Offseason Outlook: Washington Wizards

May 23 at 12:01pm CST By Chuck Myron

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 2nd Round (46th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $43,458,760
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $3,041,482
  • Cap Holds: $41,196,934
  • Total: $87,697,176

The Wizards entered this season without having won a single game in the second round of the playoffs since 1982, so to come away with two such victories is quite a leap for Washington. Still, the accomplishment comes amid a historic ebb in the strength of the Eastern Conference, in which only two teams finished with more than 48 wins in the regular season. Making it to the second round is but a step along a journey to the ultimate goal of a championship, and navigating the rest of that path might prove just as challenging for a franchise that faces critical decisions this summer.

The first move will seemingly involve a new deal for coach Randy Wittman, who coached this past season on an expiring contract. It seemed his job was safe as he piloted the Wizards to their first playoff appearance in six years, but Marc Stein of ESPN.com revealed that there seemed a decent chance as the playoffs began that the Wizards would part ways with him if they didn’t get past the first round. It’s been a week since the Pacers put Washington out in the second round and there’s still no news of a contract for Wittman, but owner Ted Leonsis has expressed a desire to take some time before making any decisions. Ostensibly, there remains a chance that either the Wizards, Wittman or both decide to end their relationship, but it seems slim at best even as time passes and other teams looking for coaches intensify their searches.

The fluidity of Washington’s coaching situation pales in comparison to the roster, which features only a handful of guaranteed contracts. Re-signing Marcin Gortat appears to be job No. 1 for Washington, a task that will likely require salaries of around $10MM a year. The 30-year-old seems to like playing for the Wizards, but capable starting centers always come at a premium. The Mavs are interested in snatching him away, and others will no doubt pursue the 6’11” center. There’s probably a strong chance that his $10MM price tag goes up, particularly in a free agent market that’s heavy on restricted free agents and players who can opt in for next season.

Any escalation in what Gortat can command will have a direct effect on Trevor Ariza, Washington’s other starter set to hit free agency. Executives around the NBA told Grantland’s Zach Lowe that they expect Ariza and Gortat to run up a combined annual cost of $15-20MM on their next deals. That means Washington’s cap flexibility will likely vanish if the team signs them both. There’s reason for the Wizards to have trepidation about paying too much for Ariza, whose 14.4 points per game this past season approached a career high and who has only twice scored more than 11.0 points per contest in his 10 years in the league.

The free agent pool doesn’t offer much long-range shooting, which could drive up the price for Ariza, who made 40.7% of his three-point attempts this season. The Hawks appear to have him on their list of potential targets, and the Cavs, who can clear plenty of cap room, reportedly engaged in trade discussions about him with the Wizards at the deadline. The lack of shooters on the market could also make it difficult for the Wizards to sign a replacement if he winds up elsewhere. The club is nonetheless confident in Martell Webster, who signed with the team for the full value of the mid-level last summer and whose 39.2% three-point shooting this season was nearly on par with Ariza’s accuracy, even though Webster slumped in the playoffs.

Gortat would be the team’s choice if it can’t re-sign both of them, reportedly in part because of the presence of Webster. There’s also Otto Porter, whom the Wizards no doubt hope will become the long-term solution at small forward. The No. 3 overall pick never earned consistent minutes after an injury sidelined him for the early part of the season, but better health in 2014/15 would seem to offer promise of marked improvement ahead for the former Georgetown Hoya. Locking up Ariza on a long-term deal with Webster’s salary already guaranteed through 2015/16 would signal that the Wizards have quickly lost faith in Porter, and it seems too early to give up on him.

Porter apparently isn’t the only player from Georgetown on the minds of GM Ernie Grunfeld and company. A January report indicated that the team was interested in Greg Monroe, and that news came just days before word of the team’s desire to re-sign Gortat. Inking both Monroe and Gortat wouldn’t make sense for the Wizards, who already have Nene on a long-term contract that would be difficult to trade, so perhaps the team views Monroe as a fallback option to Gortat. Agent David Falk has designs on a max contract for Monroe, who’s still a couple of weeks shy of his 24th birthday and seems likely to command higher salaries than Gortat will. Landing Monroe, who’d make around $14MM on a max deal next season, would probably mean both Gortat and Ariza are goners, but Washington’s full Bird Rights on both of its free agents wouldn’t necessarily preclude the return of Ariza, at least.

Regardless of what happens with Gortat, Ariza and any potential replacements, the Wizards have an opportunity to reshape their bench. Washington is leaning toward keeping Andre Miller, which would require the team to fully guarantee more than $4.6MM to a 38-year-old backup point guard. Grunfeld’s final decision on Miller may hinge on the team’s plans for the rest of the roster. There’s a decent chance it comes to down to a choice between committing to the $2.6MM non-guaranteed portion of Miller’s salary and having the ability to squeeze another full mid-level signing under the tax line. Miller’s salary becomes fully guaranteed before free agency begins in July, complicating the decision. If reports between now and then indicate that Gortat and Ariza are drawing interest from several other clubs, suggesting the price to retain them is going up, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team cuts Miller loose.

The Wizards also face decisions regarding qualifying offers for Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin. Booker triggered the starter criteria and is thus in line for a qualifying offer worth $4,677,708, as I explained in March. Seraphin’s qualifying offer would be $3,898,692, somewhat less expensive but nonetheless less likely to be tendered. Seraphin proved unready to take over as the team’s starting center in the absence of the injured Emeka Okafor in the preseason, helping motivate Grunfeld to trade for Gortat. Seraphin wound up falling out of the rotation entirely, and he seems destined for the minimum salary on his next NBA deal.

Booker will probably command more than that, but an offer that’s close to mid-level money seems mighty costly for a player who lost minutes in the playoffs to amnesty refugee Drew Gooden. The team went 23-22 when he started this season, not much worse than its 21-16 record with Nene as its starter, but even if the Wizards wind up re-signing him at a salary close to what his qualifying offer would be, Washington needn’t tether itself to that price. The Wizards would still have Booker’s Bird Rights if they declined to make the qualifying offer, so they’d still have a weapon to ward off interest from other teams even without the right of first refusal.

Grunfeld won’t have the biannual exception at his disposal, having used it last summer on Eric Maynor, who flopped as the backup point guard. Still, the GM was able to swing the deal that brought in Miller, jettisoned Maynor and sent away 2011 No. 6 overall pick Jan Vesely, a high-profile draft bust on Grunfeld’s record. The 2013/14 season was a season of redemption for past failures up and down the Wizards organization, one in which so many of the team’s gambles, including last summer’s max extension for John Wall, were validated. We’ll see this summer whether Grunfeld is willing to go down the familiar path, spend the team’s money on its existing cast, and bank on continued improvement, or if he’ll risk significant changes to the most accomplished Wizards team in decades.

Cap footnotes

* — Miller’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived on or before June 28th.
** — The cap hold for Singleton is equivalent to the greatest amount Washington can offer him for next season. Because the Wizards declined their fourth-year team option on Singleton before the season, they aren’t allowed to re-sign him for a 2014/15 salary that’s more than he would have earned on that option.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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