As if boasting superstar talent in the backcourt and forging a surprise appearance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals weren't enough, the Washington Wizards have something else to smile about this offseason: close to $15 million in cap space.
But according to a recent piece by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Washington has designs on bringing back a pair of players who are currently set to enter unrestricted free agency—and two key pieces to this season’s renaissance campaign: Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza.
But one of his screeners (Gortat) is a free agent, and the other one is a lock to miss at least 20 games every season. Trevor Ariza is also headed to free agency and figures to draw a ton of suitors; half the league’s teams could have at least $10 million in cap room, and the price is going up for the kind of 3-and-D wing play Ariza brings.
Ariza is almost 29, and Gortat is 30. Executives around the league figure they will get something between $15 million and $20 million per year combined on the open market, likely on three- or four-year contracts. The Wiz are interested in re-signing both, and you can’t really blame them.
Hey, look! Lowe projects Ariza and Gortat to fetch almost exactly the amount that Washington has in cap space! What a coincidence!
Assuming that scenario comes to pass, the Wizards would merely have to round out their roster along the fringes—replacing or re-signing guys like Garrett Temple, Drew Gooden, Glen Rice Jr. and Chris Singleton when and where appropriate.
For his part, Ariza says he’d like to come back, according to The Washington Post’s Michael Lee: “I don’t know. It would be nice to come back here, but again, who knows what’s going to happen,” said Ariza, somewhat contrary to rumors he’d prefer to be closer to his family in California. “That’s not...I don’t have to. Wherever I’m wanted. Whoever wants me on their team, I guess.”
OK, so that's not exactly the most decisive answer, but that’s fine. That’s what imminent free agents are supposed to do.
Gortat, meanwhile, has been comparatively mum on the subject. Owing, we can only assume, to the fact that he’s busy drafting a document that advocates for the allowance of full-on fistfights in the NBA.
Since the Wizards lack a first-round pick (the Phoenix Suns now own it because the Suns own everyone’s first-rounder, apparently), forging some semblance of continuity will be most important for the Wizards, whom many expect to emerge as Eastern Conference contenders sooner than later.
In that sense, Gortat and Ariza are exactly the kind of pieces any up-and-comer would be thrilled to have. One is a skilled two-way post presence, and the other is a prototypical three-and-D wing who can guard up to four positions in a pinch.
In the end, these things will shake out as they always do: at the intersection of team continuity, franchise sentimentality and the unpredictable market forces of NBA free agency.