Report Card Grades for Washington Wizards' 2014 Offseason So Far
If LeBron James had chosen to stay with the Miami Heat, then the Heat would be the easy favorites to win the Eastern Conference once again.
However, with James choosing to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers instead, the East is wide open—at least for this year.
Especially if Stephenson leaves the Pacers, any team has a good chance of winning the East. Ernie Grunfeld and the Washington Wizards are taking advantage of that opening this offseason, making a number of moves already to improve the roster.
Although, we're still far away from all the free agents finding their new homes or staying in their current ones.
But at this point, let's look at what moves the Wizards have made, and how much closer they move Washington to being a real competitor for the Eastern Conference title this year.
Retaining Andre Miller
It would have been nice to see the Wizards pursue a younger backup point guard to play behind John Wall, but Miller's option pays him only $3.9 million, so it's not costing the Wizards much to bring him back.
After struggling in the first half of the season while playing Eric Maynor off the bench, Washington acquired Miller from Denver, and he finally gave the Wizards an offensive option off the bench.
In 28 games with the Wizards in the regular season, Miller failed to break four points per game, but he averaged more than three assists, which was more than Maynor.
With Maynor on the floor, it felt as if the offense was coming to a complete stop. Miller at least kept the ball moving and was able to make plays on fast breaks similar to Wall.
Should Washington bring in a younger point guard from the summer league squad, Miller would make a great mentor and will continue to be effective at running the second unit. The main concern, however, is how well he'll hold up at age 38.
Overall, this was a safe move for Washington. Miller is at least somewhat familiar with Randy Wittman's scheme, and he came back at a reasonable price.
Re-Signing Marcin Gortat
Even in the playoffs, fans were already talking about what would happen with Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza.
Washington at least answered one of those quickly, getting a five-year, $60 million deal done with the center early on in free agency.
The Wizards get points here for locking up Gortat, as he was the best center available in free agency. But they lose points for the length of the contract.
No matter what, Washington was going to end up overpaying for a big man this offseason; it's just the way the market is. Besides Gortat, the next-best options were all on the level of Spencer Hawes or Chris Kaman, both players who have questions about even being starters.
Greg Monroe would have been the only option who is on the level of Gortat currently, and the Wizards would have had to give him an offer the Pistons couldn't match, which would have eventually led to overpaying.
Gortat was second on the team in player efficiency rating (not including Drew Gooden's 22 games) behind only John Wall and was 12th in the league this year in double-doubles.
He won't live up to the cost of the contract when he's 34 and 35, but he can still be a contributor to the Wizards into those later years in some form.
"The Polish Hammer" has been playing starter minutes in the NBA for only four years now. He played in just 12 games in the Euroleague before coming over, and in his four years with the Orlando Magic, Gortat started a total of only five games.
He's shown that he can be a healthy center, and this was the best option for the Wizards given the lack of other options in free agency.
Declining to Give Qualifying Offer to Trevor Booker
On the same day Andre Miller's team option was picked up, the Wizards declined to give Trevor Booker a qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The grade for this move could change depending upon what comes out of the rumored DeJuan Blair trade (more on that later). But assuming the Wizards land Blair, this could turn out to be a pretty good move.
As previously stated, big-men contracts are inflated in today's NBA. Booker outplayed his contract last year when he made just $2.35 million. He was going to draw more than that in free agency, qualifying offer or not.
Booker was a solid backup for the Wizards. His numbers received only a slight boost (4.8 to eight points per game and 3.7 to 6.2 rebounds per game) compared to when he started in the absence of Nene and came off the bench.
If Booker ends up coming back to Washington as an unrestricted free agent, then this turns out to be a perfectly fine move, given that he'll probably be back for just slightly more than what he made last year.
Extending the qualifying offer would have opened the door to teams, forcing the Wizards to pay more than they would have liked for Booker.
Even if Booker leaves for another team, getting Blair would still be an upgrade, so I have no problem at all with this move.
Signing Paul Pierce
The most surprising move for the Wizards this offseason came just hours after losing out on Trevor Ariza, who signed with the Houston Rockets: Washington immediately signed future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce to a two-year, $10 million deal with a player option in the second year for Pierce.
This was basically a Plan B for Washington if it couldn't bring back Ariza. And what a Plan B it is. Pierce showed last year with the Brooklyn Nets that he can contribute even in his late 30s, and he will fit nicely into what the Wizards are trying to do.
Pierce will be a great mentor to Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr., who were both in line to take small forward minutes prior to the Pierce signing. Besides that, Pierce has still been a great shooter, making 42.3 percent of his shots between 10 feet and the three-point line and 37.1 percent from three-point range.
With John Wall, Pierce can lag behind on fast breaks and hit three-pointers, waiting on the perimeter for Wall to pass the ball to him.
He also provides great flexibility for the Wizards. When the inevitable Nene injury occurs, Pierce can play the 4 as he did in Brooklyn, leaving small forward minutes open for Porter or Martell Webster when he's healthy.
The contract also leaves some flexibility for the Wizards during the 2016 offseason. If they had brought back Ariza, the Wizards likely would have given him a four-year deal like Houston did, leaving the Wizards with two aging players with big contracts in that offseason (including Gortat).
Pierce is maybe 75 percent of the player he once was, but he's anything but done in the league and will turn out to be incredibly valuable for the Wizards after losing Ariza.
Pending: Working on a Sign-and-Trade for DeJuan Blair
Since that initial report, there hasn't been anything new or official with the deal. But the thought of it going through looks great on paper for the Wizards.
Per 36 minutes throughout their careers, Blair has averaged more points and rebounds than Trevor Booker, and Blair has a higher career total rebound percentage (the estimation of the number of rebounds pulled down compared to how many available while that player was on the floor) than Booker.
Stein's report also points out that Dallas wouldn't get anything in return, and it would be more of a favor to Blair than anything else.
Playing Gortat and Blair at the same time could be an issue for the Wizards given their similar play styles and the need for John Wall to have driving lanes to the hoop. But if Nene is healthy, Blair is an excellent energy big man off the bench.
If the trade goes through:
There are still some questions the Wizards need to address before the offseason is over. Drew Gooden, Kevin Seraphin and Garrett Temple are still available, and as the Summer League wraps up, they could add some younger players.
But up until this point, it's been a successful offseason for the Wizards. The Gortat deal is long, but it was the best choice for them in this free-agency pool, and he won't fall off as much in the final years of the deal as some believe.
Bringing a big name to D.C. like Pierce shows other future free agents that Washington can be a destination for bigger names. And more importantly, Pierce is a fine replacement for Ariza.
And if the Blair trade goes through, the Wizards will have a deeper frontcourt than last year, which is important given Nene's injury history.
But it wasn't quite to "A" territory given the length of Gortat's deal and the aging concerns with Pierce and Miller.
In the wide-open East, the Wizards certainly made the moves necessary to be a name that analysts and fans toss around when talking about teams that can make a deep playoff run.
Overall grade: B+
All stats used were from Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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