2016-17 Wizards Season Review
The Wizards just had their most successful regular season since their second straight trip to the Finals in 1979. They went 49-33 in their first year under head coach Scott Brooks, good for fourth in the East. They also made it to the second round for the third time in four years, but fell to the top-seeded Boston Celtics in seven games.
Washington got career years from three of their key performers: John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter. Wall raised his game to another level as he set new career-highs in points (23), assists (10.5), field goal percentage (45%), and steals (2.0). Beal (23 PPG, 48% FG) was finally able to stay on the court for an entire season and emerged as one of the top shooting guards in the league. Porter also turned himself into one of the most reliable three-point marksmen in the league as he finished top five in three-point percentage at 43 percent.
Big men Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris didn't exactly have outstanding seasons, but they were still major contributors to a starting five that was arguably the best in the entire NBA.
However, the Wizards weren’t able to overcome their main weakness, which was their lack of depth behind those five. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Jason Smith were their two most reliable reserves, but they were never more than average. They made some moves to add Brandon Jennings and Bojan Bogdanovic, while Ian Mahinmi returned just prior to the All-Star break, but they still weren’t quite good enough.
Fixing that bench will no doubt be one of the main things on the Wizards’ offseason agenda as they look to take another step forward in the East. But doing so will be a lot easier said than done due to their current cap situation.
Quick Offseason Breakdown
Potential Free Agents: Otto Porter (Restricted), Bojan Bogdanovic (Restricted), Brandon Jennings (Unrestricted), Trey Burke (Restricted)
Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts: Daniel Ochefu (Non-Guaranteed), Sheldon McClellan (Non-Guaranteed)
2017 Draft Picks (1): #52
Projected Cap Space: None
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis will need to open up his checkbook if he wants to keep this team together. The Wizards are already capped out as it is, and that’s before including the large contract they’ll need to offer Porter in order to re-sign him this offseason. Big new deals for Porter and Bogdanovic would likely put them well into luxury tax territory. That would mean they’d only have the taxpayer mid-level exception to use to improve their deficient bench, as their lone pick in this upcoming draft will be way down at No. 52.
Biggest Offseason Priorities
1. Re-sign Otto Porter
The Wizards have a very promising team led by Wall and Beal, but this team figures to get very expensive if they choose to retain Porter. The former No. 3 pick is a restricted free agent, but because he’s a talented young wing in a league that's starved of those at the moment, he figures to get a massive contract this offseason one way or another.
While Porter made big strides this past season, particularly as a shooter, he may not reach ever the All-Star-caliber level needed to make the Wizards one of the elite contenders. Nevertheless, Washington should be willing to pay up to the max to hold onto him, simply because they aren’t likely to find anyone better if he leaves. And at the very least, they retain the ability to prolong their relevance as a top-10 team in the league if they keep Porter, which should still be appealing to ownership.
2. Re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic
The Wizards did well to pick up Bogdanovic from the Brooklyn Nets prior to the trade deadline, while also shedding the salary of Andrew Nicholson in the process. Bogdanovic provided the Wizards’ offensively-starved bench with some much-needed firepower, especially in his first few weeks with the team. Although he has his limitations defensively, Washington desperately needs his offensive production as a reserve. But like Porter, he’s a restricted free agent and will likely look for a sizable raise.
The Wizards can’t really afford to let him go, though. He’s one of the few pieces of their bench actually worth keeping, and they traded away their first-round pick to get him, so their options to replace him if he does leave will be limited.
3. Find a competent backup point guard
The Wizards just got wretched production from their backup point guards last season. First there was Trey Burke, who shot a career-high 45 percent but still didn’t look like a credible NBA player. They thought they got a significant upgrade when they picked up Jennings after he was bought out by the New York Knicks, but he was also a major disappointment as he shot a disastrous 27 percent from the field in 23 games with Washington.
The Wizards are very unlikely to bring Jennings or Burke back, which means they will once again be in the market for a backup point guard this offseason. Veteran point guards like CJ Watson or Aaron Brooks could be available, and may be willing to take less to play for a playoff contender. However, those are hardly reliable options, and the Wizards will need to get a bit lucky if they’re to finally solve that big problem position.