With the news that the Washington Wizards are not going to extend Trevor Booker a qualifying offer that is worth nearly $5 million, questions about the future of the front court are beginning to surface. The only front court player that is currently under contract for the Wizards is Nene. That’s it! Nene, a 32-year old big man who hasn’t been able to stay healthy since arriving in Washington, has already expressed his disinterest in playing the center position and the Wizards must address the issues heading into free agency.
So, before I have a panic attack I’m going to assume that the Wizards get something done with Marcin Gortat (who they’re visiting in Poland) and get him under contract (Stay away Pat Riley!). The Wizards were already thin up front last season with little in terms of quality young players behind Nene and potentially Marcin Gortat. Kevin Seraphin never capitalized on the momentum he built by his strong play at the end of his second season, Jan Vesely has moved on and Chris Singleton rarely saw the court, if at all. Trevor Booker was the lone player amongst the group of recent front court draft picks by Ernie Grunfeld that played his way back into the rotation and provided meaningful minutes and production. There’s always a chance that the Wizards work something out with Trevor Booker at an annual salary below the estimated $4.7 million qualifying offer he was due, but as an unrestricted free agent in a year with a major salary cap increase, it’s safe to say his future in Washington is uncertain at best.
So, what’s next for the Washington Wizards?
There’s no way they can responsibly go into a season with a front court comprised of Nene (32 at the start of next season), Gortat (30), and Drew Gooden (33). Besides the back court and Otto Porter, this team has gotten old pretty quickly and there is a dire need for young front court players who can grow along with the young core. It’s doubtful that a premier front court player arrives this offseason if the bulk of the Washington Wizards’ cap space goes towards re-signing Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza, but the process must begin. The assets to start filling that need however are limited. Unless the Washington Wizards are unsuccessful in retaining their primary free agents, and all signs point to them doing whatever it takes to retain their core group of players, they’ll be limited to the mid-level exemption. Other than that, the only way to add to the roster outside of veteran minimum acquisitions is to make a trade. The problem with that route is one position where they conceivably had depth, small forward, has taken a hit with Martell Webster undergoing back surgery. It’s difficult to see the other players currently under contract (John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene, Otto Porter and Andre Miller) being dealt.
So this takes us back to the MLE. The Washington Wizards, coming off an Eastern Conference Semi-finals appearance are in a better position to maneuver with the MLE than they have in year’s past. Here’s a list of a few players who might be a good fit for the Wizards using the Mid-Level Exemption:
- Patrick Patterson- John Wall’s ex-UK teammate would provide the Wizards with that stretch-4 element they’ve been looking for. The D.C. native however is a restricted free agent and there will be a big market for him
- Ed Davis- Ed Davis, like Patterson, is a restricted free agent. He has a lot of upside and has never really gotten a chance to play a major role on a team. If Trevor Booker walks this summer, Ed Davis would be a suitable replacement.
- Jordan Hill- Hill hasn’t been able to stay healthy throughout the course of his career, but he did play well under coach Mike D’Antoni with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is an unrestricted free agent, but has already expressed his desire for playing a bigger role next season. Here’s a piece by Ben Mehic on how Hill would fit with the Wizards.
- DeJuan Blair- Blair is someone the Wizards were reportedly interested in acquiring last offseason, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they express interest once again this summer. He rebounds and hustles, so he’d be a good replacement for Book. Also, he’d probably come cheaper than the mid-level exception.
- Kris Humphries- Even though he’s more known for his popularity off the court, Humphries has always been a decent player in the league. He’s bounced around the NBA quite a bit, but he could find a role with the Wizards since he’s known for hustling and rebounding the ball.
Any of the players listed above would likely require the entire MLE or a decent portion of it. But, now that Martell Webster will likely miss a portion of the regular season, the Wizards will probably look to add an additional scorer off the bench. Basically, the Wizards will have plenty of decisions to make this summer and bolstering their front court is something they desperately need to do.