After a very successful (in my opinion) 2013-2014 season, the question becomes what should the Wizards do next? I've seen a lot of posts that state if Gortat and Ariza are resigned, it will lead to further seasons of mediocrity. Fans want to chase Melo, Greg Monroe, and Kevin Love, along with others in free agency. (a trade in Loves case) I would have to respectfully disagree.
Greg Monroe is a common name suggested when talking about who the Wizards should court in free agency, albeit restricted. I don't understand the logic here. What does Monroe bring to the table that Gortat would not? Especially when you consider that Monroe would almost certainly draw a higher price tag. Monroe isn't anything special as a defender, and would not be the rim protecting enforcer that Washington lacks. His pick and roll game, in my opinion, isn't nearly as polished as Gortat's. He has shown the ability to hit the mid range jumper on occasion, but Gortat also has that ability, although his jumper is inconsistent. When you look at the historically awful spacing in Detroit last year, Monroe's mid range game did little to improve on that. (although it is not Monroe's fault) Monroe is still a promising young big, and I see the logic in signing a younger player in hopes that he develops, but nothing that he has done in Detroit has shown me that he has a ceiling any higher than Gortat's is now.
I believe that Gortat's veteran leadership and his personality on top of his competitive fire are EXACTLY what can help this team continue to grow. Intangibles aside, despite a so-so postseason, Gortat continually showed improvement since arriving in DC. I'd put my money on him and Wall continuing to develop chemistry and Gortat being a 17/10 player for the life of the contract. Although is seems like most fans do want to see Gortat back, many are hesitant to see Ernie Grunfeld hand him a 4 year deal. That's understandable. Now, all of this is subject to change once we see what the market is for Gortat, but I feel like a 3 year/30 million $ deal would not suffice. We all know that competent centers in basketball are perennially overpaid, but I think a fair contract can be worked out for both sides. By all accounts, Gortat loves it in DC.
Moving on to Melo/Ariza, I honestly don't think that Melo is going to put this team over the top. Not currently at least. He's not as bad as a defender as his reputation, but it would certainly be a drop off from Ariza's perimeter D. Defence aside, what would Melo bring to our offense besides another ball dominant player? Wall obviously being the initiator of our offense and floor general, needs the ball in his hands. Beal showed a promising potential as a secondary ball handler this season. In order for him to reach his potential I believe will continue to need touches as a ball handler and occasional slasher, not just a spot up shooter or the occasional pick and roll. Aside from all of that, when Nene is engaged and interested, he is a dominant big man that also requires his fair share of touches. In my humble opinion, Melo would upset the "balance" per se. Melo has shown himself willing to be unselfish, but that aside, he still is a ball dominant player. This season in New York, he really showed some grit and toughness really battling in the paint for rebounds, and hustling till the bitter end in NY. He is truly a max player in the league. But that doesn't necessarily mean he would get the Wizards over the top. Assuming the big three in Miami stay together, (if not all bets are off) even with a potential Melo acquisition, we'd still be behind the 8 ball to the Heat. With any Melo signing, we'd obviously let Ariza walk, and we could kiss any chance at Gortat goodbye. I don't see this being the move that elevates us.
Washington's future success is completely dependant on the continued development of Wall and Beal. Adding Melo wouldn't (in my opinion) get us over the hump, and could potentially halt Beal's development.
Now, the question of re-signing Ariza could really go either way. He played so well last year, especially in the playoffs, but committing long term dollars to him probably isn't in the best idea. If a deal could somehow be worked out for 2 years/16M with a team option for a 3rd year, I'd be ecstatic. But, seeing as that is highly, highly unlikely, as much as I like Ariza, the best bet might be to let him walk.
So where does that leave the Washington franchise then? It leaves us in an awkward middling spot for a few years. But I really truly believe you have to stick to your guns here, and build around the continued development of Wall and Beal for a couple more years. If that plan succeeds, then you're free agency recruiting pitch would speak for itself. The problem is, if it fails, you're at square one.
In the meantime, these are some potential free agency moves that should be considered.
Trevor Booker is a must to resign in my opinion. He really played well as a hustle big off the bench this year, and really brings some energy and grit whenever he enters the game. Guys that like are key pieces in any aspiring team, and I feel it would be a mistake to let him walk. (I believe he has a team option, not sure how much it would pay him)
Resigning Gortat is also a must. It truly is rare to see a big man combo as competent and potent as Gortat and Nene. That spells trouble for teams. Let's say we meet Miami in the ECF next year, they would have absolutely no answer for that combo. If Washington could get creative in their half court sets, this team would be scary.
Bring back The Professor, Andre Miller. Miller was a God send for this team in the playoffs, and I am superbly optimistic of what The Prof could do for John Wall's development. There are so many tricks of the trade to be learned for Miller, and retaining him should be a top priority.
Now on to free agents the team should pursue.
I'm not sure what type of dollar figure he would command, but if Ariza walks, I think Washington should give The Matrix, Shawn Marion a hard look. Marion shouldn't be too expensive, and at his age would not garner more than a two year deal, but he brings some of the same things Ariza does to the table, intelligence, experience, defence, and hustle. Now, Marion would hurt our 3pt shooting and floor spacing, but I envision Webster re-taking the starting spot, with Marion and Porter being flexible reserves off the bench. Not only is Marion versatile, but I believe he could really help with Porter's development, seeing as they are the same mold of player.
Another former Maverick that could be a nice fit in DC, is former dunk champion, Vince Carter. Carter's career appeared to be over just two short years ago, but he has reinvented himself in Dallas as a team leader, unselfish, and a quality role player. While Carter wouldn't bring the defence or versatility of Marion, he would bring 3pt shooting, and the ability to create the occasional shot off the bounce. Making just 3.1M with the Mavs this season, I think he makes sense from a basketball, and financial standpoint, although the Mavs may be reluctant to just let him leave.
One short of, under the radar guy I think would be great in the DC system in Channing Frye, for the right price. Most people know Frye as the incredibly over paid soft as a pillow big man from the 2K basketball games. But, in reality Frye is a quality floor spacer who flourished in Phoenix's up tempo style of attack this season. While he wouldn't fix any of the problems Washington has on D with it's big men, he would provide a reliable floor spacer in the Al Harrington mold.
Ed Davis is a restricted free agent who's contract will expire with Memphis. The Grizzlies owner hasn't exactly wanted to open his wallet the past few years, so if Zach Randolph resigns, it might provide an opportunity to acquire Davis. The knock on Ed Davis is he seemingly has all the potential in the world, but has yet to put up stats that reflect that. He was mis-used in Toronto, and is stuck in a crowded front court in Memphis. If Booker is allowed to walk, I think Davis would be a fine replacement. He would have a defined role as one of the first bigs off the bench, and he brings some shot blocking as well. He isn't quite there yet in terms of defensive development, he doesn't always play the P&R correctly, and can go block hunting instead of boxing out, but he's still young, and in Wittman's defensive system could flourish.
Patrick Peterson is a restricted free agent from the Toronto Raptors who fits the mold of exactly what the Wizards are looking for. He's a stretch four, another Al Harrington mold-type guy. He has bounced around teams the past couple of years, but not due to lack of talent. He was appealing trade bait. I would imagine the Raptors have every intention of re-signing him, however, if that proves not to be the case, he would be a valuable addition to the Washington team for the right price.
I've listed quite a few big men here, but the next two guys would provide valuable contributions from the guard spot.
The first guy, might not be very realistic, hell he might not even be a good fit. But after his stock crashed and burned in Detroit this season, Rodney Stuckey is an interesting player how could probably be acquired for cheap. Stuckey has never really found a home at the guard spot, Detroit moved him between the one and two spots throughout his career. He is a good slasher with playmaking skills and a very iffy jump shot. He can get the the bucket and draw fouls, and could be a blessing for the second unit in Washington.
Jodie Meeks came off a career high 15.7 PPG for a struggling Lakers team last season. He is lights out from downtown, and has shown the ability to occasionally create his own shot of the dribble. He is crafty with the ball, but sometimes uses a little to much finesse while trying to finish at the rim. He could provide quality minutes for Washington, but his defence leaves something to be desired.
SLEEPER: I write this knowing there is minimal chance it is even considered, and less chance than that it happens, but here is goes: Pau Gasol. The Spaniard was in and out of the Laker's lineup last season, and had a very inconsistent season, ranging from a triple double, to several single digit scoring and rebounding efforts. Gasol's psyche took a pounding in LA, as he was mentioned in trade rumors almost daily. The price tag on Gasol could vary widely. He is still considered a borderline all star by most talking heads, but was largely forgotten and written off this season. If Washington could somehow acquire him at the right price, AND re-sign Gortat... Now you might be asking, why re-sign Gortat AND sign Pau, that doesn't make any sense. Which admittedly, is far-fetched. But a front-count rotation of Nene, Gortat, and Gasol is salivating. No team in the league could match that. And while it would be an awkward transition at first, we've seen that it is best to limit Nene's minutes to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Anyways, this concludes my long winded post. I personally think that Washington's best move this offseason would be to exercise patience. I believe Gortat should stay, and there are a lot of interesting names in free agency that, if could be signed for the right price would be great fits on this team for two year deals.