You’d be hard pressed to find a Wizard fan who isn’t reasonably excited about what’s taken place in this summers relatively unique free agency. While LeBron’s desires on where to play kept the rest of the NBA in limbo, the Wizards clearly had a plan. The Wizards have been and had a lot of things in the last 10 years. They’ve had flashes of success. They’ve had controversy. They’ve had embarrassing losses in the beginning, middle, and end of embarrassing seasons. Trotting out the “Big 3” for another season with Gilbert and Co. when it was quite clear they wouldn’t be able to overtake even a less skilled LeBron James was their “plan” at one point. Pairing John Wall with Bradley Beal is hard to call a “blueprint” when picking Wall with the first choice in the 2010 draft was essentially a no-brainer. Okay, maybe they do deserve a little bit of credit in the planning department with the skill-sets they meshed together this past season. It wasn’t exactly a given to select Bradley Beal with that selection, so clearly they had somewhat of a vision. However, the plan they put into place this offseason is the most progressive thing the Wizards have done in a long time, if ever since the inception of the Wizards name.
The dominoes: Gortat and Ariza
While the NBA waited on LeBron, the Wizards had two dominoes of their own that were going to fall into place. Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza were the Wizards’ main pieces of priority regardless of discussing them keeping their own players or signing new free agents. Gortat would naturally command more money as a skilled big man who is basically a jack of all trades at the position. He can shoot, pass, and defend at an above average level at both the center and power forward positions. That’s a premium. After resigning Gortat and letting Trevor Ariza sign with Houston, it was clear that Washington was never going to resign Trevor Ariza unless it came at a discount on a two-year deal, or if he gained 30 to 40 pounds and committed to playing a “stretch four.” Obviously the latter part isn’t factual but merely conjecture. The Wizards weren’t going to tie up money to someone who isn’t a jack of all trades for four years. More importantly, they weren’t going to sign a guy who they didn’t envision being the starter at small forward in 2016. They played the waiting game with Ariza as a show of solidarity to the fans, but methinks they knew Ariza wanted financial and contractual security, and you can’t exactly blame him. The Wizards knew they weren’t going to end up giving that to Ariza, and I don’t exactly blame them for that either. The Wizards ended up not overpaying for Ariza’s services, while still showing the fan base and players around the league that the Wizards were willing to attempt to take care of their own. It sounds like a win-win for me.
New plugins: The Truth and Kris Humphries
As soon as the aforementioned dominoes fell into their respective places, the Wizards wasted no time in busting out their Microsoft Word and cranking out some offer sheets. The ultimate shocker was signing Paul Pierce, an aged and still aging forward who has been to the top of the mountain a couple times. Pierce brings veteran leadership, an established ability to create shots from the mid-range and a penchant for drilling it from downtown. His presence alone will add layers to Beal and Wall’s games. He also showed a knack for playing at the 4 last year with the Brooklyn Nets, a welcomed skill set for Wittman’s scheme. The Wizards continued to show their “forward thinking” when they acquired both Kris Humphries and Dejuan Blair in sign-and-trades. Those deals were made easier via the trade exception Grunfeld managed to get out of the Pierce deal. Humphries has had his ups and downs, both in his professional and personal life. One day you’re married to Kim Kardashian and averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, the next day you’re voted the NBA’s most hated player and banished into the abyss of being an eventual journeyman. Optimistic Wizards fans can point to the days of Humphries’ dominance on the glass and ability to shoot around 50% from the field and believe that Walls skills will bring out the best in him. Only time will tell.
Knowing Dejuan Blair
Dejuan Blair is a player that the Wizards and their fans know fairly well, considering most fans remember the giving up of the rights to all of Washington’s draft picks in 2009. Regardless, the Wizards have him now and he has a few things going for him. He’s 25 years old. He’s played under the steady hand of Gregg Popovich. Although he doesn’t exactly tower over the opposition, he does take away their space with his big frame and ability to box a defender out in the blink of an eye. He has solid hands and puts in maximum effort to grab any and every rebound he can get his hand on. Notably, per ESPN, he was tied for offensive rebounding rate with DeAndre Jordan, in a league where the Washington Wizards ultimately rank 17th. Blair isn’t exactly a scorer, but someone who wouldn’t be considered offensively inept at the same time. It will be up to his peers to find him some easy shots around the rim, depending on which lineup he finds himself in. Obviously, Blair has many flaws. He’s a poor defender. He has no ACLs – taking away from his speed and jumping ability. He’s not a threat from outside of the paint. It will be up to Wittman to mask these flaws and emphasize his strengths by playing him at the 5 with certain lineups that maximize his abilities. Thankfully, the Wizards have a plan. That’s why they got Pierce. That’s why they got Humphries and Blair, two guys with some positive overlapping skills and enough notable flaws to be able to get them at bargain prices. Resigning another forward in Drew Gooden is a move that brings some continuity to the bench. He’s shown an ability to shoot and put on his big boy pants and defend big men. Resigning Seraphin adds to that continuity.
The new ‘Plan’..
The Wizards now have a stable of forwards that are interchangeable in multiple lineups. This should take some pressure off Gortat who was winded at times last year, and also provide somewhat of an insurance policy if when Nene goes down with an injury. All of the deals given to these players are anywhere from one to three years, giving the Wizards some flexibility in upcoming seasons. The Wizards are creating a window to compete in the present with their House of Guards, while still thinking forward to 2016 when a certain D.C. native could hit the market. They even put a high school coach of Kevin Durant on the staff In 2016, the Wizards will only have two players under contract, John Wall and Marcin Gortat. Or they could just renounce the rights to both and just ride out with Glen Rice Jr. and Otto Porter. All jokes aside, they will obviously retain Bradley Beal along with Wall and Gortat. With those three under contract, the Wizards would have close to $30 million in cap space. Sounds like a plan.