Wizards Offseason Blueprint

The Wizards were a fingertip away from keeping their dreams alive of reaching the team’s first Eastern Conference Finals since 1979.

Although they lost in the same round as last season, this finish felt different.

Maybe it was the fact that their best player was dealing with a fractured wrist for most of their second round series.

That Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce stepped up in his absence or that Otto Porter finally began to resemble a third overall draft pick.

Even though their playoff performance provides reason for optimism the current make-up of the roster isn’t ready to seriously contend for a championship.

It’s one of the league’s worst kept secret that the Wizards are saving up cap space to try to bring Kevin Durant home to the DMV next offseason. Here are some ways that the team can improve this offseason, while still keeping themselves in position for the Durant sweepstakes.

Draft a Power Forward with first-round pick

Nene had a rough time in the playoffs. In 25.7 minutes per game, he averaged 7.9 PPG while making just 44.7% of his shots.

He rebounded at a decent rate with 6.6 per game, but it was his untimely turnovers and poor shot selection that stood out during the series against the Hawks.

This lack of production along with the Wizards success using smaller lineups prompted Coach Wittman to say that he will utilize those kinds of lineups more often in the future.

It is likely that Nene will find himself coming off the bench next season, a role he says he’s willing to accept.

Drafting a stretch power forward that is strong near the basket, but can also shoot perimeter shots would fit right into the Wizards game plan without sacrificing height. Drew Gooden did a good job filling that role during this year’s playoffs, but at 33 years old, he’s not a viable long-term option.

Two candidates from this year’s draft class fit the Wizards game plan perfectly: Arkansas’s Bobby Portis and UCLA’s Kevon Looney.

Portis is the better all-around player of the two. He averaged 17.5 PPG and 8.9 RPG while making 53.6% of his shots last season, better than Looney’s still good averages of 11.6 PPG and 9.2 RPG on 47% shooting.

Portis also has the edge on defense. Aided by his two inch height advantage, Portis is the better shot-blocker of the two, averaging 1.4 BPG compared to Looney’s 0.9. While Looney’s 1.3 steals per game are better than Portis’s 1.1, the difference is statistically insignificant.

Their 3-point percentages are particularly appealing to the Wizards, as Portis made 46.7% and Looney made 41.5%. Neither shot it at a high volume (Portis had 30 attempts, Looney had 54), but with Beal and Pierce (more on him later) drawing attention and Wall distributing, either one would have more opportunities in the Wizard’s offense

Some mock drafts project Portis to be selected before the Wizards pick at 19, but they will be holding out hope that he falls to them. Even if he doesn’t, Looney wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.

Bring back Paul Pierce, or sign stop-gap small forward

Every time the Wizards needed a clutch shot to keep their playoff hopes alive, they turned to The Truth, and his jumper didn’t lie.

Whether it was his game-winning bank shot in Game 3, his lead taking 3-pointer with less than ten seconds left in Game 5 (they went on to lose on an Al Horford putback), or his almost series-saving 3-pointer in Game 6, Pierce proved time and time again during the series against Atlanta that even at age 38, he’s still got the clutch gene.

In just one season, he has made a lasting impression on Wizard fans. But now, with rumors swirling around the NBA that he might opt-out of his contract to end his career under Doc Rivers in LA, his time in Washington might be coming to an end.

While almost every fan of the team would love to see him return, the NBA is a business and every good business must have a back-up plan.

They don’t have that much cap space this offseason, and their focus is more on next offseason when the salary cap is set to increase drastically due to the NBA’s new television deal, but they do still have some tools to work with.

These tools include a Mid-Level Exception worth $5.464 million, a Bi-Annual Exception worth $2.139 million, and two Traded Player Exceptions from the Trevor Ariza and Andre Miller deals worth $2.252 million and $4.6 million respectively.

Assuming Pierce leaves and the Wizards don’t want to throw Otto Porter into the starting lineup just yet, players such as Tayshaun Prince or Omri Casspi would make good stop-gap replacements until the Wizards have the chance to lure Durant into town.

Both are good 3-point shooters (Prince shot 46.3% last season, Casspi shot 40.2%) which plays right into the Wizards game-plan.

Both are also likely to be within the Wizards price range. Prince is at the tail-end of his career and would demand the Wizard’s Traded Player Exception of $4.6 million at the most, while Casspi is still unproven and is likely to only require the Bi-Annual Exception.

Sign a back-up point guard

The revolving door at the Wizard’s backup point guard position continues.

Andre Miller wasn’t fast enough to keep the Wizards second-unit playing at the same pace that Wall’s lightning quick speed has the first-unit playing at, and even though Ramon Sessions is faster and under contract next season, if the Wizards find a better fit through free agency, he could be a valuable trade chip.

Sessions was a decent shooter, making 41.1% of his shots including 40.6% from behind the 3-point line. The problem is that the Wizards are looking for a guard who can come off the bench and score and his percentages came at a relatively low volume of 5.4 shots per game and a measly 1.1 3-point attempts per game.

Two point guards that the Wizards should seriously consider are Mo Williams and Aaron Brooks. Both were better scorers than Sessions as Williams averaged 14.2 PPG and Brooks averaged 11.6 PPG.

They were also more aggressive than Sessions, especially behind the arc. Williams attempted 6.6 threes per game and Brooks averaged 3.8. Their 3-point percentages were slightly lower than Sessions (33.7% for Williams, 38.7% for Brooks), but their higher volume and scoring outweigh the slight drop-off in efficiency.

Neither is likely to demand more than the $5.464 Mid-Level Exception the Wizards can offer and signing a one-year deal is good for everyone involved. William or Brooks would have the chance to prove to teams they are worthy of a long-term contract when the salaries increase next offseason, and the Wizards would get a scoring guard off the bench without sacrificing cap space.

Williams is the better option of the two due to his better assist numbers (6.0 APG compared to 3.2), but adding either of them would be an improvement over Sessions.