The Washington Wizards are coming off a great 2013-14 season, which a lot of NBA fans didn’t see coming at all. The Wizards finished the season with a 44-38 record, which is a 15 win improvement from the 2012-13 season. Despite being eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the 2nd round of the NBA Playoffs on Thursday night at the Verizon Center, the Wizards have nothing to be ashamed of. The playoff experience that the Wizards’ players gained is invaluable and can’t be bought.
The Wizards also gained respect from the NBA fans in general, as they pushed the no. 1 seeded Pacers in the Eastern Conference to six games. After a great season like this, now comes the hard part. The Wizards will have some tough decisions to make this summer involving Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, who will both be unrestricted free agents this summer. Ariza has been a very good player for the Wizards without question, but he’s not a part of the future.
Ariza will likely be getting pretty good chunk of change this summer and will definitely top his salary of $7.7 million that he made this season. Otto Porter Jr. was drafted 3rd overall in 2013 to not be a bench warmer that comes in late in games, but to be that 3rd wheel and be that young star to go alongside Bradley Beal and John Wall.
As for Marcin Gortat, re-signing him should be the Wizards’ number one priority this summer, as good solid big men of his caliber, are hard to find in today’s NBA. Gortat has been steady in the middle this season. He’s the defensive anchor in the middle that the Wizards rely on to clean up some mistakes that the perimeter guys make at times. Some would say let him walk in free agency and plug Nene at the center position, but Nene is best suited to play at the power forward spot because his body can’t hold up a whole season taking that punishment that a center has to endure. Washington could really go without any more #Pray4Nene moments.
This off-season will be the biggest one that the Wizards have had in a very long time. The Wizards will have around $15 million to spend this summer, which is huge because that gives the team a chance to improve the talent level here even more. The Wizards need to upgrade their bench by adding a player, preferably a point guard or shooting guard, that can create his own shot off the dribble and be an instant offense guy.
So who can be that guard that can come off the bench and be that instant offense guy? The Wizards can look at Mo Williams, who carried the Portland Trail Blazers second unit single-handedly this season. Patrick Mills, or as most call him Patty Mills, has progressed each season with the San Antonio Spurs. He can create his own shot better than most think, is a team guy, and is a deadly 3-point shooter that can definitely upgrade the Wizards’ 2nd unit.
The Wizards also need a stretch 4, which is a power forward that can shoot the 3-point shot and brings floor spacing. Boris Diaw will be available this summer and he would be a great pickup. He has had some weight problems at times in his career, but he’s one of those players that does the little things well. He’s a good ball handler for a guy his size, a superb passer, has a great basketball IQ, and can knock down the 3-point shot. Diaw is also a guy that can give the Wizards’ offense a boost because with him simply being on the floor, he can bring a big man out on the perimeter to guard him and give Wall and Beal and others, driving lanes to the basket.
This summer is crucial for the Wizards on and off the court. The Wizards had a great season, which there were no expectations. Now after a 2nd round playoff appearance, expectations will be high next season. We all know that John Wall and Bradley Beal will be the franchise’s cornerstones, but it’s up to the Wizards’ front office, led by owner Ted Leonsis and Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, to show that they are committed to winning next season and beyond. This crucial summer will be the perfect time to show that and gain more respect league-wide in the process.