Offseason Outlook: Washington Wizards

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.

State Of The Franchise

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

The Wizards never expected to be spectators at playoff time. Coming off back-to-back postseason appearances and with a strong foundation built around an elite backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington saw itself as a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference. But that rise hit a brick wall in an injury-filled 41-41 season that has transitioned into an offseason of uncertainty.

The question marks start with Beal, a restricted free agent who was limited to a career-low 55 games this season. Beyond deciding on whether to bring back their talented shooting guard, the Wizards have to quickly rebuild a rapidly aging roster to compete with a slew of young challengers in the East.

Coaching Change

The first casualty of this non-playoff season was head coach Randy Wittman, who was fired and replaced by former Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. Wittman alienated center Marcin Gortat with public comments about his rebounding and had a deteriorating relationship with other players, so his fate was sealed once the Wizards missed the playoffs.

Brooks oversaw the Thunder as they developed into one of the top teams in the West and will bring a welcome change to the Washington locker room. He had a 338-207 record in seven seasons with OKC.

Bring Back Beal?

A recent report from Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post says the Wizards are planning to offer the 22-year-old a maximum contract when free agency begins next month. That contract would start at approximately $22MM per season and would run for five years. Beal set himself up for the massive payday when he and the Wizards mutually agreed in November not to work out an extension.

Beal was Washington’s second-leading scorer this season at 17.4 points per game and has a career scoring average of 16.0. Under normal circumstances, a max deal for a player of that caliber would be an easy decision, but Beal carries a long-term injury risk that has to make the Wizards think twice. He was placed on a minutes restriction in December when doctors discovered “the beginnings of a stress reaction” in his lower right fibula. Beal started just 35 games this season and has only once played in more than 63 in a season.

But the Wizards seem to have little choice about making a max offer if they want to keep Beal. He recently told Castillo that he considers himself a maximum-salary player and that he plans to seek such a deal from another organization if the Wizards don’t agree. “If Washington can’t meet that requirement then I may be thinking elsewhere,” Beal said. “I’m pretty sure that they probably won’t [let me go].”

No Nene?

Washington’s other major free agency decision involves veteran power forward Nene, who made $13MM this year. A calf strain hampered the 33-year-old at the start of the season, but he improved as the season progressed. Still, Nene started just 11 games and saw his playing time dip below 20 minutes per night. As a result, he averaged less than 10 points per game for the first time in eight years and fewer than five rebounds per contest for the first time in his career.

Nene recently indicated that he’s not considering retirement. He has a solid relationship with Brooks, who started as an assistant coach in Denver when Nene played there. If he returns to Washington, it will be likely be in a reserve role at a deeply discounted price.

Where Are All The Big Guys?

Free agency and non-guaranteed contracts have left Gortat and Markieff Morris as the only big men who will definitely be on Washington’s roster next season. Alan Anderson and J.J. Hickson are both free agents, while Drew Gooden‘s $3.6MM salary is not guaranteed. The need to add size will loom over all of Washington’s trade and free agency decisions.

Free Agent Targets

Washington’s dream scenario is for Kevin Durant to decide he wants to return home to the D.C. area. If that happens, the Wizards can team the former MVP with Wall and Beal to form a new Big Three that would become an immediate title contender.

Even if they don’t land Durant, the Wizards are positioned to make an impact on the free agent market. With only five players holding guaranteed contracts and a little more than $50MM committed against a $94MM salary cap, Washington is in position to offer two maximum deals. Al Horford would be a nice addition to help fill the void up front, while either Harrison Barnes or Nicolas Batum could be a long-term answer at small forward.

Filling Out The Roster

With so many roster openings, the Wizards might use some of that cap space to rebuild their bench. Jared Dudley, Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple are free agents and are all 30 years old. Washington needs reliable backups to Wall and Beal, so Brandon Jennings, Arron Afflalo or Gerald Henderson might be in the mix. Other names to watch include Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Seth Curry and maybe even Ty Lawson.

Barring a late trade, no help will be coming through the draft. Washington sent its first-round pick to Phoenix in the February deal that brought back Morris, and its second-round pick belongs to Atlanta from a 2015 trade.

Final Take

This is an extremely important offseason in defining the Wizards for the remainder of the decade, and a wide range of outcomes are possible. Landing Durant would be like winning the lottery and make Washington an instant challenger to Cleveland for Eastern Conference supremacy. The nightmare scenario would be losing out on all the top free agents, re-signing Beal to a max contract and watching him struggle with leg problems for the next five years.

GM Ernie Grunfeld was spared when Wittman was dismissed after the season ended. If he wants to ensure a long-term future in Washington, Grunfeld is going to need to make some really shrewd decisions this summer.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offers/Cap Holds)

  • Bradley Beal ($7,471,412/$14,236,685)
  • Totals: $7,471,412/$14,236,685

Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Other Cap Holds

Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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4 thoughts on “Offseason Outlook: Washington Wizards

  1. Donald Garner

    Wow! No wonder the Wizards struggle. Some of these players are making ridiculous money without doing much.

    • Nene and Anderson (who was hurt most of the year) are really the only bad contracts. And its not like they signed Nene to that contract, they acquired him after he signed that with Denver and he was coming off a decent year (although that number is still a bit much, but it was somewhat justified at the time). $12 million for Gortat is close to a bargain in my opinion and Drew Gooden is an underrated backup big. Dudley was really brought in to replace what they were losing with Paul Pierce so his contract is passable.

  2. Steve in Chicago

    Nene can walk, they should stop dreaming of KD and sign Horford, tell Beal he aint max and let some other team make that mistake. Jennings would be a good pickup, but they could do almost as well with a budget tier wing like Evan Turner or Greivis Vasquez or even Jamal Crawford. If they want a volume shooter they aint hard to find. They actually would be a good location for Monroe if they could figure out a swap with the Bucks. With Brooks they will be decent defensively.

  3. hill
    daren hill

    is there a possible deal centered around Greg Monroe and Oubre?


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