The Washington Wizards entered this offseason with Kevin Durant dreams, but those quickly fizzled out when they didn’t even get a meeting with the hometown star. The Wizards moved on to a pursuit of Al Horford and were in the mix, but the prized big man decided to head to Beantown. That left Washington looking for other options, and the biggest acquisition of the offseason turned out to be Ian Mahinmi. The Wizards also shelled out a ton of money for Bradley Beal’s extension. Will they bounce back under new head coach Scott Brooks and return to the postseason?
1. Best move of offseason
Colby Giacubeno: The Wizards had an extremely disappointing offseason. While most viewed the pipe dream of landing Kevin Durant as just that, there was still hope that they could bring someone in that could have a significant impact for the 2016-17 season. They struck out on Al Horford, Ryan Anderson and Nicolas Batum.
Instead, they were left to throw a huge sum of money towards Ian Mahinmi. The four-year, $64 million deal seemed ridiculously high at first glance, but after evaluating the Wizards’ cap situation on top of them not gaining any traction with the stars in the free-agency market, the signing wasn’t so bad. Mahinmi gives the Wizards something they’ve been longing for, which is a defensive juggernaut at center.
Marcin Gortat is one of the most efficient bigs you’re going to find offensively, but when it comes to protecting the rim, he struggles mightily. In 25.6 minutes per game for the Indiana Pacers last season, he averaged 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. His name isn’t one that will enter the Wizards into the contender conversation, but it is a move that needed to be made and ultimately improve the team the most.
Carlos Diaz: Finally bringing Tomas Satoransky over from Europe. Obviously bringing Ian Mahinmi should help shore up their interior defense, but the 2012 draft pick gives Washington the complementary playmaker and ball handler the Wizards have long been missing.
Although it’s difficult to separate the hype from the reality, Satoransky has flashed considerable promise. He lacks outright speed, but his size (6’7”) and creativity with the ball more than makes up for it. Not sure if Satoransky makes a significant difference in his first season, but his ability to create offense for himself and others will be appreciated by the offensively-challenged Wizards.
Kelly Scaletta: The coaching change to Steve Brooks. The Wizards have a ton of young talent, and Brooks has proven he is fantastic with that. He managed the early careers of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams (imagine an alternate universe where they got to stay together as a starting five!) With guys like Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr., Brooks should help the team build from within.
Jason Patt: Finally firing Randy Wittman and hiring Scott Brooks. Wittman did have some success with the Wizards, but it was clear it was time to move on, and Brooks is a solid choice as a replacement. While Brooks had his issues with the Thunder, he did well on the whole and developed young talent. I wouldn’t call Brooks a home-run hire, but it’s a good one.
2. Worst move of offseason
Colby: The Wizards didn’t make any offseason moves at small forward. On top of that, they failed to re-sign Jared Dudley, who ended up signing with the Phoenix Suns. In his one-year stint with the Wizards, Dudley was a vital locker room presence for a team that often butted heads with their former head coach in Randy Wittman. On the floor, he provided minutes at stretch 4 and ranked eighth in three-point percentage (42.0) league-wide. Losing a player like Dudley impacts a team more than the fans would like to think.
Now, there are no true veterans with Dudley’s intellect and understanding for the business of the NBA that can be a calming presence. John Wall will once again be expected to step up and be the leader of this team, but there still remain doubts of whether or not he can fill those shoes. Wall is known for letting his emotions get the best of him and saying some controversial things, but as the leader he needs to improve on becoming a more level-minded presence in the locker room.
Carlos: Re-signing Bradley Beal to a five-year, $128 million deal. I absolutely acknowledge that the Wizards had to do it, but it doesn’t mean they won’t regret it. Putting aside his contentious relationship with John Wall, the fact is, he can never stay healthy. There’s been talk of Beal having to go on a minutes restriction if wants to have a long career, so it’s fair to wonder if he can be a building block for a franchise. Still, I understand the decision to retain his services. Another team would have gladly signed Beal and Washington couldn’t afford to lose him for nothing. Hopefully the gamble proves worthwhile for Washington.
Kelly: I like Ian Mahinmi as a player, but I don’t see how he fits in Washington along with Marcin Gortat, who is still doing a fine job. It felt like one of those, “We have this money, so we have to spend it” moves that several teams made this summer.
Jason: I echo Carlos’ thoughts on Bradley Beal. It’s not a “bad” move because the Wizards basically had to re-sign him, but that huge deal could really come back to bite them if he keeps getting hurt and/or doesn’t develop like many expect. He’s still just 23 years old so there’s plenty of time for him, but those recurring injuries are troublesome.
3. Offseason grade
Colby: I give this team’s offseason a C. As said prior, they didn’t make any moves that really secures them as contenders in the Eastern Conference. Their success will be based off the health of their starting five. If all the dominoes fall in the right place, they could be a feared opponent in the playoffs. But as seen last season, one injury could easily derail those postseason aspirations.
Carlos: C+. Considering their expectations were to be in the hunt for Kevin Durant, the Wizards were in for a disappointing summer. They did pick up some intriguing pieces, but not sure if they all fit. Mahinmi can’t play next to Marcin Gortat, and their other signings have the potential to backfire.
Kelly: There’s a reason no one is talking about the Wizards’ offseason, positively or negatively. It was about as average as one can get. C.
Jason: The Wizards whiffed on their top targets and wound up with some decent signings, but nothing that really moves the needle. The coaching move gets this up to a C+.
4. Early prediction for 2016-17
Colby: In my opinion, Washington is one of the hardest teams to predict in terms of final record for this season. If they manage to stay healthy within the starting five, they could see results that vary from 43-47 total wins. If Beal gets hurt again or Wall has a setback after getting two knee procedures done this summer, they could realistically finish a few games below .500.
At the end of the day, I see them getting the No. 7/8 seed heading into postseason play and being a first-round exit. Like I said earlier, though, if they can end the season on a high note, they could give a team who is in second place problems in the opening round. Whether it’s Toronto, Boston or Indiana.
Carlos: The Wizards are going to surprise this year and finish with 44 wins. Last year’s team suffered from a confluence of issues and inevitably succumbed to them. Now with a new voice in their ears and (hopefully) healthy, there’s no reason Washington can’t make a run at the postseason. They have a chance at making the race for the last few spots interesting.
Kelly: The Wizards are yet another one of those teams who are in that “who cares” nebulous of teams that will finish between fifth and 11th in the Eastern Conference. Whoever gets there isn’t going to make it past the second round, though, so it’s not like it really matters. I think the Wizards are more likely to miss the playoffs than make them, though. Let’s say 39 wins and a disgruntled John Wall by season’s end.
Jason: I really have no idea what to expect from the Wizards. When healthy, John Wall and Bradley Beal are one of the best backcourts in the league, but their health is a huge question mark. They have some decent talent throughout the rest of the roster, but it’s nothing to write home about. IF they stay mostly healthy, they should be good enough to sneak into the playoffs. However, I’m not all that confident that’ll happen.