The Washington Wizards had a season to forget with a second straight losing season, Gilbert Arenas being suspended for gun charges, and familiar faces being shipped off for the sake of the future. All things considered, this offseason will be particularly important in building the franchise back into a contender.
Now is the time to put those dark days in the past because Washington has a lot of work to do and enough trade bait to make some noise this summer. New owner Ted Leonsis has big plans for his new pet project, and who am I to say he doesn't go to work this summer by doing some crafty wheeling and dealing?
Here are some potential targets for the Washington Wizards:
Houston Rockets Center Yao Ming
Yao Ming's status is hazy right now. There is speculation that he may opt out of his contract to test free agency, but the Rockets would probably prefer getting something out of the deal. A package of JaVale McGee, Randy Foye, and the 30th pick is possible because Houston is likely to look for a center in the draft.
This deal would give Washington a proven inside presence (provided Yao stays healthy), and the Rockets would get some depth and another pick to work with. This move is a long-shot given the Wizards' future plans to get younger through the draft, but it could pay off if Yao returns and stays healthy.
Philadelphia 76ers Forward Elton Brand
The Sixers aren't unhappy with Brand, but they would prefer to get younger with their second overall pick coming soon. And Brand hasn't shown the same fire he did with the Clippers. His contract is big enough to open the avenue for a trade for Gilbert Arenas. A move such as this creates lineup issues for Washington, but it wouldn't be a stretch to move Andray Blatche to small forward, where he would have a size advantage over many defenders at the position.
Allen Iverson's status is up in the air at this point, and Arenas is a good option at point guard. This move would give the Sixers options in the draft. They can still take Evan Turner and insert him at the small forward spot, or they could draft DeMarcus Cousins and have the inside presence that recently traded Samuel Dalembert was unable to develop into.
Portland Trailblazers Center Greg Oden
This is nothing more than speculation on my part, but given his injury history and the team's ability to succeed without him, Greg Oden may be an expendable asset soon enough. His contract isn't gigantic, with one year and a qualifying offer left, and he has potential to go with youth. He is just 22, but he has a couple of major injuries he'll have to prove were flukes and not a result of frailty.
The Wizards could give up pick-up Randy Foye's contract and package him with Al Thornton and the 30th pick for Oden. It would give them depth and relieve them of the bust that Oden is turning out to be. The Wizards would get a young player with enough potential to battle it out with the equally raw JaVale McGee.
Detroit Pistons Forward Tayshaun Prince
The Pistons are in the midst of an identity crisis right now, and they have next to no youth to build for the future. Bringing in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva did not renew their championship chances as hoped, and now they need to start over. Tayshaun Prince, easily their most valuable asset, is known for his defense as well as offense. He does everything asked of him, and he is a good locker room presence.
The Wizards could package the 30th pick with Blatche and Foye for Prince, and both sides would win. Foye's contract is only for one year, and Blatche's contract is hardly monumental, which plays into both the youth and rebuilding needs the Pistons have. The Wizards get a top-notch defender with enough experience and no history of injuries and a contract that only runs through next season.
Orlando Magic Shooting Guard Vince Carter
Vince Carter showed flashes of his former self at times during the season with the Magic, but at this point in his career, flashes are only worth so much. Carter has one year and a team option left on his contract, which fits perfectly with what the Wizards would like to do—get younger quicker. There is speculation that Orlando GM Otis Smith's relationship with Gilbert Arenas could be the key to a deal getting done.
The issue with any deal involving Arenas is balancing the trade to NBA standards. It may require the Magic packaging Carter with the 29th pick, a future pick, and maybe Mickael Pietrus. This move would clear cap space, give Orlando a boost at either guard spot, and pave the way for John Wall at point guard. It would make for a smoother transition without Arenas fighting for touches at shooting guard or some type of off-guard.
Indiana Pacers Guard Brandon Rush
Pacers GM Larry Bird has stated that he hates to part with young players before giving them a chance to really prove themselves, but it may be necessary to further their rebuilding process. Brandon Rush improved his stats from his rookie year, and Indiana may be trying to sell high while they can.
Even with the intent to sell high, the Pacers may have to settle for a second round pick swap and maybe a player like Al Thornton. The deal gives both teams depth and moves the Pacers up in the draft. The Wizards could use Rush in future trades or keep him around for competition with inconsistent shooting guard Nick Young. Both would be stuck behind Arenas, but with the right motivation, perhaps even Arenas would benefit from a push from the younger players.
New York Knicks Forward/Center David Lee
David Lee will be a free agent this summer, but the Knicks are too busy trying to lure LeBron James to the area to concern themselves with extending his contract. Lee is a hard-nosed player with tons of talent being wasted in New York. The Knicks could work something out in the shape of a sign-and-trade deal.
Blatche has some years left on his contract, but he is nowhere near the max money some people believe Lee is worth. The Wizards could send Blatche and the 30th pick to New York, who won't have to foot the bill for Lee's contract and will get a pick they can trade for cash considerations to further woo LeBron to New York.
New Orleans Hornets Point Guard Chris Paul
This is a time-sensitive trade if ever there was one. The Wizards have the first overall pick in the draft, which is likely to be used on Kentucky point guard Wall. Without some long-shot *or the planets suddenly aligning), Wall will be a Wizard. However, if Washington packages Blatche and Thornton (pending the player option on his contract) with the 30th pick in the first round, the Hornets may be willing to send Chris Paul east.
If Paul does become a Wizard before the first pick is made, Washington can trade down with a team with more use for Wall or pick Turner, who would fit perfectly in the vacant small forward position. Again, this trade is purely speculation on my part, but as a Chris Paul fan, I am all for it.
New Orleans Hornets Forward Julian Wright
The Hornets find themselves in an interesting position this offseason. Chris Paul went down with an injury and opened the door for Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton to shine. If they intend to keep all three of them, there has to be a casualty somewhere, and Julian Wright is just the man for the chopping block. He plays with energy, is still young (23), and is still developing.
This may be one of the easiest (and one of the least likely) options for the Wizards, since they'd only have to give up the 30th pick for Wright. It isn't the prettiest deal, but it gives Washington another player for future trade packages and picks. What good is rebuilding if the Wizards can't muster the proper bait and fodder to get picks in years to come?
More Draft Picks
New owner Ted Leonsis loves basketball, and it has to pain him to see the team decline so rapidly following the brief but memorable playoff runs from a few years ago. He faced a similar task with his ownership of the Washington Capitals, and he took the proper steps to right that ship. In spite of an early playoff exit last season, the Capitals are poised to make deep runs for years to come, and Leonsis did it all through strategic trades for prospects and picks.
The Wizards only have a handful of players under contract, but they could trade Blatche, Thornton, Foye, Arenas, or Young. If the price is right, the Wizards want more picks and want to get as far under the cap as possible so when they do have the right players in town, they have the money to keep them.
The Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls are likely in the market for cash considerations to lure the big free agents come summer, and present themselves as great trade partners for the Wizards.
The Wizards are at a crossroads with the upcoming draft and pending free agent class inducing drool in most of their Eastern Conference opponents. With Leonsis at the helm, guiding GM Ernie Grunfeld's decisions, Wizards fans could see one or two surprises come their way in the coming months.
As outlandish as some of these targets may seem, Washington has the ability and business savvy to make some big moves for the future of the franchise. While the odds are with any move that nets the Wizards more picks, I wouldn't mind seeing Paul running point with Arenas at shooting guard and freshly drafted Turner as the swingman.
I can dream, can't I?