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Washington Wizards must make decisions on offseason additions

For the Washington Wizards and their fans, last season didn't pan out as well as both may have hoped.

 

All-Star guard John Wall was overworked. None of the new additions to the team served as a spark for the Wizards. The team barely managed to keep in the race to reach the playoffs. When all was said and done, the Wizards finished with a 41-41 record, ended out of contention for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, and parted ways with Randy Wittman, their coach for the last five seasons.

 

After a promising few seasons that saw the Wiz make two consecutive second-round playoff appearances, the 2015-2016 team seemed to be far from embodying its mantra, “DC Rising.”

There are glimmers of hope for the Wizards. In late April, the team hired new head coach Scott Brooks, who previously coached the much-sought-after D.C. native Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder for eight years. But Brooks’ strategy for the Wizards and what the team’s roster will look like come October remains to be seen.

 

So now that you're caught up with the Washington Wizards’ woes, you can see that it’s a must for the team to acquire new players to ensure that these results don’t occur again. Where can the team turn to prepare their roster for next season?

 

Unfortunately, not the draft lottery - at least for this year. After trading their second-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks to land Kelly Oubre Jr. in the 2015 NBA Draft, and giving their first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for forward Markieff Morris late last season, Washington sat out this year’s draft for the first time in its 55-year franchise history.

 

Time is dwindling for the team to finalize its roster for this coming season. According to HoopsHype, the Wizards only have five players officially signed to their roster as of June 27, excluding restricted free agent and star shooting guard Bradley Beal. Furthermore, the Wiz have nine players entering free agency this offseason, based on the NBA.com Free Agent Tracker.

 

The most probable option for the Wizards then is to pursue players who are currently available through free agency, or trade their players to receive new ones. Here are a few moves that Washington can make during the offseason to strengthen their team.

 

#1: Acquire a Power Forward and/or Center

 

It’s no secret that the Wizards’ small ball approach did not deliver the expected positive result last season.

 

The smaller Washington was no match for taller teams like the current NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers or Western Conference powerhouse Oklahoma City Thunder. Apart from their consistently productive center Marcin Gortat and middling Brazilian big Nene, the Wiz didn’t have many players able to guard the rim and grab offensive rebounds.

 

So, how can they fix this problem? The best bet is to sign a free agent or two that fill the positions of power forward and center that the Wizards truly need to consolidate.

 

The first choice to fortify the Wizards’ frontcourt could be current Atlanta Hawks center-forward Al Horford. The 6’10” Dominican and nine-year NBA veteran can contribute on both ends of the court. Horford’s stats profile on NBA.com demonstrates his versatility as a player.

 

Last season, Horford started in all 82 regular season games for the Hawks and averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and over one block per game. Horford is a balanced, experienced player who could add depth to the Wizards frontcourt and give them another rebounding option.

 

While they’re at it, the Wizards could make an offer for restricted free agent and Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond. The 6’11” big had a breakthrough season with the Pistons, averaging 16.2 points, nearly 15 rebounds, and over one block per game, according to his stats profile. Drummond helped Detroit clinch their first playoff berth since the 2008-2009 season. And if this season is an indication, the 22-year-old still has plenty of room to grow.

 

#2: Add a Three-Point Shooting Specialist

 

During the past few seasons, a team’s ability to shoot the three has been key to success in the league (see: Golden State Warriors).

 

Last season, it appeared the Washington Wizards did not get the memo. According to NBA.com’s league team stats, the Wizards made 8.6 three-point shots per game, out of an average of 24.2 attempts per game. This means that the Wiz made about a third of their three-point attempts per game last season. Furthermore, their average of threes made per game was 15th in the league, out of a total of 30 NBA teams.

 

A clear fix for this dilemma is to acquire a player in free agency that is comfortable and consistent shooting the three. One such player is current Cleveland Cavaliers swingman (combo shooting guard and small forward) J.R. Smith.

 

The 12-year NBA veteran finished the 2015-2016 season with a respectable 40 percent three-point shooting percentage, converting about three-sevenths of his attempts per game. These numbers continued to rise in the playoffs and 2016 NBA Finals, as Smith improved to 43 percent shooting accuracy from three-point range. He was instrumental in helping the Cavaliers win their first professional-sports title in more than half a century.

 

It’s easy to see how Smith would be an asset to the Wizards. If Washington acquires him in free agency, he could support the team’s backcourt and provide a boost with three-point shooting.

 

#3: Bolster the Backcourt with a Shooting Guard

 

Much has been made this past month of whether or not the Wizards should offer a max contract to shooting guard and restricted free agent Bradley Beal. The team must match any offer from another team for Beal in order to have him stay with Washington.

 

Whether the Wiz would benefit from maxing out Beal’s contract is another discussion altogether. For me, what’s more important is having a solid backup shooting guard, and a contingency plan in case John Wall’s partner in the Wizards’ backcourt decides to go elsewhere.

 

That brings to mind current Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. The 6’7” Compton, California native was a boon to the Raptors this past season and a great pairing with point guard Kyle Lowry. DeRozan averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4 assists, and one steal in 78 regular season games, all of which he entered as a starter. He helped lead the Raptors past the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat to reach their first Eastern Conference Finals in franchise history.

 

I believe DeRozan would be a great acquisition for the Wizards if Beal decides to leave. DeRozan would provide a spark for the team’s offense and complement Wall’s explosive playing style. It would be hard to convince him to leave the Raptors, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

 

lversel@theeagleonline.com


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