After another disappointing year, the Washington Wizards have a long offseason to figure out how to get on the right side of a winning record. The offseason officially begins on May 30 (though fans would disagree and note it began after the team slid to a 2-15 start) when the NBA draft lottery takes place.
The Wizards are guaranteed a top-five pick and have almost a 20 percent chance of claiming the top pick, which comes with the right to draft Kentucky center Anthony Davis.
The NBA draft takes place on June 28.
Before the draft, the Wizards need to find a coach. Randy Wittman is not the answer, and the Wizards need to make a strong move in the selection of their next coach. With a young and inexperienced team, the Wizards need a coach who can motivate the team and change the losing mentality that's plaguing them.
The roster is not built for winning, and major changes are expected. Half of the current roster needs to be exorcised and the Wizards need to add a few key pieces in free agency and some new blood with the draft.
The offseason should be interesting for the Wizards because they have three draft picks and a decent amount of cap room.
They are set at point guard and center with John Wall and Nene, have a solid duo of young power forwards in Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin, boast a scoring threat in Jordan Crawford, and feature promising talent in Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack. By adding a few key pieces, the Wizards can make themselves into a playoff contender by next season.
With a one-year contract, the heat is on general manager Ernie Grunfeld to right the ship in D.C. Expect Grunfeld to be plenty busy this offseason as he improves a team that finished with the second-worst record in the NBA and its fourth consecutive losing season.
The Wizards need to hire a new coach before any offseason moves are made.
Randy Wittman stepped in after Flip Saunders was fired following the team's 2-15 sputter to begin the season and did a decent job, given that the team was drastically changed following the trades of Nick Young and JaVale McGee.
However, Wittman did not show enough as coach to deserve another season at the helm.
Wittman has been a head coach twice before, with the Cavaliers and the Timberwolves. In those five seasons, his teams never made the playoffs or reached a .500 winning-percentage. The Wizards have a young, inexperienced team and need an experienced coach with a winning background for them to turn the corner.
The top three candidates for the Wizards head coaching vacancy should be Jerry Sloan, Mike Budenholzer and Nate McMillan.
Jerry Sloan seems to be the leading candidate for the Bobcats job, so the Wizards need to act fast. During Jerry Sloan’s 23 seasons in Utah, the Jazz finished below .500 just once and failed to reach the postseason only three times. He took the Jazz to the NBA Finals twice and is a no-nonsense coach who expects the most out of his players. He would be great for the development of Wall.
He's spent almost two decades learning from the great Greg Popovich and helping to coach the Spurs to four NBA titles in the last 12 seasons. He is only 41 and is ready to become a head coach. He brings a winning mentality to a team that has been short on wins.
Nate McMillan is an experienced coach and player. He coached the Supersonics for five seasons, reaching the playoffs twice. He coached the Trailblazers for seven seasons, reaching the playoffs three times. He also served as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski for the US national team in the 2006 FIBA World Championships and in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning bronze and gold medals, respectively.
McMillan was able to turn around Seattle and Portland and get the most out of his players and would establish a defense-first mindset with the team.
Bye bye Lewis. I hope you enjoyed your vacation in DC.
According to ESPN, the Wizards' free agents are Morris Almond, Maurice Evans, Cartier Martin, Brian Cook and James Singleton. Expect only Martin to be retained. The Wizards should amnesty Rashard Lewis, who is owed $22 million next season. Lewis' sore knee limited him to only 28 games last season. The Wizards can also buy out Lewis' contract for $13 million.
Blatche, the Merriam-Webster definition of "dead weight," has been a major disappointment in D.C. since he signed a three-year, $28 million extension in the summer of 2010. Injuries and poor conditioning limited him to only 26 games last season. His seven seasons in Washington have been marred by erratic play, unfulfilled potential and off-the-field problems.
His days as Wizards are over, and rightfully so.
Because Blatche will only be only 26 at season's start, he has more trade value than Lewis who will turn 33 in August. (Trading Blatche will be discussed in the next slide.) By amnestying Lewis and trading Blatche, the Wizards will free themselves of nearly $30 million in salaries.
With the cap room, the Wizards can partner Wall with a running mate and make a serious run at big-name free agents such as Eric Gordon or O.J. Mayo, or rising stars like Gerald Green and Marco Belinelli.
The excitement over Blatche's potential has completely dissipated, as it has been seven long seasons for Blatche in D.C.
He's a player who has lost the support of coaches, management and the fans who boo him every time he enters the game and touches the ball. Last season, he missed more than half the season with a calf injury. His averages dropped in nearly every statistical category, due in large part to poor conditioning.
Blatche is owed around $7 million next season, much too high for a player who has disappointed so severely.
Since Blatche will only be 26 at season's start, a player with his potential and talent still holds trade value. There are teams such as the Heat, Celtics, Bobcats, Lakers and Pistons that could be looking to add a power forward with Blatche's potential and ability.
Teams will gamble that the right coach and new scenery may be the catalyst for Blatche to be a double-double type of player.
While Blatche has trade value, it is not very high. The Wizards should be attempting to trade Blatche before the upcoming draft in hopes of landing a second-round pick and a veteran player with an expiring contract.
This year's NBA draft includes a number of intriguing prospects predicted to land in the second round. With another second-round pick, the Wizards could add a wing player such as Memphis' Will Barton or Ohio State's William Buford or a center such as Georgetown's Henry Sims or Gonzaga's Robert Sacre.
Cartier Martin is the one player the Wizards need to re-sign.
Martin is the kind of utility player that all winning teams have. He's a player that provides hustle off the bench, in the vein of Boris Diaw, Shane Battier and Lamar Odom (pre-meltdown). He is reminiscent of Malik Rose, who played 13 seasons as a combo forward and won two championships with the Spurs.
Martin only played in 17 games last season, but made the absolute most of his 23 minutes per game. He averaged nearly 10 points and more than three rebounds per game in his limited minutes. He also was one of the team's best shooters. Martin, an experienced 10-day contract player, would jump at the opportunity to re-sign for an entire season with the Wizards. His hustle and work ethic is greatly appreciated by any coaching staff and he is player whom the Wizards can count on for consistent, strong play.
A Wall-Gordon back court? Definitely, maybe.
Winning in the NBA is about pairing. And much like a good wine and fancy cheese, teams must find a one-two punch that works. James-Wade. Durant-Westbrook. The Big Three. Paul-Griffin. Anthony-Stoudemire. Iguodala-Williams. Granger-Hibbert. Nowitzki-Terry. Duncan-Parker. Kobe-Kobe.
As good as John Wall is and as great as John Wall can be, he needs a partner in crime to win.
Enter: Eric Gordon, the perfect backcourt mate for Wall. Knee injuries and back spasms limited Gordon to just nine games this past season, which may depreciate his free-agent value some. However, Gordon is only 23 years old and is capable of scoring 20 points every night.
Injuries have plagued Gordon's short career, but if he's healthy, he is a big-time scorer. All signs lead to Gordon being healthy next season, and a healthy Gordon has the trappings of a star.
Adding Gordon to the backcourt would give Wall a player who is capable of scoring at will as well as distributing. The Wizards would have one of the Eastern Conference's best backcourts for the next half decade.
The Wizards are in need of a scorer and Gordon fills that role.
Adding a starting shooting guard in free agency would allow the Wizards to draft a small forward in the upcoming draft, solidifying their skills positions for years to come.
Gordon will be a coveted free agent, so the Wizards will have to open up the check books. However, they have ample cap room and will have more once they get rid of Lewis and Blatche. Making a big splash in free agency and adding a complimentary player for Wall will pay dividends as the Wizards build and help to keep Wall in town when his contract is up.
Only two Wizards made more than 30 three-pointers last season. Of those two players, Jordan Crawford made the most with 79. He also took a 273. Less than 29 percent does not cut it.
The Wizards are devoid of a pure shooter on the team. They have no player who can catch and shoot with ease or knock down a big three in the closing minutes.
Playoff teams have shooters: Boston (Ray Allen), San Antonio (Daniel Green, Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner), New York (Steve Novak), Chicago (Kyle Korver) and Orlando (J.J. Redick). The Wizards need to sign a shooter who can play solid minutes and contribute offensively, especially from beyond the arc.
To become a better-than-average team offensively, the Wizards must add a player or two who can consistently knock down the open shot. There are a number of free agents that should come at a cheap price and provide the shooting efficiency the Wizards desperately need. Atop the list is Steve Novak, who will likely be an afterthought in the Knicks' offseason plans.
Ernie Grunfeld saved his job last season by trading perpetual bonehead JaVale McGee to Denver for Nene, an experienced rugged center who consistently plays hard and hustles. What Nene lacks in offensive ability, he makes up in rebounding and grit. Nene lacks the athletic ability of McGee, but he can be counted on every night to produce at a high level.
The Wizards have no center on the roster behind Nene.
The Wizards need to add a young center who can provide valuable minutes behind Nene and be groomed to replace him, as he will begin the season at 30 years old. Grizzlies backup center Marreese Speights fits that build and would be a great addition. The three-year veteran averaged 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season.
The Grizzlies have a number of free agents they need to re-sign, notably O.J. Mayo, and Speights is likely a player they will not be willing to match offers for.
Other free-agent centers that the Wizards could pursue are Omer Asik, Ian Mahinmi and Aaron Gray.
Even if the Wizards draft a center, the team would be benefited by adding an experienced player who could contribute immediately.
Last season, John Wall was the only true point guard on the roster. Rookie guard Shelvin Mack performed well in limited playing time, but Mack is more of a combo guard. The Wizards need a pure point guard to run the offense when Wall is not on the court. The Wizards are a young team, and adding a veteran floor captain would provide much needed leadership and poise.
Jannero Pargo is a veteran point guard with 40 playoff games worth of experience. He will turn 33 at season's start and is a team player who will push Wall and provide solid play off the bench.
The Hawks have nine free agents this offseason so Pargo will likely come at a bargain price. Other veteran free agent point guards the Wizards could pursue are Keyon Dooling, Mike James and Jamaal Tinsley.
The Wizards possess a 19.9 percent chance of landing the top overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. If they land their second top-overall pick in three seasons, conventional wisdom has it that they will draft Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis, the player regarded by most as the best player in the draft.
If they do not land the top overall pick, their selection will likely be in the top five.
The Wizards' biggest need is the small forward position. The Wiz desperately need to fill that hole and the 2012 draft class presents a number of worthy players to make an impact at the small forward position, beginning with Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ("MKG"). MKG has a prototypical NBA small forward body along with great versatility.
On a loaded, championship-winning Kentucky team, MKG averaged 11.9 points per game to go along with over seven rebounds per game. He also shot nearly 50 percent from the field. MKG is great in transition, can run the break like a guard and play in the post as well. He is a physical player who can defend players at different positions.
Other small forwards who are likely to be lottery selections are North Carolina's Harrison Barnes and Baylor's Perry Jones III. If the Wizards opt to not draft a small forward, they could go after a shooting guard such as Florida's Bradley Beal or UConn's Jeremy Lamb.
The Wizards currently have two second-round draft picks. The first of the two should be in the top three of the second round and the second (from Dallas) of the picks should be in the middle of the second round.
The Wizards would be wise to package both for a late first-rounder.
The late first-round gives the Wizards a chance to draft John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), a pure shooter who can provide instant offense from the bench. Jenkins shot 44 percent from beyond the arc last season and would be an upgrade over any of the shooters on the Wizards' bench now.
The Wiz could also snag Fab Melo with a late first-round pick. Melo is a true seven-footer with a sturdy 250 pound frame. His game is still very raw, but he has the physical tools and potential to develop into a formidable center, if not a starting center.