Wizards

Wizards

Free agency opens in exactly a week, but it didn't take long for rumors being sold as fact became news. The Wizards were faced with an unflattering tale of being prepared to offer Joakim Noah a max contract starting at $28 million a year.

As unbelievable as that sounds, anything can seem believable these days because of the Internet. But the truth is, the Wizards, according to league sources, have never discussed a max offer for Noah, a 2013-14 NBA Defensive Player of the Year who has had decreasing value every year since and is coming off left shoulder surgery that put him on the shelf for 4-6 months.

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So let's go through this point-by-point to put any doubt to rest:

 
  • First things first, the Wizards are interested in Noah. He's 6-11 and has the IQ, toughness and passing ability of a Nene, who likely will leave as a free agent. That part has never been a secret as this team looked ahead to this summer. But Noah's production has declined ever since he anchored Chicago's defense to the playoffs -- where they were upset in five games by the Wizards -- and is coming off a significant surgery. Even when Noah, who earned $13.5 million last season in 29 games played, was healthy he wasn't a max player. At 31, the returns aren't getting any better. Noah is a good role player. Not a centerpiece.

 

  • Speaking of his age, when a max contract is doled out (see John Wall) it's not always about where a player is at that moment but where he's projected to land at the end of the deal. Wall, who was 22 at the time, responded with three All-Star appearances. He got better in part because he was still growing. Noah is trending in the other direction. In his last two seasons, he has averaged 7.2 and 4.3 points. He also hasn't averaged double-digit rebounds which he'd done four times previously. 

 

  • Majority owner Ted Leonsis praised president Ernie Grunfeld for his recent moves, most notably acquiring Markieff Morris at $7.4 million on a contract that runs through 2019, for a No. 13 draft pick in a weak year for rookies. The Wizards went from being at the bottom of the NBA in rebounding to nearly in the middle after bringing in Morris, who is 26 and has a lot of upside. Also, the deal to acquire Marcin Gortat three years ago when Emeka Okafor was lost for the season with a neck injury for a draft pick that also was No. 13 and turned out to be not very good was cited. The $12 million per that Gortat makes now looks like a bargain compared to other deals that'll be handed out as the cap skyrockets from $70 million to $94 million for 2016-17 to $108 million in 2017-18. Maxing Noah wouldn't fit the game plan nor would Leonsis even sign off on such a deal if Grunfeld had arranged it.

 

  • Recent history suggests the Wizards have been more fiscally responsible by not overpaying players, something the report suggests isn't the case through an anonymous source. That's wrong. They locked up John Wall at $80 million which was then a max and looks like a better deal every time the salary cap jumps. Morris was acquired at his number rather than trading for Ryan Anderson, who was an option at the deadline. Anderson would cost a lot more money to keep because he's an unrestricted free agent and sending a first-round pick without certainty he'd return to the fold would've been a risk too great to take. The only player who jumps out as they may have overpaid for recently given his injury history and how he performed after he signed his $22 million deal was Martell Webster. Eric Maynor didn't work out and neither did Gary Neal. Both cost just $2.1 million. Ramon Sessions' acquisition was a success and he was acquired via trade at $2.1 million for the last two seasons. Sessions was moved for Andre Miller, who the Wizards brought in to replace Maynor to make their first playoff run in six years. Miller cost $5 million and was worth it. The Wizards have been the opposite of what this report suggests in the last five years. This part doesn't even require sources or inside info.
  • The word "panicked" was used by an anonymous source to describe the Wizards' mind-set over losing Nene, which necessitated this eagerness to lock in Noah. Nene has been on the decline physically. His time on the floor has decreased in each of the last three seasons. He transitioned into a backup center for Gortat. Does that sound like a team that was "panicked' or unprepared for Nene's departure? It's a slow march towards it. He's unrestricted and both sides are expected to part ways. That's no surprise or secret. To portray it as such is an indication that there's no first-hand perspective involved.

 

  • If you're going to make a max offer to a big man, why not Hassan Whiteside who actually would be cheaper based on the formula (years of service in the league) used to determine the max? Noah comes first on that list? Draw your own conclusions on that one. 

 

 

  •  If you're the agent for Noah, how do you boost his value? You float the possibility that another team is waiting to offer your client the max so you can get him a better offer from his preferred destination (New York Knicks). It's like asking for $100 million in a lawsuit for pain and suffering knowing you'll get 30% of it if you're lucky. That's the business. Noah was hanging out in the city with Derrick Rose, his former Bulls teammate and new acquisition for New York. He wasn't with Wall. Do the math. 

 

  • And that feeds into this: Knicks owner James Dolan has been known to be overly aggressive and give up too much assets for a player he covets. See what happened when Carmelo Anthony was traded by the Denver Nuggets. Anthony had made it clear he wanted to play for the Knicks. The leverage for the Nuggets was lost. But then the rumors and suggestions were floated that Anthony could end up with the rival Brooklyn Nets if the Knicks dragged their feet. Anthony wanted to be with the Knicks. Then-GM Donnie Walsh insisted the Knicks hold firm on their offer and the Nuggets would have no choice but to give in or risk losing Anthony for nothing if the deadline passes. So Dolan overruled Walsh in a panic, gave up too many players (Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler) along with three picks for a player that was theirs all along. Dolan was holding a royal flush but decided to throw in his cards and sacrifice too many of his chips. That's why the Knicks are the Knicks. And it's why using this tact as a rep for Noah is a good one since Rose probably wants him on the team.