The rationale behind the move for the Nets was simple: freeing up more cap space to go after LeBron James and other free agents. The Wizards, however, have refused to simply clear salary and have been active in trying to acquire potential assets that can possibly help the team right now while also not significantly burdening the team financially.
Here's what Ernie Grunfeld had to say about the Wizards' philosophy (as quoted in the ESPN article above):
"We made a decision that we're going to save some of our powder for the future and try to right now put a core of young players together that can grow and we can build with, and that is the reason that we do have those opportunities right now," Grunfeld said. "Otherwise, they probably wouldn't be there for us."
Seems to make sense, right? Washington isn't a destination for big-time free agents like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Dirk Nowitzki, etc., so what's wrong with gambling a little bit and taking some teams' unwanted parts and seeing if their stocks rise a little bit? If the Wizards are going to take on some salary right now, the ideal situation would also be to acquire some draft picks along with those players, which only happened in the Kirk Hinrich trade.
Back to Yi for a second. He's still young at 22 (even though it's possible that he's actually closer to 25) and certainly has room to improve. In three seasons, he's averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds, but he has shot just 40.2 percent from the field. Last year he averaged 12 points and 7.2 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per game, but again, he shot only slightly over 40 percent (40.3). Yi isn't a great rebounder or defender and needs to improve in both areas. He also needs to improve his offensive efficiency if he's going to stick around in Washington beyond the upcoming season. (Yi has a $5.4 million qualifying offer in 2011-2012 that the Wizards more than likely will decline.)
So after the draft and the Hinrich and Yi trades, let's look at the current Wizards roster. Gone are the following: Earl Boykins, Randy Foye, Mike Miller (presumably), Josh Howard, Fabricio Oberto, Javaris Crittenton, Cedric Jackson, Cartier Martin, Quinton Ross, James Singleton, and Shaun Livingston. Livingston, Singleton, Jackson, or Martin, I guess, could always re-sign with the Wizards, but it seems less likely that will occur with each trade the Wizards make.
So, keeping in mind that the Wizards probably still aren't done wheeling and dealing, here's the group of new Wizards: John Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin (unless he stays in France for another season), and Hamady N'diaye. They (or most of them) will join Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Al Thornton, and Nick Young.
After the moves, the Wizards' projected cap space is a little over $7 million. That's enough to sign another decent player or two if Grunfeld deems it necessary.
Are the Wizards significantly better right now because of the recent moves? Not necessarily. But they are trying something a little different, and they seem to have a plan. It's hard to get excited over Hinrich and Yi, but there seems to be a method behind the Wizards' front office madness. And there's also some guy named John Wall who should provide plenty of entertainment regardless of how the above trades turn out.