How well (or not) does the return of Okafor and Ariza bode for the WIzards? What can prevent the Wizards from getting homesick when they play away from DC? Besides Martell, which other future free agent deserves to keep his Wizards uniform for next season? Mike, Jamal and Trevor have the answers to all these questions in this week's 3-on-3...
1. Recently, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor confirmed they will play the final year of their contracts instead of opting out. What impact does this have on the Wizards next season?
Trevor: Love what Okafor has brought to this team, wish he was cheaper. Like how Ariza is playing, wish HE was cheaper. There really was no question that both players would play out the final year, as neither guy was going to give up $14.5 million (Okafor) or $7.7 million (Ariza) to test free agency. In a perfect world, we could have restructured their deals to keep them for a few more years, but pay out less money over each year, particularly helping for this next season. But to be honest, I don't even know if that is an option in the NBA like it is in the NFL. If it came down to having to pick one of these guys, I would definitely keep Okafor. However, I wouldn't say it's a lock that both will remain a Wizard past next season. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the Okariza duo traded, if not this off-season, then before the trade deadline when both players gain some value as expiring deals who can contribute.
Jamal: I think it’s good. Admittedly, I wasn’t too fond of the trade that brought both players here because I questioned what level of value each could provide. There was the underlying feeling, too, that playing for a basement-dweller like the Wizards would possibly retard their contributions (which is my theory for why Ariza started slow).
Now, however, both have undoubtedly proven their worth. Okafor is a good defensive player who rebounds well. Ariza is also a good defender who can knock down threes. While they command a lot in salary, they’ll make excellent rotation players next season while also serving as mentors to whatever lottery pick the Wizards make.
Finally, they’ll both have coveted expiring contracts next season.
Michael: I'm completely fine with both of them staying with this team. The Wizards have obviously built some chemistry with these guys on the squad and the last thing the Wizards need is another rebuilding year as they struggle to fit another big-man and small forward in the lineup. When it all boils down, I'm more excited about Okafor rejoining the team as he's been providing a consistent double-double for most of the second half of the season. The price tag is what it is and the Wizards aren't going to get much in return for them, so why not stay with two guys who are a good influence on and off the court?
2. For the past 5 seasons, the Wizards have struggled mightily on the road, losing 151 of their 187 contests away from the District since 2008 (!!!). What can be possibly change this?
Trevor: In all honesty, I think staying healthy should do the trick for this current roster to start picking up road wins. Outside of responding with "get a better team," I think this is the best answer. But seriously, during that same time frame since 2008, Ernie's rosters have gone 117 and 272.
Jamal: This is an issue I’ve thought about a lot all season. In years past, I chalked up a lot of the Wizards’ road losses to inexperience. Younger players tend to get rattled easily, make mistakes, and lose control of the game. This year’s roster, however, has the most veteran leadership it’s had in years and they’ve still posted a dismal road record.
I think the solution comes from two areas: rotations and scoring. During some road losses this season, we’ve seen a unit that was competitive during the first halves of games get mixed up during the second half. The Wizards’ front court takes a seat for long stretches, second unit players arguably play too long, and the result is a double digit run by their opponent.
I think a lack of scorers plays a role, too. Once teams effectively clamp down on Wall, or our wing players’ shots aren’t falling, the Wizards lack the options to create a new dimension to the offense. Here is where I think a true isolation player would be valuable. Jordan Crawford may be the closest the Wizards had.
Michael: When I spoke to Erik Spoelstra about the Wizards during All-Star Weekend, he had a key statement about our team. He mentioned that, much like the Heat, the only thing that is going to help this squad become better is "time." I think the road woes will get better as the guys come back next season with most of the core in tact. It hasn't helped anyone to be playing with six or seven ten-day contracts during the season. I feel as if next season, the Wizards are going to see consistency on the court for the first time since the playoff run in 2008.
3. Besides Martell Webster, which of the other players with expiring contracts -- Martin, Price and Temple -- would you like to see back in a Wizards uniform next season?
Trevor: I don't think AJ Price should be the long-term answer at our backup point guard position. I think that should be one of the positions we look to upgrade this instead. Maybe Tomas Satoransky can be that guy? Who am I kidding, I don't even know if he is a real basketball player. I like Cartier Martin, but I think he is just too streaky with his shooting.
So if I had to pick one of these guys to bring back, I would go with Garrett Temple. I think he has proven to be a capable backup, even though Randy loves him in the starting lineup. His game seems to fit the new defensive tone of this team, and I think he just brings more to the team than the other two.
Jamal: Among the players on one-year deals, I wouldn’t mind seeing AJ Price back. Price has been a solid contributor this season, working through an unexpected brief starting role, injuries, and an early season team shuffling at his position.
Price is averaging his best numbers since his rookie season and appears to have an excellent relationship with John Wall. I think continuity at this position, especially from an experienced floor leader, can go a long way next season.
Michael: I'm a big Cartier Martin fan but am able to admit that he has been streaky to say the least. I love his game, but his consistency (or lack thereof) does not deserve another contract past this season. I think that both Price and Temple have proven themselves as capable backups on this squad during the injury-plagued periods of the season. I'm pretty sure the Wizards won't bring both back, but I would not be unhappy with either of them coming back for another run next season. It's honestly a toss-up for me as to which one I would like to see more. I do hope that at least one of them does return though in order to keep this team consistent (are you seeing a trend from me here?).