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Riding the Wizards Bench August

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Of God and Free Agents

August is normally an extremely slow month in the NBA, hence you haven't gotten any real news items from me. With that said...

Whither God Shammgod?

Well, are the Wizards going to sign Shammgod (aka Shamm) or not? He's participating in the team's off-season conditioning program, which means he's getting reps not only in the weightroom, but also on the court with other players, like Ben Wallace and unsigned free agents (who will probably be invited to camp).

The Wizards face a problem, in that they already hold 11 guaranteed free agent contracts, and they want to have an open roster spot available going into camp. It's the carrot-and-stick approach to getting good performances. (And of course, this assumes that the team comes out of camp without any players on injured reserve.)

Shammgod has given every indication that he wants to play for this team. And Bernie has definitely not ruled out carrying 3 point guards on the roster.

What Should The Wizards Do?

About a month back, I broached my initial thoughts on the mailing list:

(on August 1)
>Shammgod still has not signed a contract yet, from my understanding, but
>he has every intention of trying to make the team. He's currently
>participating in the Wizards off-season conditioning and skills program
>somewhere in Maryland, along with Ben Wallace and who knows else. He's
>been at it for at least a month, however. I think he is seriously trying
>to make the team.
>The Wizards are in an interesting position with him: sign him for one
>year or two? Most 2nd rounders only get a 1-year non-guaranteed contract.
>But as we saw with Travis Knight, Shandon Anderson, and Ben Wallace this
>year, a team can have problems with this. The player is then an
>unrestricted free agent after the season. A team over the cap (as the
>Lakers with Knight and the Wizards with Wallace) can only offer just over
>$300k to the player, making it difficult to retain him if another team
>really wants him (like the Celtics with Knight). With Anderson, the Jazz
>had enough cap room to sign him long-term and he was rewarded for his
>good play.
>If the Wizards sign Shammgod to a contract that may or may not guarantee
>him his first year, and then has a team option on the second year, the
>Wizards then can do what they did with Legler and Whitney -- sign
>Shammgod for up to the league average salary, which was around $2.4M this
>year (and should go up next year). This protects the Wizards long-term if
>Shammgod is the real deal.
>I think that's what the two sides are trying to work out now. (That, plus
>how much in incentives should be included.) Shammgod's agent should be
>trying to maintain maximum flexibility in the market for his client,
>while the Wizards may have a gem that they want to protect themselves. We
>may find that Shammgod will get a guaranteed first-year contract so that
>the Wizards can add a team option on the second. That, IMO, would be the
>best move IF he is looking good in the skills and conditioning program.
and later,

(on August 2)
>One other note on Shammgod: remember, Strickland is a free agent after
>this year, so he could choose to leave if he wanted to (though I hope he
>doesn't). The Wizards are going to have little maneuvering room under the
>cap next year because of the contracts of Webber and Howard and Cheaney,
>so if Strickland leaves the Wizards may have a tough time signing a
>decent replacement PG. Of course, that assumes that Shammgod can actually
>run a team, even as a backup to Whitney. That's why you have the option
>year that I suggested. And that's also why you try to save your $1M
>salary cap exemption until next year, if things go really bad in the free
>agent market. At least you don't have to pay minimum to get players to
>come here.
After thinking about it more, I think the Wizards are less likely to take this approach to lock him up. He likely will get noticed only if he gets extended playing time, and that only happens if either Rod Strickland or Chris Whitney go down with major injury that keeps him out for a while. Without playing time to showcase his skills, he's unlikely to get a major offer next off-season, making it most likely he'll re-sign with the Wizards next season (a la Ben Wallace) and look for the big payoff (if he's earned it) in his third season.

So, I look for the Wizards to sign Shammgod to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract and let him fight for the roster spot in training camp. Though they should know going in (based on his summer efforts) whether he'd make the team or not.

Side Note: On The Nickname

It's really simple, the team has settled on calling God Shammgod 'Shamm' instead of 'God.' He isn't good enough to get called 'God' yet, as Bernie Bickerstaff has said (kinda seriously, kinda jokingly).

We're waiting for the day he earns his true moniker.

What About The Salary Cap Exemption?

I still stand by my analysis in saying that the Wizards should not use the exemption this year, but rather save it for use next off-season when it could be more useful.

Here's why. The Wizards have three major free agents next off-season: Rod Strickland, Gheorghe Muresan, and Harvey Grant. (Please don't argue about the last one, because it is important.) Even with those three players off their salary cap figure, the Wizards are still going to be over the league cap. So, they're not going to be able to sign anyone significant to replace Harvey on the roster.

Now, there may not be much of a need to replace Harvey on the roster, depending on whether some players step up this season. But that roster slot will be open, should the team not re-sign Harvey to a new contract. If you want to fill it with a decent player, this is where the $1M salary cap exception would be useful. By using it this year, you freeze out Shammgod and also prevent the team from using it next year.

Who could they use it on this year, anyway? For veteran leadership, one of the few desirable candidates left would be Ricky Pierce, who was just released by the Hornets. To this, I say: please, NO! Ricky is a good offensive player, and for crying out loud, he went to my alma mater (the most successful Rice grad ever in the NBA).

But he's also a very selfish player, when he gets his hands on the ball. That's good when a team is in a scoring drought, because Ricky is a scorer. But this team is loaded with offensive weapons, and I'm not sure how much of a locker room leader he would be anyway. So, in the final analysis, I must say no to this proposal.

You're allowed to disagree. Please do, and let us know directly on the mailing list (see Wizards Talk).

wtf 21 August 1997

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