The Wizards' offseason will likely come to a screeching halt when the Wizards officially match Otto Porter's offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets. Once that’s done, Washington won’t have much room to make moves this summer or next summer in free agency.
We are still two years away from the summer of 2019, when significant salary will finally come off the Wizards’ books. Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, and John Wall – unless he signs his supermax extension this summer - will hit free agency. What the Wizards do between now and then can have a significant impact on Wall’s future with the team. Even though the team may not have much cap flexibility, Washington still has ways to improve this team over the next two years.
Find tradeable assets on the team, and use them to fill in roster needs
As Gortat, Morris, and Smith move closer to the end of their respective contracts, the Wizards will have an opportunity to move those contracts to teams in need of expiring deals. Teams like Cleveland and Portland, who are both well into luxury tax territory, could look for relief by dumping good players on long-term contracts to Washington for players on shorter deals. Other teams who are right on the fringe of the tax and out of contention could look to deal as well.
If the opportunity presents itself to get a player that makes the team better, even if it ties up future cap room, it may be the best way to improve the roster since they won’t have money to spend.
Hope the Pelicans struggle and look to make a move
The pairing of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins has not worked as well as anticipated. The first half of next season for the Pelicans will be telling. If they do not start off well and/or Davis and Cousins struggle to maximize each other’s talents, then one would assume that the Pelicans will look to move Cousins at the trade deadline, since he is in the last year of his deal.
This scenario may very well be the Wizards’ best chance to land a superstar player. Washington won’t have the cap space to sign Cousins outright in free agency next summer, but by making a trade during the season, they would retain Cousins' Bird Rights, which would allow them to sign him to a new deal even if they’re over the cap.
It would take a lot to go right for this to happen, but if it all falls into place, they’d have an opportunity to drastically improve their roster without moving heaven and earth to clear cap space.
Develop young, undrafted talent to become rotational players
The Wizards just signed Michael Young to a two-way contract. He is one of three players who the Wizards picked up after going undrafted, along with Sheldon Mac and Daniel Ochefu last season. They could add another undrafted player on a two-way deal before the summer is over.
Since the team has not had draft picks the past two years, the Wizards are hoping these players can provide some much-needed young talent on cheap deals. Washington has to hope at least one of these players can step up to be, at minimum, a backup who can play spot-minutes this season.
If they aren’t contributors, then the Wizards don't have money for replacements now or next year barring some type of salary-saving move. Contributions from these undrafted players are paramount for this team to improve and raise their ceiling.
Make the 2018 NBA Draft count
Due to some past trades, the 2018 draft could potentially be the last draft where they have both a first and second round pick until 2022. Their 2019 pick is going to Denver as part of the Kelly Oubre trade. Their 2020 pick could go to Milwaukee, depending on where it lands, and their 2021 pick is going to Utah as part of the Trey Burke deal.
As we have seen, the Wizards are not afraid to leverage picks to get veteran players. The Wizards can look at 2018 in two ways: This could be an opportunity to make yet trade for a veteran to help put them over the top, they could package the picks with bad salary to clear room, or they could use the picks to bring in more young talent to develop.
If they choose to use the picks, especially their first rounder, the quality of that talent would likely far exceed what they may get if they go looking for more undrafted talent next summer. Hopefully, the Wizards find the optimal way to leverage their picks to improve in the short and long term.
The Wizards, despite their cap situation moving forward, will still have options to improve their roster. In order to take the next step forward and show John Wall they’re still committed to improving, they need to find out the best way to use the limited flexibility they have the next two years. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible by any stretch.