The Many Moves of the GM
Ernie Grunfeld took over as General Manager of the Washington Wizards in 2003. Since he became the guy in charge of decision making, it has been quite an up and down experience. Grunfeld has had his share of decent moves, but in the realm of Wizards fans, they are generally out weighed by the negative moves. Even when Ernie has managed to make some good moves, most of the time they are to clean up his own mess.
He built up a playoff team at one point, and when that failed was given a chance most GM’s do not get. He was able to tear down the team and try and start over. Again, he made some okay moves along the way, followed by some rather bad ones. At this point, it seems the Wizards are going to be starting fresh again after trading their core of JaVale McGee and Nick Young, and the question now is whether owner Ted Leonsis is going to give Ernie ANOTHER chance at building up a team, or whether there will be a new guy calling the shots in 2012.
That being said, I have compiled a list of the top 10 Ernie Grunfeld moves (mistakes) since he took the reigns. Be careful when you get closer to the bottom….it starts to get a hard on the mind.
10. Drafted Andray Blatche in June of 2005
This move alone was not bad in itself, as Dray was picked out of high school, 49th pick of the 2nd round. At the time, he was a promising prospect who had a lot of potential. I only came up with 9 moves I really disliked, so since Blatche is the last member of the knucklehead group and currently maligned by the fans, I figured I would throw him in here.
9. Drafted Nick Young in 2007 and JaVale McGee in 2008
Sure, you can say that these were not bad picks. I can’t say at the time I would disagree with you. And I am also not saying at the time that I would have made a different choice. And sure both players went on to be productive, in some sense of the word. But the big problem is neither were winners. They did not have a high basketball IQ, and did not have what it takes to win. They were a big cause of the current Wizards culture of goofing off, not playing tough, and creating a circus like atmosphere for DC basketball.
8. Drafted Jan Vesely in 2011* – 6th pick in the 1st round
I put an asterisk next to this one, because obviously it is too early to tell what long term effects this pick will have on the franchise. But when the 6th pick overall simply can not shoot – [he is 1 of 31 on jump shots according to basketball reference], there are some serious questions. Especially when other impact players who play a position of need are available, such as Khlay Thompson, Makieff Morris, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried, or Marshon Brooks for example.
7. Passing on DeJuan Blair in the 2nd round of 2009 Draft
Every team passed on DeJuan Blair in the first round. But when he fell to the Wizards in the 2nd round, it seemed like a no brainer. Blair was the type of physical rebounding interior presence that Washington sorely lacked at that point. And in the 2nd round, there were really no monetary reason not to select him. Instead, Ernie drafted Jermaine Taylor who was traded to Houston for the lovely cash considerations that all fans love. DeJuan Blair was drafted 5 picks later by San Antonio, and has gone on to carve out a nice role starting for the Spurs. He interior toughness is a quality I am sure many teams would like to have.
6. Drafting Oleksiy Pecherov 1st round of 2006
This was another example of Ernie’s favorite type of draft pick – a guy with length, “athleticism”, and potential. Potential, potential, potential. Pecherov fell right into Grunfeld’s wheelhouse. Needless to say he did not work out for the Wizards, and is currently out of the NBA and playing in the Euroleague. The worst part of this pick was that Pecherov was taken before notables Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowy. To make matters worse, Grunfeld drafted Vladimir Veremeenko in the 2nd round of this draft — a guy who never stepped foot on the floor for Washington.
5. Signing Antawn Jamison to an extension at age of 32
On June 30th, 2008, Ernie signed Jamison to a 4 year $50 MILLION extension. Antawn had just turned 32 years old 18 days prior. This was probably quite a birthday present. I am all for recognizing what someone has done for your franchise, but rewarding Jamison with this size contract based on what he had done in his past as opposed to his future potential, was a terrible move by Grunfeld. Offering an over sized contract to an aging, finess power-forward who doesn’t play defense is not the way to build a contending franchise.
4. Signing Andray Blatche to an extension in 2010
Ernie Grunfeld signed Mr. 7 Day Dray to a 5 year $35 million contract extension. Blatche pulled the playground move of taking his ball and going home – except he took the money and ran. Since the extension, his production has gone down hill and his relationship with the fans in DC hasn’t just gone down hill, but it has fallen off a cliff. He has not stayed in shape, and has never come close to reaching the ‘potential’ Ernie saw in him to reward him with the contract in the first place. To be a professional athlete and be paid to be in shape, and then have your team bench you for conditioning reasons is beyond ridiculous. He should be forced to give back some money due to not living up to his contract. That being said, Grunfeld is that one who extended him.
3. Trading the #5 pick in the 2009 Draft for Mike Miller and Randy Foye
This is one rather terrible move. Grunfeld mistakenly thought the Wizards were a contender and that the addition of Mike Miller and Randy Foye would put them over the edge. This could not be further than the truth. This was the year everything went to hell. The Big 3 failed and the team had to be blown apart to start the rebuild. Who knows where the team would be if they kept the 5th overall pick and selected someone like Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, or Stephen Curry. The rebuild process would definitely be further along if a young prospect was taken instead of renting Miller and Foye for 1 year.
2. Giving up a 1st round pick in a 3 team trade
This one is a little more involved….but I am sure you will agree it’s terrible nonetheless
– In August of 2007, Ernie actually made a good move and traded the right’s to Juan Carlos Navarro to the Memphis Grizzlies in return for their 2010 1st rounder. This pick ended up being the 12th overall. (Edit: I was just informed by @BulletsForever that this pick was top 14 protected and would have gone to the Wizards the following year in 2011….but the point still stands)
– In December of 2008, he managed to give the pick back to Memphis. A 3 team deal went down with Washington, New Orleans, and Memphis. The Wizards shipped Antonio Daniels to New Orleans, sent Memphis back their 2010 1st rounder, and in return got back Mike James and Javaris Crittendon…..who will be referred to as he who will not be mentioned for the remainder of this article.
– So in summary, Grunfeld gave a team their 1st round pick back (12th overall) and in return got back Super Nanny Mike James, and he who will not be mentioned…. who went on to play a pivotal role in Pick-A-Pistol Gate and is now accused of being a murderer. That is some solid work right there Mr. GM.
1. Signing Gilbert Arenas to a Max Deal
For the people who know me, this is tough because I think I realistically could say I was the biggest Gilbert Arenas fan. I believed in the guy, and always believed he could come back and return to his form. That being said, I am not getting paid a large chunk of money to evaluate players and make decisions. Ernie Grunfeld should not have been fooled either. Arenas was coming off of multiple injuries, and still in the summer of 2008 he was offered a 6 year $111 million max contract. This contract will no doubt someday go into a worst sports contract of All Time list, and will more than likely be near the top. That is not a good thing to have on your resume’ as a General Manager. The contract, and Gilbert’s inability to stay on the court, set the Wizards back a good deal. They are still recovering and trying to get back to being a competitive team.
So, when Ernie Grunfeld’s contract is up after this season……do you think Ted Leonsis should re-sign him??