Wizards 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft
Heading into next season, the Eastern Conference is wide open. Barring some solid signings in the coming week, the Miami Heat will take a step back with Dwyane Wade aging, it's unlikely that the Indiana Pacers will take a step forward with the questions surrounding Lance Stephenson's return and Chicago's success relies a lot on Derrick Rose's health with its current roster.
That leaves the door open for the Washington Wizards to be contenders for years to come. With John Wall and Bradley Beal growing together, and the recent re-signing of Marin Gortat, the Wizards have a core in place to be a solid team for the next few years.
That makes this free agency so much more important for the Wizards. With Gortat locked down, the Wizards still have some maneuverability. The exact terms of Gortat's deals still haven't been released, but if he was to get exactly $12 million this year, it leaves the Wizards about $10 million still (excluding the mid-level exemption, and assuming that they don't re-sign any of their current free agents) to sign other players.
With the cap set to increase this season, the Wizards aren't in great shape, but they at least have the opportunity to make some improvements. After looking at their success last year but seeing how much the bench struggled (Washington's bench finished second to last in points and assists per game, via HoopStats.com), the Wizards should be looking to bring back some players from last year, but also add new assets on the bench.
Jimmer Fredette, SG: Since coming out of Brigham Young, Fredette has really struggled to gain his footing in the league. But with Garrett Temple off the books, Fredette could be a much better offensive shooting guard off the bench who can score in spurts. And with his struggles to play consistent minutes, Fredette is definitely a mid-level exemption option.
Kevin Seraphin, C: Although Seraphin basically stopped playing toward the end of last year, he was the 17th pick in the 2010 draft and has some reasonable upside. On the offensive end of the floor, he looks lost, but he can be a defensive stopper off the bench. Since he played his first four years in Washington, bringing him back would be that much easier.
Glen Davis, PF/C: Let the jokes roll in about Davis. He's an inconsistent player, but if any combination of Trevor Booker, Seraphin, Al Harrington or Drew Gooden doesn't return, the Wizards will be desperate for depth in the frontcourt. Davis will at least be physical and bang around in 15 minutes or so a game.
5. Thabo Sefolosha, Shooting Guard
With Martell Webster out three to five months (probably more with rehab time taken into account), the Wizards will need some help at shooting guard. Temple is off the books now, and Thabo Sefolosha brings a similar skill set to Temple, only at a higher level.
Sefolosha showed in the playoffs he's not nearly as good of a three-point shooter as he used to be, but he can come off the bench and bring energy on the defensive end, with the ability to guard the 2 and the 3.
His stock is down this offseason after averaging just 6.3 points per game last year while shooting 41.5 percent from the floor, so he'll likely make less than his $3.9 million per year with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
When Webster comes back, Sefolosha's minutes would probably decrease even more, but given that he's just one year removed from shooting almost 42 percent from three, Sefolosha is a good bench option for the Wizards, who struggled to get scoring from Temple last year.
4. Emeka Okafor, Center
Now that Gortat's in Washington, people have forgotten that Emeka Okafor was going to be the starting center for the Wizards at this time last year.
After sending their first-round pick and Okafor to the Phoenix Suns for Gortat, the Wizards could look back to Okafor to come off the bench, especially if Seraphin and Booker don't return. Okafor is coming in to this year on fresh legs since he sat out all of last year, and in 2012, his defensive rating (the number of points allowed per 100 possessions) was just 99, which would have landed him 11th in the league in that category this year.
Since Okafor missed all of last year, he likely won't be looking for a multiyear deal. Instead, he'll sign for a low-cost, one-year deal to build his stock back up for a potential two- or three-year deal next offseason.
If Okafor can prove that he can be a rim protector still, he could even become a potential trade piece halfway through the season.
Plus, there's always the issue of Nene's health. Since he's going to miss time likely at some point this year, it's never a bad idea to have an extra big man.
3. Evan Turner, Small Forward
For obvious reasons, Evan Turner would only be an option if the Wizards don't land Ariza. With Webster out, it's doubtful Washington would go into the season with Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr. at small forward.
The Pacers allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent, so the Wizards won't have to hike the price up on him, and he'd be a nice consolation prize if Ariza chooses to go to the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat or anyone on the long list of teams who are interested in him.
It appears as if Luol Deng is going to be out of Washington's price range, and after making $6.6 million last year, the market for Turner will likely be less than that after he was buried on Indiana's bench.
Turner, 25, could still grow along with Wall and Beal, and prior to being traded, he was lighting up the scoreboard with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 17.4 points, six rebounds and a steal per game. Granted, there was no one else to score in Philly, but he is a viable scoring option and has comparable size to Ariza.
Because he hasn't played meaningful minutes for a good team yet, Turner is still kind of an unknown commodity, but with Porter behind and Webster, eventually, behind him, bringing in Turner wouldn't be a bad alternative should the Wizards miss out on Ariza.
2. Trevor Booker, Power Forward
Remember back on the first slide when I talked about keeping the core together? After seeing what he could do last year, I think Booker is part of that core.
The Wizards allowed Booker to become an unrestricted free agent. That's not a great sign for Booker's future prospects in Washington, but we still don't know what kind of market he'll get.
Washington still hasn't made a decision on extending a qualifying offer to Seraphin, and if the Wizards don't, Booker could come back in their sights, provided no one has made too big of an offer for them.
In his fourth year in the league, Booker actually outplayed his contract, which is why he's an unrestricted free agent in the first place. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 11.4 points, a block, a steal and 8.8 rebounds.
But the deal-breaker for the Wizards as to why they need to refocus on Booker is because of Nene. As previously mentioned (and as every Wizards fan knows by now) Nene is going to miss time.
Booker filled in as a solid starter in Nene's absence, playing well alongside Gortat. As a starter, Booker shot 55.7 percent compared to 53.5 percent off the bench, and he averaged just under three rebounds more per game when he was the starter.
With Nene healthy now, it's easy to look at Booker as just a role player off the bench. But given Nene's injury history and Booker's ability to play big minutes off the bench, the Wizards would be making a mistake to bring back Seraphin over him.
1. Trevor Ariza, Small Forward
As soon as the Wizards had time to recover from losing in Game 6 to the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the playoffs, the focus immediately turned to the task of re-upping Gortat and Ariza. Now that Gortat's taken care of, Ariza becomes the top priority for Washington.
There's a long list of teams who are interested in Ariza, but the Wizards knew they were going to overpay for Ariza, which in this team's case, is OK.
Wall and Beal work well with Ariza. He fits well into Washington's offense as the third scoring option, allowing him to sit on the perimeter and wait for Wall to kick it out to him or Beal to pass it to him after a Gortat pick.
It's no coincidence that after floundering in New Orleans, Ariza got back on track in Washington. He had his best three-point percentage of his career last year, had his best scoring output since the 2009-10 season and averaged the most rebounds in his career.
When looking back on Washington's season, the main issue wasn't the starting lineup, but the bench, especially in the regular season. In the playoffs, the Wizards were only a few dumb plays away from forcing the Pacers to seven games.
According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, the lineup of Wall, Beal, Ariza, Nene and Gortat outscored opponents last year by 10.5 points per 100 possessions. That's just not something you should tinker with.
If the Wizards are able to land Ariza, some fans will probably second-guess whatever the final contract numbers turn out to be. But unless someone like the Lakers with a ridiculous amount of cap space makes Ariza an offer that really is too far out there for Washington, the team can't put a price on what it would mean to keep the starting core of this roster together.
All stats used are from Basketball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.