“A Blowout, a Boost, and a Blast.”
Just over two months ago, the Washington Post splayed this headline across the front of its April 22 sports section. The best performances from the city’s teams all converged the night before, and D.C. sports fans were celebrating like they hadn’t in a long time.
The Capitals tied their NHL playoff series with the Islanders at 2-2, the Nationals walked off with a home run against their rival Cardinals, and the Wizards blew out the Raptors to take a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs.
After each team’s season went downhill shortly after the headline was printed, and in the Capitals and Wizards case, ended, it was the latter that was left with the most hope and questions.
The team had one of the best young backcourts in the NBA with John Wall and Bradley Beal. 2013 first round pick Otto Porter finally showed up to play, and Paul “I Called Game” Pierce had brought so much wisdom to the locker room and magic on the court.
Now, the offseason has arrived.
What needs to be done to get this team to 50 regular season wins and a conference finals berth in 2016?
What Has Already Happened
–Oubre selected with #15, White with #49
The Wiz traded up four spots to 15 to select Kansas forward Kelly Oubre in the draft. Oubre is an athletic 6’7” wing with a 7’2’’ wingspan that projects to be a Wiggins-like defender, but can also make shots.
It is the prototypical “Boom or Bust” pick, and something I think the Wizards needed to do at their draft position.
But his effort and IQ are highly questioned. Scouts widely discredited his ability to understand plays or even remember where his teammates would be on the floor.
It was obvious that his inconsistency and little playmaking ability at Kansas would require a big project to fix. I think it’s a good foresight pick, because in consideration of my second point in this section, the team will need a SF down the road.
With a deep second rounder, Washington took versatile 6’9” forward Aaron White out of Iowa. He projects to be a role player who can grab some minutes at the end of the bench.
He fills a hole at the 4, because he is athletic and can hit the outside shot. Rumors are that he might play in Europe for his first year, though.
–Paul Pierce out to LA, Neal and Dudley in
Sources reported that Pierce was in deep talks with the Clippers for weeks after the season concluded, and it made sense. Doc Rivers, his former head coach, is there, and there is a more passing focused point in Chris Paul to get him the ball in what will probably be his final season.
But that leaves with Wizards without a late-game ace who can make the big shot. Oubre could be that guy WAY down the road, if everything works out.
The front office was active in finding short-term replacements, though. Guard/forward Jared Dudley was acquired from the Bucks on July 2 for a future (protected) second round pick, and Gary Neal was nabbed in free agency on a 1 year deal for $2.1 million on July 3.
Both are awesome pickups. Dudley is a creative shooter that can create offense through catch-and-shoot and rhythm play scenarios, and Neal is a sniper from deep that can win some games highhandedly.
What Needs to Happen
–David West with the Mid Level Exception
The Wizards are way over the salary cap, even if free agents Kevin Seraphin, Will Bynum, and Rasual Butler are renounced. That means no room to sign big free agents straight up, but Grunfeld can work with his $5.464 million Mid-Level Exception. (You can take a look at the Wizards’ salary situation here)
David West is the best fit for this team, and he can most likely be signed with that MLE. West, at 34, would be a valuable asset to the frontcourt with his outside shooting and rebounding ability. Getting boards is something that Nene was lacking- he is 6’11”, yet he averaged only 5.1 rebounds a game- and that hurt the team is many ways.
Right now, the team is a West commitment away from having one of the most productive free agent weeks in recent franchise memory, especially if you consider that they are over the cap.
I’ll always think of Nene of the man that didn’t box out Al Horford and cost us the season. But that’s beside the point. The big man is entering the final season of his five year, $67 million deal signed in December 2011. He averaged 11 points and 5.1 rebounds in 67 games last season, which isn’t worth what they are paying him.
So the best way to get rid of him is with a trade. It will be hard to get anyone under 30 years old for him, because he is on a steep performance decline-not to mention his chronic leg problems.
His contract will be up next season in time for #KD16, but it’s a burden to have that contract on the roster with possibly West, Neal, and Dudley all coming on.
The most likely trade destination is a team that has an abundance of picks that they could offer for him. I think the Wizards would accept a late 2017/18 1st-rounder and two 2nd-rounders for him, or a burned-out role player with some 2nd-rounders.
There’s more that the team needs, but it’s just unrealistic to expect more at this point. A young, NBA-ready big man would be nice, as would a true backup point (Ramon Sessions is NOT that anymore).
It’s hard to think of this offseason as anything more than a transition. The Wizards have already done a good job picking up some decent rotation players, when they knew coming in they wouldn’t be able to make a splash with their starting rotation.
If everything goes right, with West in the starting rotation and Nene far away, this team should easily get to 50 wins in the Eastern Conference.
18 year old Washington sports fan and Penn State freshman. I'll cover the MLB, NFL, and NBA.