The Washington Wizards stayed quiet Thursday night at the NBA draft. They traded their only pick, the No. 46 selection, to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin.
Besides that, the Wizards did absolutely nothing.
After an uneventful draft night, where will the team's front office focus its attention the rest of the summer?
The Wizards have just seven players (John Wall, Nene, Martell Webster, Andre Miller, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr.) under contract for 2014-15, with their salaries totaling $46.5 million, according to Mike Prada of Bullets Forever. Prada projects the cap for next season at $63.2 million, which gives the Wizards lots of flexibility for the summer.
However, the front office has to be careful not to upset the mojo of a squad that advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2004-05.
The Wizards should have three priorities this summer: keeping the starting unit intact, signing a undrafted free-agent big man and signing a scorer off the bench.
Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza Need to Stay
When the Washington Wizards were healthy last year, they trotted out an excellent starting lineup.
They had an All-Star point guard with great scoring and passing ability (Wall), a 2-guard who could drive the lane and shoot (Beal), an athletic, defensive-minded small forward (Trevor Ariza), a power forward with post moves and a mid-range jumper (Nene) and a center who cleared the glass and protected the rim (Marcin Gortat).
According to 82games.com, this unit played 486.6 minutes together in 2013-14. The group posted an offensive rating of 108 and a defensive rating of 98. This means that they outscored their opponents by 10 points for every 100 possessions.
The Wizards have an elite starting lineup. Not necessarily because of sheer talent, but because of how the players' games mesh with each other.
Gortat and Ariza will be unrestricted free agents this summer, but there is no reason for the Wizards front office to get too cute with their cap space and try to replace one or both of them.
And with how weak the Eastern Conference is at the moment, the Wizards should be more concerned with winning now than later. The 30-year-old Gortat and 28-year-old Ariza won't improve much more as players, but they should be useful pieces for a few more years.
Now, re-signing Gortat and Ariza won't be terribly cheap. The veteran starters both made approximately $7.7 million last year, and they have played well enough to earn around that amount for their next contracts.
Wizards insider J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet Washington tweeted that the Wizards are working hard to keep both players in the nation's capital:
If Gortat and Ariza are both re-signed this summer, the Wizards will have completed their biggest task of the summer.
There Are Plenty of Quality Players Who Went Undrafted
The 2014 NBA draft is over, but teams shouldn't give up on the draft class just yet.
SI.com interviewed Ryan Blake, the senior director of NBA scouting operations, before the draft. This is what Blake had to say about the 2014 draft class: "It's absolutely deep. After the 60 picks in the two rounds, teams will have players they want for the summer league whom they feel could make the team in the fall. Agents' phones are going to be ringing off the hook."
The Wizards, in particular, should look for a bruising big man who can play right away off the bench. Nene is always an injury risk, and unrestricted free agents Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin may be tempted to sign with teams that can offer bigger roles and salaries.
Signing an undrafted free agent with an NBA-ready game would certainly be a low-risk move. UNLV's Khem Birch, North Carolina's James McAdoo and Iowa State's Melvin Ejim are all big men who could make an impact in their rookie years.
But Florida's Patric Young is the most intriguing prospect.
Young is slightly undersized for a post position, at 6'10" in shoes, according to DraftExpress. However, he makes up for his unimpressive stature with nice athleticism (37.5" maximum vertical leap) and length (7'1.75"). Check out his YouTube highlight mix below, suitably titled "King Kong."
(Warning: Background music in video contains NSFW language.)
Young, or one of the other big men who slipped through the cracks at the draft, would be a smart investment for the Wizards.
The Wizards Could Use a Scorer Off the Bench
The Wizards ranked No. 29 in bench scoring this season (26.1 points per game), according to Hoops Stats.
Most of the top teams in the NBA feature a lethal scorer leading their bench. Manu Ginobili of the Spurs, Jamal Crawford of the Clippers, Ray Allen of the Heat and Reggie Jackson of the Thunder can all heat up at a moment's notice. The baskets these players hit are often huge momentum swingers for their teams.
Who do the Wizards have to fill that role? Webster, maybe? He's not a bad player, but he doesn't impact games the way the aforementioned players do. Porter may or may not develop into the player the Wizards want him to be.
There's a way the Wizards can pick up a pure scorer off the bench, and that's through the mid-level exception. According to Mike Prada from Bullets Forever, the team may have a full mid-level exception worth of salary to give out if it re-signs its higher-paid free agents, due to the cap holds technically putting it above the salary cap but still under the luxury tax.
Last season, the full mid-level exception amount was at $5.15 million, also according to Prada. It should be slightly larger in 2014-15 due to the increasing salary cap.
The Wizards can do some damage with that kind of cash.
Nick Young is one player who could be a valuable bench spark for the Wizards.
Young, who was drafted by Washington in 2007 and played more than four seasons there, made about $1.1 million this season, per HoopsHype, but vastly outplayed his salary. Young's 30.3 points per 48 minutes ranked No. 11 in the NBA in 2013-14, according to ESPN.com.
The front office should also look at the other free-agent wings with good scoring ability, but Young could be a nice fit with the team's mid-level exception, if it re-signs Gortat and Ariza.
Ariza could also be willing to take the mid-level exception, as Bleacher Report's Stephen Babb notes. If he is, the team would obviously have more money to offer other players.
Why mess with success?
The Wizards shouldn't make major changes to a team that overachieved in the playoffs and showed a lot of chemistry in the starting lineup.
But small fixes like improving the frontcourt depth and bench scoring could turn the Wizards from just a playoff team to a full-fledged playoff contender.
Note: All stats used are from Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise indicated.
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