The Washington Wizards have been the quiet winners of the offseason. They won the first pick in the draft, proceeded to draft the future of their franchise, and maneuvered a few trades that put five total first-round picks on their roster for next season.
Not a bad take for a team that has won just 45 games over the last two seasons.
Before anyone questions my math skills by highlighting how the Wizards only got three first-round picks in the 2010 draft, I refer you to Kirk Hinrich and Yi Jianlian. Both players came to the Wizards in trades that opened cap space for the Bulls and Nets respectively, and both are former lottery picks. Hinrich was selected seventh overall in 2003 and Jianlian was selected fifth overall in 2007.
Add John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, and Trevor Booker to the list, and the Wizards have five newly-acquired first-round picks on their thin roster.
The key phrase there is "thin roster," as the Wizards entered the offseason with six players under contract, and only Gilbert Arenas has a full season of starting experience. Since drafting Wall and acquiring Hinrich, it is unlikely the team will pay Randy Foye's nearly $5 million qualifying offer. The handful of undrafted guards with smaller pricetags on the summer league team don't bode well for Foye's return.
After trades, signing their first-round picks, and deciding what to do with second-round pick Hamady N'Diaye, the Wizards have 11 players on the roster right now.
Depth could be an issue given the unproven nature of the current assembly of players. The Wizards aren't in a position to compete immediately, so it is not necessary to break the bank on any of the remaining big-name free agents. They would be smart to bring back Shaun Livingston for depth at point guard, and then pick up a few summer league participants.
Eric Hayes, Jon Scheyer, and Raymar Morgan are among those undrafted players hoping to catch on with an NBA team.
That trio alone is experienced and successful in its own right, but for the Wizards, it is just another collection of bodies.
There is a reason the Wizards are in the lurch they find themselves in this offseason. They tried to assemble talented free agents and put next to no stock in the draft process. This year, with new owner Ted Leonsis, everything is completely different.
Leonsis built the Washington Capitals through the draft and eventually allowed for cautious free agent signings. The Wizards are lucky to have landed Wall and players like Jianlian and Hinrich, but the road to success is rarely a quick fix, and one offseason is not going to do it.
No matter how tantalizing the rewards of this free agent class may be, the Wizards need to stay out of the fray.
The Nets, Knicks, Bulls, and Clippers are vying for the services of the top names in free agency, the Wizards can't afford to get involved in the talent-rich summer spending spree. While I, for one, would have loved to have seen the Wizards throw their hat in the free agency ring with their decent amount of cap space, they simply don't have enough players to make it work.
Signing one player to a max contract is great and all, but it undermines the newly-drafted Wall's role and makes depth a serious issue. The grassroots approach is the best thing for Washington to stick by in returning to playoff contention.
It may seem absurd to think that getting Jianlian and Hinrich will make any difference, but they were only sent to Washington to allow for their respective teams to throw more money at LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They're far from lost causes or wasted cap space.
Short of selling the farm for Eddie Curry, there aren't any moves the Wizards can make that won't benefit them in the long run.
I'm certain Leonsis will highlight this time and time again during this offseason, next season, next offseason, and maybe the season after that, but I can't stress enough how much patience fans will need to have with this team.
Yes, Wall looks like the real deal and the next big thing in Washington, but he isn't a magician. He'll fill seats, but winning is a few years away for the Wizards. Keep things in perspective and watch how the Wizards take one of the worst situations and progress into a real competitor through sound management, hard work, and proper utilization of the draft.