I think we can all look back at the 2013-14 season and call it a success. John Wall made the All Star Team, won the dunk contest, and the team advanced to the 2nd round in the playoffs. Even the harshest critics, myself included, can't fault the organization for the outcome of the season. Sure the loss to the Pacers still stings a bit, as they certainly had a chance to push that series further, if not surpass the beatable Pacers. And while the 2014 draft class was supremely hyped earlier in the year, it seems as if this class isn't as deeply star studded as once perceived, although I still think there's 4-5 potential "franchise type" of players, the talent level drops significantly after the first 5-7 picks. The Wizards are in a good, but dangerous situation moving forward. On one hand they're now nationally tabbed as up and coming, yet on the other, there's a lot of questions that need to be answered this summer.
Here is my list of the 5 biggest issues facing them this summer:
1. The Center position: The logical step here is to re-sign Marcin Gortat. They used a high value asset to acquire him, his played improved as the season advanced and perhaps the biggest factor, they already know his personality, how he works with his teammates, and his work ethic. Free agency can be a scary place, especially in the land of guaranteed contracts. Signing an outside guy might sound attractive, but there's a lot of risk that comes with it and too much mystery when it comes at a position of so much demand, that will also include an eight figure per year salary. Gortat has already proved himself, earned the trust of his teammates, and now the right thing to do is to bring him back to anchor the middle.
2. The Next Step for John & Brad: This is your franchise. They must continue to get better and grow together in order for them to achieve the success they and the club both desire. John will be entering his 5th season and will be 24 years old by the start of the '14-15 season. He's reaching the pinnacle of his physical abilities and now must fully focus on the nuances of the PG position, including mastering more of the fundamentals. He must continue to shoot better, get to the FT line more, and reduce his TO's. In addition to John's growth, Brad must also continue to elevate his game. Beal is on the cusp of becoming one of the best scorers in the game while entering just his 3rd NBA season. Like any scorer there are night's when he shoots lights out and others when he goes 4-17. The gab between those nights needs be reduced. Brad has all the tools to get there, but now it's the mental aspect that will be the ultimate determining factor. I'd advise him to study Ray Allen's game and watch tape on how Allen was able to become an annual 20+ppg scorer in the league with similar skills.
3. Getting Some Juice from the 2013 Draft Class: We can be nice and call it a "redshirt" season for both Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr., but the reality is they've got to get something out of these guys next season. Porter being the 3rd overall pick must prove his NBA value, even if that's only in 20 mpg, while Rice's shooting and defense is what will get him some PT. Attrition is common place in the NBA and Trevor Ariza may be gone this summer, therefore it is imperative that Otto Porter doesn't go on the lengthy "Bust List" of Wizards top draft picks.
4. Free Agency: This is the polarizing topic of the summer. Should they swing for the fences, retain their own, or try for a combo of both? Potentially you'll have LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony out there, but there's also the next tier guys like Greg Monroe, Rudy Gay, and Gordon Hayward who certainly all add significant value as well. Obviously there's no way you couldn't become infatuated with the idea of LBJ in DC, nor could you be upset if the offseason brought you Melo or Bosh, but none of this is likely to happen. Therefore it's the 2nd tier guys and some key lower tiered FA signings (Jordan Hill, Pat Patterson, Josh McRoberts, etc...) that have the best odds of happening. Being smart with the money they use this summer is of tremendous importance as they can't handcuff themselves again with long term contracts on marginal players like they did last summer with Martell Webster. They must find players that will improve their roster, while also keeping their future cap situation open for 2016 when they MUST make a run at bringing Kevin Durant home.
5. Staying Focused: The landscape of the East is completely unknown territory. There's a lot of fluid situations in the conference right now and it's hard to determine a pecking order at this time before the draft and start of free agency, but one thing we do know is that the Wizards already have the pieces in place to be a top 5 team in the conference. They tasted success last season, but can't get drunk off it. Making the playoffs in a "down year" is one thing. Becoming a perennial contender is another. Is this just the beginning or was it only an outlier season? The tone must be set early and often that last season means nothing, all that matters is the year ahead.
What do you think are the Wizards top 5 offseason priorities? Did I miss any or should the order be different?