cannot go into the season with the same squad from last year hoping again that Wall, Bradley Beal and Porter improve another notch to take the team further. The chance to add George at minimum cost was there and they whiffed. Plain and simple.
Green: With one year remaining on his current deal and an already stated desire to join the Los Angeles Lakers, jettisoning talent away for a likely one-year rental would’ve been extremely risky. A Wall/Beal/George combination would’ve probably ended in the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland and then what? What happens to George after his lone season and where would Washington go from there? D.C. isn’t even remotely close to Los Angeles in terms of anything so how would that have played out?
Riley: Swing for the fences and see what happens. In the age of “super teams” you can’t be afraid to pull the trigger on one and two year deals. Teams have to be more aggressive in attacking the moment and not sitting on their hands until the perfect storm of a deal materializes. Who knows what a trio of Wall/Beal/George could have accomplished in an Eastern Finals against Cleveland. Washington believes they would’ve given LeBron and company some go last season and that’s without George on the roster. If Wall and Beal take another step next season and you couple that with George who knows where the team would’ve ended up. This was the time for the Wiz to make a substantial move and they couldn’t get it done for whatever reason. Wall and Beal are in their primes right now. Grunfeld needs to do something besides overpay for Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic before this summer is over or it’s no point in watching next season.
Green: I agree a move or two needs to be made to make the Wizards more formidable but it has to be the right move. Grunfeld and the Wizards don’t have the organizational moxie to recover quickly after failed free agent attempts like other NBA teams do. When Washington makes a move it is typically stuck with that move until the contracts materialize, so I can understand hanging back. The summer of 2018 is just around the corner and Washington could realistically hold its chips until then when a sizable group of NBA free agents will reshape the Association. Cousins, George, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and a host of other stars will be unrestricted free agents so it’s not the final chapter if Washington doesn’t make a splash this summer. Plus, there’s still a chance they could go after Carmelo Anthony, who according to reports, may be open to a trade to D.C. Just give it a little time. Free agency just opened for the summer a few days ago. We’ll learn soon enough whether or not Washington made a mistake in not going after George.