“If Wall and the other young players can mature and develop, and become a team that looks like they are a player away, you can a attract high-quality free agents and make Washington a hot destination.”
Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld also believes Washington will be a very attractive place for free agents once a strong core of young players has been developed.
“Our blueprint, as Ted has laid out many times, is to build through the draft, develop our young players and continue to add pieces,” Grunfeld said. “We’ve come a long way since last year, when we were way over the luxury tax, and we’ve turned over the roster.
“We’ve positioned ourselves very well salary cap-wise, so at the right time, we’ll also play the free-agent game. I think players like Washington, D.C. We won’t have a problem finding the right player to come here.”
“I think if you look at where we are in the rebuilding process, we’re probably ahead of where we thought we’d be, as far as the amount of young players that we’re playing and how they’re developing,” Saunders said.
The recent spate of injuries has forced Saunders to give his rookies, particularly forward Trevor Booker and guard Jordan Crawford, significant playing time.
On several occasions, Saunders has put five rookies on the court at once for significant minutes and come away impressed with their competitiveness and refusal to be intimidated.
“We have to see how much [the young players] are improving with the time that they’re getting on the court,” Saunders said. “That’s how we’re going to evaluate them to make sure that we have the right pieces in place to rebuild around John Wall.”
Still, the losing takes its toll. The team is currently 17-51, the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
“You just have to keep your head up,” Wall said. “We’ve have shown that we can play with the good teams if we just play hard. The toughest thing is that we’re a young team, not too many veterans, so we have to compete every night. We’ve got to try and finish this season strong and prepare for the next one.”
And the next one, and the one after that. A proper rebuild will take more than a year or two. But as Leonsis has proven with the success of the Caps, if you build your foundation correctly, that success can last for years to come. The building blocks include approximately $30 million in cap room (after the 2011 season, when several big contracts fall off the books) and six first-round picks over the 2010 and 2011 drafts (four on the current roster and two for ‘11), including Wall.
It’s a pretty good place to start.
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