While the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic made deals for big-name stars Shaquille O'Neal and Vince Carter, the Washington Wizards made a trade that has mostly gone unnoticed, but did more to improve their team.
The additions of Randy Foye and Mike Miller coupled with the return of Gilbert Arenas and the probability of another free agent acquisition will make this team very dangerous. The question isn't if they will make the playoffs, but will they compete with the Celtics, Magic and Cavaliers for a place with the elite of the Eastern Conference.
I like the recent trade because both Miller and Foye are solid players who should be hungry to play for a winning team after years with losing teams. It was an aggressive move to improve immediately rather than waiting for the No. 5 pick in the draft to develop (and, in Rubio's case, even play in the NBA). Both are team players: Miller adds three-point shooting, passing and rebounding and Foye offers scoring and quickness. Add these two to Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas, and Brendan Haywood and you have a solid veteran core with plenty of scorers and role players. There priority now should be to use their mid-level exception to sign a free agent big man like Antonio McDyess.
Listen to the excitement oozing from Antawn Jamison on his blog:
"If we can stay healthy, this move could put us in contention for the top of our division and conference. Mike Miller is a friend of mine and I’m looking forward to playing with him. He’s an incredible shooter who will complement everything we’ll be trying to do with our new coach. Randy Foye is an all-around good player who can play both guard spots and provide us with great flexibility and depth. Watch out Wizards’ fans, we’re looking to make some noise this season!"
There are many ifs including seeing how all the new parts gel and if Agent Zero can play enough team ball to keep everyone on the court happy and efficient. The roster is full of players who have suffered for long stretches of their careers on losing teams. I believe Miller and Foye will blossom in their new surroundings and the other Wizards players will be rejuvenated by the fresh roster and new head coach Flip Saunders.
Gilbert is a big question mark but I think there are enough quality experienced players on the team to garner his respect and focus. Whether his body holds up is another story and it may take some time for the group to play best together. But I for one like the aggressive trade; this draft may be a bigger bust than people suspect.
Picking DeJuan Blair in the second round seems like it would have been a better move than selling their draft pick, but let's wait to see what they do in free agency.
Regardless, they won't finish 19-63 again, ouch! I look for them to finish between the fourth and sixth seed, but there is the potential, especially if Boston has injury problems that they could crack the top three out East. The main competitors for the fourth seed look to be Atlanta, Miami, and Chicago.