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With free agency beginning Monday, the Wizards still have work to do on their roster

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Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Five Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

After a flurry of draft day moves, it’s worth pausing a moment to recap what the Wizards have on the roster as free agency tips off Monday evening — in part because even a quick glance serves to emphasize how much work they still have to do.

On draft night, the Wizards sent Russell Westbrook and a pair of future second round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the 22nd pick in the draft. They then dealt the pick to the Indiana Pacers for Aaron Holiday and the 31st pick, which they used to select project forward Isaiah Todd. They also used the 15th pick to select Gonzaga SF Corey Kispert.

That leaves the Wizards with the following players under team control for next season (either under contract or will be restricted free agents this summer), as well as their PPA last season (PPA is my all-around production metric. In PPA, 100 is average, higher is better and 45 is replacement level):

Guards

  • Bradley Beal 153
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 95
  • Garrison Mathews 64
  • Cassius Winston 49
  • Aaron Holiday 41

Forwards

  • Kyle Kuzma 98
  • Rui Hachimura 75
  • Davis Bertans 73
  • Corey Kispert 57*
  • Deni Avdija 48
  • Isaiah Todd 38*

Centers

  • Daniel Gafford 134
  • Thomas Bryant 123
  • Montrezl Harrell 123

Kispert’s and Todd’s PPA scores are estimated from the performance of players in recent years drafted in their spots.

If you want to get more optimistic, Holiday’s career-best season so far was 2019-20. He posted a PPA 79, which — if he replicated next season — would be fine for a backup PG.

Given the team’s relative youth, it’s reasonable to think some of the youngsters will take a step forward. What’s difficult is guessing which one(s) will do the work necessary, and who might regress. For example, look at Isaac Bonga, who followed a promising 2019-20 with a dud season in 2020-21. The Wizards decided not to extend the qualifying offer, which makes him an unrestricted free agent.

Acquiring Kuzma hedges the bets they’re making on Hachimura and Avdija. The former Lakers forward isn’t great, but he can at least take heavy minutes in the frontcourt — if the team doesn’t repackage him in another trade.

Washington still needs a starting PG and a reserve guard with some size — especially if they follow through with the reported plan of starting Caldwell-Pope at SF.

It seems likely that Harrell or Kuzma (or both) could end up elsewhere once the 2021 offseason truly begins. The team has significant needs, and those are likely the trade assets most valued by other teams.

What’s clear to me is that while GM Tommy Sheppard did well to break Westbrook’s massive contract into more easily traded chunks, there’s still significant work to on the roster. They still need a couple starters (or at least guys who can play major minutes) and a general infusion of increased production. Maybe that comes from internal growth, but given the team’s goal of trying to build around Bradley Beal (an iffy strategy), they shouldn’t be too attached to the youngsters.

The Westbrook trade will permit the Wizards to use the full midlevel exception and their biannual exception without worrying about the luxury tax. They also have an $8.5 million trade exception from the deal, which would allow them to acquire someone making that amount or less without giving up a player. Such a move could put them into the luxury tax, where owner Ted Leonsis has not wanted to go.