The Wizards of yesteryear are gone. Garrett Temple, Jared Dudley, Nene, Alan Anderson and Ramon Sessions are all out. But in their place comes Andrew Nicholson, Tomas Satoransky, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith and Trey Burke. No, that’s not a murderers row of talent by any standpoint, but it’ll do.
For Washington, this was supposed to be the summer of Durant. They were one of about 20 teams coming into this NBA offseason with enough cap space to round up a max free agent, but after being denied a meeting by Durant and whiffing on Al Horford who ultimately chose the Boston Celtics’ future over the Wizards’ talent, that crop of players will have to do just fine.
Many will say the Wizards came into the offseason with no plan. Many will say that failing to round up Durant this offseason, or even sit in a freaking room with him, chalks this offseason up to a failure. They’ll say that losing out on Horford ultimately shows how far the franchise is behind 29 others.
But really, being able to accomplish what amounted to being a “Plan C” for the Wizards should be looked at as a success. Their biggest move of note was signing Bradley Beal to a maximum extension, which was something they had to do and something that was always in their plans.
They bolstered their backcourt depth with the addition of Satoransky, who can also double up as a wing with his 6’7 frame. Trey Burke, while never quite living up to his Michigan pedigree in the NBA, will have a fresh start in Washington as their third guard and 5th off the bench behind Oubre.
Mahinmi gives the Wizards the flexibility of having two competent centers with at least one playing at all times. A four year, $64 million contract is tough to swallow, but under the NBA’s new salary cap of about $94 million Mahinmi’s deal takes up about 15 percent of the cap yearly, which is the going rate for starting caliber big men in today’s NBA. Put it this way — if we converted that contract under last year’s $70 million cap, it would be worth about $10 million per year. Not bad at all.
The Wizards already had a solid core behind John Wall, Beal, their two wings in Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. The roster moves they’ve made provide them with flexibility on both their starting and secondary units, which is something they lacked last season, and they now have more switchability than ever before on the perimeter.
No, the Wizards did not land Durant. Yes, Horford did reject them. No, they did not get that tertiary option on offense or an All-Star caliber player. But after Durant and Horford, there were no players the Wizards were interested in delivering max deals to. There was star caliber talent on the market, but all came with serious questions.
Nic Batum, who was all but 100 percent going back to the Charlotte Hornets, had a very good season last year, but never made an All-Star appearance and will soon be on the wrong side of 30. Hassan Whiteside wanted a decision too quickly and had not put up more than a season and a half of max caliber production. Dwight Howard was probably the safest bet outside of Horford and Durant in Washington’s case, and he’s coming off of a down year as the fifth option in Houston’s offense and was a decidedly lesser defender relative to his past.
Horford was worth the look because of his ability to play power forward and his ability to guard players on the perimeter defensively. Offensively he is a midrange savant, hitting 44 percent of his jump shots from that range and even showing the ability to step out and hit threes at a 34 percent clip. He fit, and his talent had been proven. That’s why the Wizards went after him. It was always going to be unlikely that he came to Washington, but being considered should be viewed as a positive.
With Durant all but out the picture, the Wizards could have folded. They could have punted another offseason and settled for having more cap space in 2017 when the salary cap increases to what some have reported as being around $109 million to $110 million. But instead, they chose to add depth and cover up areas where they were deficient last season.
They failed to address their wing spot, which is concerning. Porter can be a solid starter in the NBA and Head Coach Scott Brooks believes in him, but having Oubre and Satoransky as his only reliable backups with just one year of NBA experience between the two is a risky proposition. But the Wizards still have Drew Gooden’s non-guaranteed deal they can move in a pinch if a team is attempting to clear space. They may be able to steal a young, cheap wing with that.
And Mahinmi being a capable starting center leaves the door open for a Marcin Gortat trade. J Michael of CSN Washington reported that there are no early indications he will be moved, but having signed Jason Smith to a 3 year, $16 million deal just yesterday puts about $34 million into one position this season. So a trade may very well be on the table at some point, and the Wizards may be able to acquire a wing that way.
No, the roster is not sexy at this point. But make no mistake, there was a plan here. Whether it works out remains to be seen, but the team deserves credit for being an offseason aggressor for the first time in half a decade.