The Washington Wizards are quickly approaching one of the most important and unpredictable summers in the history of their franchise. The team will have plenty of money to spend on talent and lots of roster spots that need to be filled, even once you factor in the max deal they'll likely offer Bradley Beal to keep him in Washington.
To help guide the process (and give us something to talk about because the Wizards don't have a draft pick this summer) we've created a list ranking the Top 30 players available, based strictly on their talent and how they would help the Wizards.
Previously, we ranked Donatas Motiejunas, J.R. Smith, Dwight Powell, Evan Turner, and Eric Gordon. Now we continue our series with a look at players 20-16 on our list.
20. Jordan Clarkson (Age: 24, Position: SG/PG)
As most Wizards fans remember, Washington traded their rights for the pick that became Jordan Clarkson in exchange for cash considerations.
Now the Wizards are going to need to use some of those cash considerations if they want a shot at signing Clarkson in free agency. He’s coming off a year where he averaged 15.5 points per game while sharing minutes in a crowded backcourt with Kobe Bryant, D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, and Nick Young.
Clarkson is only 24, so he still has plenty of room to grow, but it’s safe to assume his future will probably be more at shooting guard than point guard. Even in his rookie season, where he played quite a bit at the position, he only averaged 5.0 assists per game. This year, playing mainly at the 2, that number dropped to 2.7 assists per game.
The only reason Clarkson isn’t higher on this list is because he hasn’t proven much in the NBA, other than he can be a decent scorer on a bad team. To be fair, it would be hard to prove much more than that on the Lakers teams he’s played for the last two seasons, but the Wizards need to make sure they don’t stumble over themselves chasing after a young guard who hasn’t done much more than put up nice scoring numbers so far in his career.
19. Festus Ezeli (Age: 26, Position: C)
If Clarkson is trying to fight off the “good stats on bad team” stigma, Ezeli is facing the opposite challenge: Trying to prove he’s more than just a guy who people like because he happens to play a role on one of the best teams in NBA history.
Thankfully for Ezeli, the numbers support the idea he’s ready to embrace a larger role. This season, he averaged 15.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. The only other players who played at least 500 minutes and averaged those numbers this season are Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol.
However, there are some drawbacks that should be concerning, especially for the Wizards. Ezeli doesn't have the best footwork to be a weapon in the pick and roll game. He only averaged 1.2 points per game through the pick-and-roll, according to Synergy. That’s a considerable dropoff from Marcin Gortat, who averaged 3.6 points per game on pick-and-rolls this season. Certainly, his numbers would go up if he played starter’s minutes with Wall, but he’s not going to match Gortat’s volume or efficiency in that role.
Plus, Ezeli’s free throw percentage has generally hovered in the low-to-mid fifties, where teams can justify hacking him to send him to the line. That’s a bigger problem for the Wizards than most teams because John Wall is at his best when he’s in a rhythm and can push the tempo unencumbered. If other teams can disrupt that rhythm by hacking one of his fellow starters, that’s a big problem that could hold the team back.
18. Mirza Teletovic (Age: 30, Position: PF)
Teletovic is coming off the best season in his career, where he averaged 12.2 points in just 21.3 minutes of action per game coming off the bench for the Suns. He closed the season on a high note, averaging 22.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in April.
If you’re looking for a pure stretch-4, he fits the billing. He shot 39.3 percent from beyond the arc and wasn’t afraid to let if fly when he got the chance. He averaged 9.8 threes per 100 possessions. The only other player who played at least 500 minutes this season and averaged more attempts per 100 possessions was Steph Curry.
Teletovic also carries along all the downsides that typically come with a pure stretch-4 player. He plays too far from the rim to make a difference on the glass, he’s not a great defender, and he isn’t much of a passer. Still, if you’re looking for a luxury backup for Markieff Morris who can pack an offensive punch, Teletovic is a great option.
17. Luol Deng (Age: 31, Position: PF/SF)
Deng, like most players his age and size, has been forced to reinvent himself as a small ball 4 who can defend on the perimeter when needed. He isn’t quite as effective of a shooter from outside as he was during his peak days in Chicago when he was shooting 40 percent from long range, but he can still stretch the defense and drive in to draw fouls when needed.
What’s most encouraging is that he seemed to get better after the All-Star break as the Heat were forced to play smaller due to Chris Bosh’s medical issues. After the break, he averaged 15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 34.1 minutes of action, and the Heat outscored opponents by 7.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, one of the best marks on the team.
Deng turned 31 in April, and he’s got a lot of miles on him, but he’s got a strong frame and played over 70 games each of the past two seasons, so he should hold up just fine in Washington as long as injuries don’t thrust him into playing 36 minutes a night all season long.
16. Marvin Williams (Age: 29, Position: PF/SF)
Williams combines the best of Teletovic (explosive outside shooting) and Deng (solid defensive prowess and positional versatility) and is slightly younger than both of them.
His ability to take on the stretch-4 role with the Hornets this season was a big part of why the Hornets were able to successfully implement a pace-and-space offense this season. He shot a career-best 40.2 percent from deep, and yet he still found the right balance so that he was inside enough to where he could make a difference on the glass, where he also posted career-best numbers.
Like Deng and Teletovic, there’s a good chance this Williams won’t be able to replicate these numbers once the contract year effect wears off, but there’s no doubt he has a better shot at retaining his value next season than the two listed below him.