There’s been a lot of panic both in the Wizards’ base, media outlets, airwaves that the Wizards wouldn’t be able even to afford their draft pick this summer and avoid paying the luxury tax given their current financial situation, which includes the hefty contracts of Gilbert Arenas ($16.2 million), Antawn Jamison ($11.6M), Caron Butler ($9.8M), Etan Thomas ($7.4M) and Mike James ($6.5M).
Thats why there was the perceived urgency to make a move to unload either Jamison, or Thomas and James by today’s trade deadline.
But I had been hearing that the Wizards weren’t concerned about being able to afford signing, say Blake Griffin or some other top-5 pick, while also remaining under the luxury tax limit, even if the figure drops to $69 million, which reportedly is definitely possible. Part of it is because they believe the expiring deals of Etan Thomas and Mike James will be attractive to teams this summer. I double-checked with Ernie Grunfeld and he verified that those concerns over this summer are false because even in the worst-case scenario, such as nobody wanting to touch James or Thomas during the summer, Washington still has until the February 2010 trade deadline to get under the cap. The NBA doesn’t assess the luxury tax figures until after the season, that’s why you saw so many teams making garbage trades today. The pieces didn’t really help them on the court, but it was getting them under the cap for this year.
So, rest easy, for now. Washington likely will unload a salary or two this summer, and if not, some creativity will be used to ensure it happens by Feb. 2010, maybe something like what Sacramento did for Boston in taking on Sam-I-Am’s contract and giving the Celtics an extra roster spot and spending change.