Let’s say the obvious thing first. When you spend two years trying to hype yourself up for the idea of an MVP coming back to his hometown and you wind up with Ryan Anderson as Plan B, that stinks. There’s no way of getting around that.
That said, there are going to be a lot of losers in free agency this summer. Everyone has money to spend, but that also makes it so most of the teams with valuable free agents have enough money to retain stars (Kevin Durant, LeBron James) young, restricted free agents (Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes) and established players on good teams (Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford, Nicolas Batum, Chandler Parsons, DeMar DeRozan).
The only places where a team like the Wizards (who are not in title contention and can’t offer the perks of bigger markets) can make improvements through free agency is by trying to aggressively go after players on some of the few teams with cap issues, or by going after players stuck on rebuilding teams who don’t want to sign up for a rebuilding project.
That brings us to Ryan Anderson. The Pelicans are coming off a rough season, and though they do have Anthony Davis, it will take some time to get the right pieces around him to be a contender, time Anderson doesn’t have.
Likewise, the Wizards’ clock is ticking. These are the prime years of John Wall’s career, and they can’t waste another one of them keeping options open for next year’s big fish, especially since the rising cap will once again make it hard for teams to acquire stars they don’t already have.
The Wizards need to add talent now. And regardless of what you say about his defense and his injury concerns, there’s no question he improves the overall talent level of the team, and he addresses a specific need (stretch big man) the Wizards have been trying to fill for years.
Plus, his fit with the players already on the roster is tremendous. Anderson has shot 37 percent over his career, and that’s despite never having an outstanding point guard setting him up like John Wall. Furthermore, he would make the Wizards’ big man rotation much more well-rounded. Morris and Gortat proved to be an effective defensive pairing last season, Anderson and Gortat would be a more effective version of what Dudley and Gortat did together offensively, and you could even go small with Anderson and Morris together at times and give Wall a lineup with spacing like he’s never had in his career.
Great fit comes at a great price, but again, the clock is ticking. There are times to be economical, and then there are times to go out and get the best thing you can. If there was ever a time and a place for the Wizards to splurge now is the time to do it. With the way the cap is exploding, the Wizards are going to have to blow lots of money on someone, they might as well do it for someone who can bolster a position where they already have someone locked up a cheap deal (Markieff Morris) and for someone who has a better shot of overcoming their sticker shock than some of the less-talented players available this summer.
To be clear, there’s certainly a point where the Wizards should pull out if the bidding gets too high. If Anderson’s price gets into the $17 million per year range, like J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic reported, that’s a bit too much for the Wizards. They have a lot of positions to fill, and they can’t waste all their money on someone who would be their third-best big man.
Ryan Anderson won’t single-handedly fix the Wizards or make them into a contender. But if nothing else he would give the Wizards another talented piece they could use, and in this year’s market, he might be the most talented player have a shot at signing. That alone is enough of a reason for the Wizards to take a serious look at Anderson this summer.