Washington Wizards – Off Season Report

wizards1

2015/2016 Record: 41-41 (10th in the East)

Ins:

Trey Burke TR – Jazz
Andrew Nicholson FA – 4 Years / $26 mil
Jason Smith FA – 3 Years / $15.7 mil
Ian Mahinmi FA – 4 Years / $62 mil
Tomas Satoransky DR (2012) 3 Years / $9 mil
Johnny O’Bryant FA – 1 Year / $980k (non guaranteed)
Casper Ware FA – 1 Year / $875k (non guaranteed)
Danuel House FA – 2 Years / $1.4 mil (partial guarantee)
Sheldon McClellan FA – 2 Years / $1.4 mil (partial guarantee)
Daniel Ochefu FA – 3 Years / $2.5 mil (partial guarantee)

Outs:

Alan Anderson FA – Clippers
Jared Dudley FA – Suns
Drew Goodin FA – Unsigned
JJ Hickson FA – Unsigned
Ramon Sessions FA – Hornets
Garrett Temple FA – Kings
Nene FA – Rockets
Gary Neal WA – Unsigned

Off Season Analysis:

So, did you ever believe? Was there a second where you suspended everything you knew and imagined a world where it could happen? Did the team really think they could pull it off, one of the greatest coups in modern history?

Nah, neither did I. Which has to make the past 18 months tough to go through.

Everything for the Wizards had been leading up to the Summer of ’16. That was when they could carve out max cap space and begin a new era with the prodigal son returning. He would be surrounded by one of the best passers of the last 10 years and an elite shooter who didn’t need the ball too much to be effective. They would be the modern day. Add in a 3 & D wing who could play the 3 and some 4, plus a brute C with mad hair game and a soft touch around the basket. It was modern basketball personified.

At this point, being so close to the start of the regular season, it almost feels mean looking at what the Wiz ‘accomplished’, relative to how their grand plans were supposed to unfold. But the final recap of the season is calling, so let’s dive in.

The biggest story for the Wizards was obviously missing out on Durant. He was the piece they needed to contend with Cleveland, Boston and Toronto for East supremacy. Missing out on KD doesn’t look like it was planned for. There was no back up plan. The only solace is that most teams who took a swing on a wing during free agency this year, haven’t seen much return on their investment so far.

Harrison Barnes has continued supply his personal construction business with bulk bricks, shooting 26% from the field. Chandler Parsons hasn’t played yet. Evan Turner is shooting below his already low career average from the field and 3. Luol Deng is shooting worse from 3 than Barnes is, coming in at 22%. All this is to say that saving $70 million by not paying some of these players might not be a bad thing.

However, this team is horribly thin at the swing spots. Kelly Oubre has played well this pre season, but is he ready for regular rotation minutes? What happens if Porter gets hurt? Tomas Satoransky came across from FC Barcelona, but his jump shot clearly stayed in Spain.

tomas-pre-season

realgm.com

I can understand not wanting to break the bank for a player who might get 20 min per game if they are lucky, but then you see Ian Mahinmi’s deal.

Mahinmi had a great season for Indiana last season, but becomes another example of an expensive backup. Gortat has proven to be very durable, playing 81, 82 and 75 games in the past 3 seasons. Maybe GM and President Ernie Grunfeld thought that the Polish Hammer was due to wear down, or maybe Scott Brooks thought he needed a better big off the bench than JJ Hickson (which is very fair). But this just points to the glaring lack of depth that Washington had. As it currently stands, Mahinmi is being paid 17% of the Salary Cap to play maybe 25min per night (once recovered from injury no less). That’s a lot, especially when a guy like Cole Aldrich had better per 36min and per 100 possession numbers and is getting paid 1/3 the amount:

mahinmi-per-36min

Mahinmi:  basketball-reference.com

mahinmi-per-100-poss

Mahinmi: basketball-reference.com

aldrich-per-36

Aldrich: basketball-reference.com

cole-aldrich-per-100

Aldrich: basketball-reference.com

The confusion only deepens when looking at the additional signings. Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith were both solid for Orlando. Smith turned into Dirk from the mid range, and Nicholson’s shot chart reads straight from the Morey school of offensive efficiency.

But when you already have Markieff Morris as your starting 4, Otto Porter who can play up a position, and a Thoroughbred in John Wall who should have other race horses to run with, plodders like Nicholson and Smith make little sense.

Trey Burke was obtained to restart his NBA career after a fledging stint at Michigan. Burke was bad with Utah: 56/77 point guards in ESPN’s real plus/minus (lower than Raul Neto in case Benji Burke is reading) but he showed some improvements both in his shooting and decision making. Despite this, Utah was happy to give him away for a future 2nd round pick, and his best chance to make the most of his new surroundings would mean disaster for the franchise.

Yes, everything still revolves around John Wall. And for the Wizards, that is both a gift and a curse. The curse side of things are for all his physical gifts, he hasn’t been healthy when his team needed him. Despite playing 238 of a possible 246 games over the past 3 seasons, Wall has needed surgery in the off season repeatedly. And this team needs a healthy John Wall. He was included in 8 of the best 9 line ups the Wizards had, minimum 40 minutes played together (Gortat was in 7 of them).

wiz-line-ups

nba.com/stats

Even though he is an upper echelon talent, he didn’t crack the top 20 league wide in Win Shares, PER, Offensive Box Plus/Minus or Offensive Real Plus/Minus. Wall needs to at least rank higher than 10th among Point Guards in ORPM if he is to justify his stance on other player’s earnings:wall-quote

And while we are on that topic, Wall’s passive aggressive ultimatum to Brad Beal shows just how far this team still had (and has) to go. Wall tried to back track from his statements some, but you don’t say stuff like this if you don’t give a shit about what others are making.

That is just not how a leader should act, whether he feels that way or not. Wall will get his due eventually, he is that good. But in the mean time, it’s up to “A” to set the tone for the environment the players will work in. Kevin Durant has been going on about how much fun the Dubs have and how everything feels very family, is it any wonder the Wizards struck out?

It’s not like there was another option for Grunfeld and his office when it came to Beal. There were precious few SG’s available on the market, and none were a clear upgrade on Beal. He can shoot, get to the rim, find players when necessary and plays well off the ball. His main drawbacks are health and size, but he gives more than he takes. It wasn’t long ago that Wall and Beal were talked about as a top back court combination (Dion Waiters wasn’t a fan though), and there is no reason they can’t be viewed in the same way if they can stay healthy.

If not, Scott Brooks doesn’t have much to work with. Never considered an offensive innovator, much of what he does will be predicated on Wall’s creativity playing out of middle PNRs and Beal coming off floppy action. Which is similar to what they ran last season. Brooks should bring together the locker room (OKC was extremely tight knit when he was in charge there) and he is a clear upgrade on Randy Whittman in pretty much every facet. But you still can’t help but feel he was brought in to lure KD to the Capital. And his ability to influence the culture will go hand in hand with Wall and Beal’s ability to co-exist.

Thanks to Kris Middleton misplacing his hamstring momentarily, I expect the Wiz to make the playoffs. But this team no longer has a clear path to get better barring a significant trade and looks like first round fodder as currently constructed.

Grade: C-

2016/17 Prediction: 40-42

League Pass Meter: 6/10

Wall is a magician passing the ball and Gortat is fun to watch bang in the post. But there isn’t much else here to the casual observer, especially if Beal and/or Wall get hurt.

Depth Chart:

PG:  Wall  Burke  Ware*
SG:  Beal  Satoransky  Thornton  McClellon*
SF:  Porter  Oubre Jr.  Eddie*  House*
PF:  Morris  Nicholson  Smith
C:  Gortat  Mahinmi  O’Bryant*  Ochefu*

* Salary likely guarantees 10th Jan 2017

Salary Cap Situation:

2016/17 salaries: $101,854,594
2017/18 salaries: $94,707,937

Max room: $7.3mil
Min room: -$12.3mil

Future Assets:

Incoming:
N/A

Outgoing:

2019 2nd (Hawks)
2020 2nd (Bucks, protected 31-55)
2021 2nd (Jazz)

2016/17 Questions:

Can Brad Beal live up to his new contract?

Will John Wall lead a cohesive locker room?

Who will emerge as a reliable wing back up?

Can Porter make a mini leap?

Can Brooks find enough minutes for his crowded front court?

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