Vacancy: Hot Shooting Two Guard

After a promising season with an improbable playoff run and lots of local loving, Washington basketball fans will be devastated to hear that Larry Hughes will sign a five year deal to play alongside LeBron James in Cleveland.

Hughes signed for what is believed to be $70 million dollars, which is exactly what Washington offered, except over six years. The difference works out to almost $3 million per year, for which you can keep Juan Dixon in weight gain programs for the rest of his NBA career.

The Wizards clearly decided they weren’t going to overpay to keep Hughes who hadn’t quite become a fan favorite until this past year. Instead they allowed the City by the Lake to make the mistake and pay through the nose to keep King James happy.

Cleveland will justify spending the money because they promised to give LeBron a gunning mate. They immediately struck out on Ray Allen, Michael Redd and Joe Johnson. It just so happened that Hughes was still available and still testing the market. He was in the right place at the right time, so I don’t blame him.

Especially when you consider that of the four years he spent in Washington, he has never played a full season. It is encouraging to know that he improved over those years, as opposed to the myriad of Wizards players who have gone on to be better for other teams. I can justify losing him with the thought that he wouldn’t have gotten much better competing with Arenas and Jamison for shots, and to pay over the top for marginal improvement ought to be done with players you absolutely want to be loyal to.

I’m not saying that Hughes won’t improve, I’m just saying that he doesn’t have much further to go, so what we offered him was fair market value as far as we were concerned. Cleveland is paying Hughes money to keep a superstar in the fold. We’re paying money to build a quality team that can challenge for the title. It would have been nice to have Hughes along for that, since it will be difficult to replace his defense and scoring package, but this was one fish that just had to be let go.

Gilbert Arenas will not be moving over to Shooting Guard, so expect the `Zards to shop Kwame for one, and use the money to sign a free agent big man. In fact, New York seems to be one of his biggest suitors, offering Mike Sweetney in return. Whether that goes through remains to be seen. Things just got a little bit interesting…

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