So, John Wall is now the face of the Washington, D.C. basketball organization. Officially. (As I suppose he was by default before.) This was expected, this was probably necessary. And the question I have had since his max contract became a bygone conclusion around March is as follows: how do the Wizards avoid becoming the Atlanta Hawks of the previous decade? That team peaked at around the 3 seed in the East and could never make the Conference Finals, often getting bounced in the 1st Round. It seems the solution to this problem is to upgrade the front-court with an all-star level big. Before the draft, I was firmly on the Otto bandwagon, and I remain there. I did not think Bennet nor Noel would be worthy of that high a pick for us. Though I do acknowledge that passing on Nerlens especially makes me nervous. I also have to say, I do not view it as even a possibility that the Zards could land LaMarcus or Love in a trade (as has been rumored and wished for), if only because other teams have more to offer (and, well, Ernie reasons). So, I've been looking at the bigs available in 2014. Critically; carefully. I think this next summer will dictate the next 5 years of the franchise, and determine whether or not we are the next Pacers (the team with the outside shot at taking down LeBron every year), or the next Hawks. It seems to me, the Wizards have only a few realistic options to get a game changing PF/C (a great thing about Nene is that it seems the team would be able to move him towards either position to accommodate a potential signing). I will mostly be working with the assumed 10 million in cap space the Wizards would have (as Mike Prada has laid out before), if they were to renounce Ariza, Okafor, Seraphin, and Booker.
- The Restricted Free Agents: Out of everyone available, my absolute first choice would be Larry Sanders. He is crazy young and crazy good (as my Bucks fan friend constantly reminds me). The thing is, he is not really available. Milwaukee would immediately sign a 10 mil a year offer sheet, and unless we get more creative with the cap (as I will look at later), Sanders is not going to happen. Ditto for Detroit and Greg Monroe. However, there is still one RFA whom I believe the Wizards have an outside shot at: Boogie Cousins. I still think this is very unlikely and it almost entirely depends on his experience in SacTown this coming year (AND theirs'). For one thing, Sacremento is under new, by default, supremely more competent ownership. For another, with Tyreke out, DeMarcus is the man there now. The Kings want him to succeed; he's their best chance at competing soon. But, there is always a possibility that he will once again clash with the organization, and seek refuge with his former teammate. Whether he will accept 10 million (and if it would be wise for the Wizards to offer him that) is another question entirely.
- Europe Calling: Two names popped out at me as very intriguing FAs that seem to fit almost perfectly with the Quixotic quest this franchise appears to be going through for the near mythical "stretch-4": Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. I think Pau is done in LA, and if the Lakers cannot move him during the season (they would not take anything other than an expiring deal(s), if we are to believe reports) they seem like they will certainly let him go in free agency. Will he take 10 mil to play on an unproven Wizards team? I am just not sure. Same thing for Nowitzki. He has already indicated he will take a pay-cut to help the Mavs get better, but would he do the same for the Wizards? Also, both these guys would be the epitome of win-now: it would be essentially championship or bust, as neither is going to play much longer than 3 more years (and how many of those years will be effective?). Will the rest of the Wizards roster be nearly good enough to justify this? How much more development can we reasonably expect from Wall, Beal, and Porter in that time? QUESTIONS!!!
- Yup, Chris Bosh: So this one only happens if the Wizards salary dump. I am of the opinion that Bosh is definitely out in Miami after this year. There is also no way he accepts 10 million a year, even though he also probably will not sniff a max contract (Bobcats, notwithstanding). There is no question he is the best option for Washington going forward. He is not ancient, he can shoot (OMG STRETCH 4), he has championship pedigree. However, I do not see him taking anything less than 14 mil a year and the Wizards do not have that kind of cap space. If they want to get it, they are going to have to emulate another young team on the rise who saw a future of cap uncertainty: the Warriors. If D.C. can convince another team (the Magic, perhaps) to take Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, or both for nothing (or an expiring deal) then this becomes interesting. A trade of both would net the Wiz about 7 more million in cap space, and that could make all the difference. Yes, we would probably have to give up a pick. But, with how our draft experiences normally seem to go, especially in the mid-late first, would that really be a hardship?
Anyway, that's how I see it. I know this was a long post (it is also my first) but I wanted to get all this out there. I left off a few names (Zach Randolph, in particular) that I just did not see as good fits. If any of you disagree on that or anything else (for instance: am I overreacting? Is 2015 a viable summer to build?), please, comment away.