Monday, July 14, 2014

Wizards Lose Ariza, Sign Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce is headed to the nation's capital

The Rockets taketh, and the Nets giveth away. Less than six hours after Trevor Ariza signed a four-year, $32 million contract to replace Chandler Parsons in Houston; the Washington Wizards signed future Hall-of-Famer Paul Pierce to a mid-level exception (two years, a reported $10.8 million total) to replace Ariza. After watching Otto Porter Jr. explode for 25 points in his Las Vegas Summer League debut, the combination of Pierce, Porter and an eventually healthy (fingers crossed) Martell Webster looks mighty good (not to mention cheaper.)

Not sure what former #2 overall pick Evan Turner will eventually settle for, but I was expecting/hoping to see the Wizards reach out if Ariza signed elsewhere. Ditto for the Pacers' Lance Stephenson, but the controversial shooting guard is rumored to looking for more than $10 million per year... a hefty sum, especially on the heels of Marcin Gortat's five-year, $60 million deal.

Pierce turns 37 in October, and is no longer All-Star caliber; but Pierce has no problem creating his own shots, and should at least match Ariza's offensive output from last season. He won't provide the same level of intensity on defense as Ariza, but he's definitely no slouch in that department (especially if he only has to play 25 minutes a game.) Meanwhile, can you think of a better person to tutor the third overall pick of last year (Porter?)

As for the contract itself, it's a great fit for the Wizards. Ariza has lacked consistency throughout his career, and I have to wonder what he'll look like in years three and four of his new deal. Pierce could conceivably be a one-year wonder (he has a player option for year two) but either way, he allows the Wizards some financial flexibility in the future.

Next up for the Wizards... frontcourt help. Trevor Booker remains unsigned, and there were strong rumors of a trade with Dallas for rebounding machine DeJuan Blair. The Wizards also have an $8.5 million trade exception, acquired in the "trade" for Ariza. Me? I'd love to see Emeka Okafor return (preferably on the cheap, for a one-year contract) or Kris Humphries. Okafor is a great rim protector, and Humphries is one of the top rebounders in the league. With NenĂª's health a constant issue, it's important to have some size and savvy on the bench. Can you imagine a starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Pierce, NenĂª and Gortat with Okafor, Porter, Webster and Andre Miller off the bench? Now imagine everyone healthy. Oh my.

Whichever direction they decide to go in, the Wizards look primed for another deep run into the playoffs. Music to my ears.