The Wizards need a new plan. Our dreams are dead. Things have not been going well for the Wizards lately, and Durant's complete shunning was the final nail in the coffin of our current plan. They certainly weren't a bad team the past three years, they had young developing talent and great roleplayers. However a very limited coach, predictable strategies and ignoring many of the small things that all the great teams in the NBA do now to stick with traditional basketball doomed us to never be more than a playful capable team. Our terrible GM also decided on multiple times to mortgage our future by trading players with potential for veterans on the downturn without giving them time to develop, which might have improved us in the short term but no where near enough to turn the Wizards into a true contender.
Grunfeld also decided, as we all know, to put all his eggs into one basket. While putting things into baskets tends to be a great thing to do in the sport of basketball, you always need to put things into at least two baskets, no team can win a game without scoring in the second half. And the Wizards, while doing everything right in order to make the dream seem possible, squandered their first half lead with a terrible 2015-16 season, among many other factors, and clearly lost the game. We are now left with a roster that could be much better had we had other projects in the oven, and a coach who frankly may have been the worst coach on the market, with a contract so high that firing prematurely might not be an option for a tight pocketed owner like Ted Leonsis. A new GM would certainly help us moving forward. Let's hope Leonsis can agree.
Unfortunately knowing our GM, he'll aim for the next best thing and attempt to sign a top 10 free agent in this season to a four year max deal. This is the last thing the wizards want to do. With the exception of Durant, no 2016 free agent is the type of game changer the Wizards need to turn back the collapse and thrust them into championship contention. Derozan and Horford are great players, but neither is quite the right fit on the Wizards nor can they realistically be expected to leave their current teams. Nicolas Batum, Hassan Whiteside and Ryan Anderson are also players who hover right beneath all star quality and might be good fits on the Wizards, but none of them are simply talented enough to force a team into contender status, and are certainly going to be overpaid. Joakim Noah, Dwayne Wade, Pau Gasol and Chandler Parsons simply are just too old or injury prone to be the force we need. Having bet everything on Durant, the Wizards seem to have no options left to give the fanbase what was promised
Ryan Anderson is by far the best fit with the Wizards of any player left as an option. His all around offensive talent and marksmanship abilities would seem to do wonders around Wall, but he is not quite a max player, despite the contract he will get, especially considering his extreme defensive liabilities. Batum has a diverse all around skillset, but has shown himself to be inconsistent when it really matters and does not seem to be the best fit among the Wizard's draft built core of Wall, Beal and Porter. Hassan Whiteside would be a rebounding and defensive powerhouse who would thrive alongside John Wall, similar to Deandre Jordan with Chris Paul, but we would be left without an offensive kick that we require. We could attempt to sign both Whiteside and Anderson together, but we would be forced to trade Gortat's contract and simply not have enough money to get any quality roleplayers remaining, nor the talent to do anything more than to be stuck in the middle of the playoff pack for the next four years.
The Wizards simply cannot thrust themselves into contender status this summer with off season moves. Wall, Beal and Porter are all still improving, and soon the two former third overall picks may be talented enough to join Wall in stardom, and our only option is to rely upon that and continue to build around them. The 2013-14 and 2014-15 Wizards, while never true contenders, were certainly a team on the rise. If we can take a step backwards we can continue to climb forwards. Buying players for one year to basically stall a season for Durant was a huge mistake. However, the Wizards can correct that mistake by doing something similar, buying players for two years. If any of the top free agents, particularly Anderson, could be lured in on a One and One deal, the Wizards should do it, but certainly not a four year max. If the Wizards ever want to be a true contender in this league, before John Wall is out of the prime of his career, they need to follow three steps.
1) The first step is to acquire more young pieces with potential in free agency. Targeting any established, on the downswing veteran roleplayers, like Ernie has done the past two years, would be a huge mistake. With the Wizards cap space we have tons of options. Teams like the Celtics, Sixers and Magic are going to be forced to shed young players with potential on team options or fail to extend a qualifying offer or match sheets as restricted free agent rather than pay to retain them with their overload of youthful talent. Grabbing a few of them in free Agency to play together on the second unit might result in some becoming great serviceable players in two years time.
2) The next step Wizards need to do is put themselves in the game to collect players on contracts for the next year or two whom other teams are deciding to part with. Teams in contention will need to shed some salary in order to pursue big named free agents and would prefer to trade rather than waive players, often for next to nothing. Brooklyn already attempted to so with their former starting point guard in Jarett Jack. Teams like the Clippers, Cavs, Warriors, Spurs and Thunder all have players, young and old whom they'll be looking to part with. The wizards acquired Jared Dudley this past season in exactly that way, only giving up a top 55 protected pick in order to take on the Salary of a perfect fitting roleplayer. These are the types of players who while on the downturn, can immediately give our bench a boost and inspire a winning mentality in the team
3) The last step the Wizards need to do is to retain some of their own free agents. I might be a bit biased because of my love for the team, but I still believe players like Dudley, Nene, Temple and Sessions all are quality players whom could still thrive on the Wizards given a better coach at the helm. It is tough to say Scott Brooks is that, but who knows. Keeping chemistry alive may be smart and home town discounts certainly are not unheard of in this league. The Wizards may not have made the playoffs last year, but they were only a few games out and with a better implemented defensive system (what was with the disgusting always switching on pick and rolls Wittman insisted on?!) , the ability to adapt and change our gameplan mid game and hopefully not losing so many players to injury for half the season, they would have been a clear playoff team. 41-41 might have been a disappointing record but it wasn't too much of a huge step back, only a few games different.
This plan will come to it's conclusion during the pre 2018/19 season free agency, the last year of Wall and Gortat's contracts. Wall should be a completed player and a superstar by then, with Beal and Porter on the verge of Stardom if not already basking in it. Other players may have taken a leap themselves, who knows how much of his potential Kelly Oubre will have achieved. This is the time the Wizards will try to strike in free agency, the books will clear again, Gortat's contract will be on his last year and therefore easy to move to a bottom tier team who has the space for a pick if he is no longer a viable starting center. The Wizards will be able to retain or shed other players and will have a good choice in attempting to find the perfect piece to push them the final step to being a true championship capable team. The 2018 summer might not have a player like Durant in it, but it certainly has a wealth of great players who will be free agents. The clear cut choice right now is a big man with key ties to Washington who seems to clearly have a desire to jump ship, in Demarcus Cousins. Acquiring him might even be possible at the 2017/18 season trade deadline! Other players who may or may not be free agents at the time who have all star potential or are already there are Paul George, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Danilo Gallinari, Avery Bradley, and most of the incredibly deep 2014 draft class will be restricted. The Wizards should have ample cap space, an already established system and roster, and be able to shoot for the stars gathering the best possible pieces to compliment our roster.
While no one wants to wait, everyone wishes it were possible to win now, that simply is not obtainable at this time. Waiting and growing to a point where the options are endless is the best option we have moving forward. Complete the natural rebuilding process we started with drafting Wall or we will be stuck forever in the middle of mediocrity