Fresh off finishing 20-46 last year, the Wizards decided to take a somewhat unconventional route to respectability: Rather than completely (that is to say, intentionally) tanking, clearing the roster of onerous contracts, and rebuilding through the draft, they opted to take a "win now" approach, by which they meant "win more than 20 games now." To that end, management traded for proven winners like Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza—canny stuff from a front office that's shown over the last four seasons (Wizards record since '08: 91-284) that they know winning basketball. So when you hear that the Wizards had to the opportunity to get James Harden just before the season, well, you know that their braintrust was playing the long game, or something.
Yep, The Washington Post reports that the Thunder offered the Wizards a deal that would have gotten them Harden in exchange for Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton, a rookie and a second-year player, both solid prospects, neither likely to be as valuable as Harden is now at any point in their careers. The Wizards declined.
The Wizards, who before the trade proposal came up had acquired three expensive veteran players, also likely would have been subject to an NBA luxury tax penalty for having a total payroll over the prescribed threshold if they had signed Harden.
Considering how poorly this season has begun for the Wizards, who had an NBA-worst 2-15 record entering Tuesday's game in New Orleans, and the general lack of excitement surrounding a team, dealing for Harden might have been worth the risk in the short term.
For those keeping track at home: $33.75 million for Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Nene this year, the next, and possibly the year after that? Copacetic. $25.3 total in the same span for James Harden? No can do. We don't just throw money around in this organization.
The injury-prone Nene, who tends to be on a perpetual minutes limit, has played in 8 of the Wizards 18 games. And, in case you thought Okafor and Ariza might be worth losing out on Harden, here's John Hollinger's assessment of the pair: "Okafor is a halfway decent center who struggled physically last season and will be playing out of position as a power forward; Ariza is a very good defensive player with a shaky jumper, and one whose shot selection will immediately trigger Nick Young flashbacks." Neither has done a very convincing impersonation of a valuable asset so far this season. Okafor and Nene are both 30 and Ariza is 27; Harden is 23.
The Wizards visit Harden and his 24.7 ppg tonight in Houston, so that should be fun.
Washington Wizards Said To Have Turned Down Trade For James Harden [Washington Post]