The Washington Wizards wrapped up their season with a 115-105 loss to the top-seeded Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a tough ending to an up and down season for the team. After opening the season 2-8, the Wizards were able to turn things around and grab the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, finishing with a record of 49-33. While the Wizards seemed to be on the uptick for much of the season, they came up short in the second round and will be looking to make some upgrades in the offseason.
The good news for the Wizards is that they have one of the best backcourts in the NBA, headlined by the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, John Wall. His backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, showed just how good he can be while scoring 33 and 38 points in Games 6 and 7, respectively. As long as they keep these two together, they will be an Eastern Conference power. The hard work for the Wizards will come with assembling the rest of their roster. These are the moves the Wizards need to make to take another step forward.
Keep the Starting 5 Together
The Wizards had one of the best and most consistent starting units in the NBA all season. Wall, Beal, Morris, and Gortat are all under contract for the 2017-18 season. The lone free agent is Otto Porter, coming off a career year. Porter will be a restricted free agent and the Wizards will match any contract offer he receives, even if he gets max money. Keeping this group together is a no brainer and should be the first priority for the Wizards' front office this offseason.
Earlier this season, the Wizards traded their 2017 first-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Bojan Bogdanovic. At this point, that trade kind of looks like a nightmare as Bojan's defensive limitations were exposed against the Celtics, limiting his value to the Wizards. While he was a great addition during the regular season, the Wizards need someone who can play both ways in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Wizards, they pretty much have to to keep Bogdanovic even if they don't really want to. Because he will be a restricted free agent following this season, the Wizards will be able to exceed the cap and match any contract offer he may receive. This will be painful as the Wizards will likely be forced to overpay to keep Bogdanovic. On the flip side, if the Wizards allow Bogdanovic to leave, they will be left without Bogdanovic and with no money to spend on anyone to replace him. It's a truly unfortunate situation. Unlike Porter, the Wizards probably don't want to keep Bogdanovic as much as they need to keep him.
Upgrade the Bench
The Wizards bench was one of the worst in the NBA all season and it really came back to bite them against the Celtics. The bench combined for a total of 5 points in the Game 7 loss that ended their season. The bench also allowed early leads to disappear in Games 1 and 2, letting the Celtics get back into those games after the Wizards' started came out hot.
This bench needs to be upgraded but the Wizards' options are very limited. The Wizards will likely not have any cap space in the offseason as they currently have $94 million committed to players and the cap holds for Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic alone will bring them over the $101 million projected salary cap. They will be left with only the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception, and minimum contracts to fill out the bench. That's not a lot of money to work with to fill a giant hole.
While the bench could use help all over, the most obvious need is in the backcourt. Trey Burke and Brandon Jennings should not be back next year so the Wizards should be looking to add a backup point guard who can give John Wall the rest he needs during the regular season and especially during the playoffs next year. Ideally, that guard would be a capable shooter who would be able to play alongside Wall and let Beal rest at times. During the Conference Semifinals, the Wizards often tried to put Jennings alongside Wall, despite the fact that Jennings is a pure passer who can't shoot and needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Some possible options include Darren Collison, Shelvin Mack, or Ian Clarke. They could also choose to go with a cheaper option but that would be a poor decision that I prefer not to consider. That scenario might leave them with players like Tyler Ennis or Jose Calderon.
If they are able to find a good player that allows them to give Wall and Beal proper rest, they should look to find someone who can do the same for Porter and Morris. With whatever money, the Wizards have left, they should look to add a versatile wing who can play either forward spot. If they spend their mid-level exception in the backcourt, they will have very limited money to spend on a wing. They will probably be looking at options such as Dante Cunningham, Jonas Jerebko, Luke Babbitt, or Derrick Williams. If they decided to spend the full mid-level exception on a wing, they may be able to get someone more like Thabo Sefolosha or Ersan Ilyasova.
This is probably the Wizards best course of action considering their cap situation going forward. They have a lot of things to pray for too. They need to pray that some good veterans see them as a real contender and decide to sign in D.C. for the minimum. They should take some flyers on some underachieving players, such as James Young or Ben McLemore, and pray that they pan out. They need to pray that Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky, though the latter seems less likely, take a step forward and become more valuable contributors. They need to pray that they are able to draft a capable basketball player with the 52nd pick in the 2017 NBA draft, their only selection of the night.
Lastly, they need to pray that someone will make a trade with them for either Jason Smith and Ian Mahinmi. A trade for Mahinmi will almost certainly not happen as he is an injured center making way too much money coming off a bad year even when he did play. His contract is killing their cap situation, but after they pay big bucks for Porter and Bogdanovic, they probably wouldn't even have cap space even if they could get rid of him. A trade including Jason Smith seems more possible, though he would be unlikely to fetch much in return. Even if they can't get a good player, they should consider trading him for a player that is a better fit at the very least.
While the Wizards had a great year, they are in a tough spot heading into the offseason. They need to make some serious upgrades but their cap situations makes that a difficult task.