Friday, November 21, 2008

Gilbert Arenas: Losing "For The Better"

"I don't want to see them struggle, but if this is one of those years where we don't make the playoffs or we finish in last place... that's what happened to San Antonio and that's how they got Tim Duncan and look at them now... and that's for the better." -- Gilbert Arenas

You all know how I feel about this, and I'd react even if it wasn't from my favorite NBA player about my favorite NBA team:

I am a vocal proponent of the idea of tanking for draft position, under two conditions: (1) You weren't going to make the playoffs anyway, and (2) there is a transcendent talent available to you.

Unfortunately, the Wizards only qualify for (1), and Arenas' argument is undercut by his ignorance that there isn't a Tim Duncan or LeBron James in the 2009 draft pool. There isn't even a Derrick Rose, who -- for now -- seems pretty tank-worthy.

On the contrary, the draft class doesn't look quite as bad as the last time the Wizards drafted No. 1 overall (2001 -- Kwame Brown...ugh), but it is pretty unspectacular. A quick glance at DraftExpress tells the story: Ricky Rubio? Blake Griffin? DeMar DeRozan? BJ Mullens?

Not a single player in the draft class is transcendent in the way that Duncan or LeBron were -- maybe DeRozan, but shoot-first NBA swingmen aren't exactly hard to acquire. (Um, and the Wiz happen to have Caron Butler at the position.) Rubio plays Arenas' position; Griffin is undersized -- at best, the next Carlos Boozer. Maybe that's worth it.

If there was a game-changing center like Greg Oden or Tim Duncan available, then yes. The Wizards are desperate for a super-center, or at least a rebound-maniac power forward. But BJ Mullens? Yeah: Whoopee.

There is also the perfectly reasonable chance that the Wizards could end up with the league's worst record (OKC will have a say about that) and still not get the No. 1 pick. (And if OKC gets the first pick, there goes Griffin off the board.)

Arenas wasn't wrong on the theory; he was simply very wrong on the reality of the 2009 draft pool.

But does it matter? The Wizards are in for a terrible season, a Lottery season.

Is it really so wrong to look ahead to next year after watching 10 percent of the season fly by with just 1 win, to try to look for the silver lining in a disappointing Lottery year?

It might offend you that he did it 3 weeks into the season, but he's not wrong. Just ask Cavs fans if they regret tanking the season to be in a position to draft LeBron. Who could?

-- D.S.

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