The Washington Post reports that combo guard Randy Foye is leaving the Wizards after only one season in Washington. The Wizards acquired Foye and G-F Mike Miller from the Minnesota Timberwolves last offseason in exchange for the 5th overall pick in the 2009 draft -- which Minnesota used to draft Spanish PG Ricky Rubio. The deal appeared to make sense at the time, with a healthy Gilbert Arenas returning, the Wizards thought Miller and Foye would be the supporting pieces to help Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood make a run deep into the playoffs. It didn't work, of course. The team never played well, Butler resisted integrating himself into the offense and Arenas blew the season up in late December, of course.
Foye didn't really fit into the Flip Saunders system either. Not point guard enough for Saunders, Foye bounced in and out of the lineup depending on his health [he suffered two injuries and ended the season on injured reserve] and his erratic performances. Eventually, Saunders just decided Shaun Livingston, the oft-injured point guard the Wizards exhumed from NBA hell last season, played better at the point than Foye did. [Saunders was correct.] Statistically, it was a disappointing season for Foye. His shooting from the field [mediocre] and the free throw line [superb] was about the same as usual, but he simply wasn't a consistent scorer or dime-disher and his defense continued to be average, at best. Foye's PER declined and he just never made a case to return at $4.8 million next season, the minimum qualifying offer the Wizards would have had to extend to retain his rights. Foye will catch on somewhere else and probably play better than he did for Saunders, but he is what he is -- a pretty good combo guard who scores in spurts, defends decently most of the time, but never should have been drafted so high, traded for Brandon Roy or acquired by the Wizards. I thought Foye's effort was good last year -- he tried to do what Saunders wanted, he just couldn't get it done.
Mike Miller is another case. He says he is loyal to the Wizards and considers himself a member of the team until he's not. He also says he loves that the team now has John Wall to run the point. Miller says about returning to the Wizards:All signs point to him returning, yes? No. Miller also says he wants to play for a contender now and the Wizards are not a contender now. Nor will they be in 2010-11. Who knows after that? Miller is a guy who can really shoot from the perimeter, though he shot far less often than he should have last year and basically drove me crazy with his overly-unselfish play. [He had the same problem in his last year in Minnesota, where he basically stopped shooting and turned himself into a point forward.]
Washington could use Miller. He's a responsible and veteran presence on a team that will need it with Jamison and Haywood gone. As I noted above, he can shoot -- whether or not he's willing to do so. He rebounds well and is a first-rate passer. He fills the stat sheet up on his good nights and is capable of making real contributions even when he isn't shooting or shooting well. His defense isn't very good, but the Wizards have that problem all over the place. Washington has no established quick forward, with Al Thornton being the closest thing they have to a starter. Thornton, though, is a very streaky scorer and much more suited to coming off the bench, where he can be left in the game if he's shooting well or sent back to pine if he's not. Thornton is also the opposite of Miller in that he's basically a black hole -- throw him the ball and you'll likely never see it again.
The problem is going to be money and winning. The Wizards will have the cap room to offer Miller more than enough, but it is unlikely they will want to spend a ton on a pretty good player on the wrong side of 30. Miller might be able to get better money elsewhere and he's certain to be able to play for a better team, particularly if he isn't that fussy about earning as much as possible.
I think Miller and the Wizards are still a good fit in terms of what Miller is capable of doing and what the Wizards need. The problem is meeting the expectations -- both financial and competitive -- that Miller has for 2010-11.
If Miller leaves in free agency, as seems likely, the Wizards will have nothing but a relatively small amount of cap space to show for trading the 5th overall pick in the 2009 draft. Some of us have wondered about GM Ernie Grunfeld's job security with new ownership coming in and the team obviously under-achieving last year. New owner Ted Leonsis, however, seems content to go another year with Grunfeld at the helm. If it was me, I'd get ex-Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard on the phone pretty soon.
Meanwhile, watch this Mike Miller interview with Comcast Sports' Chris Miller. They discuss the Wiz, free agency and John Wall.