The Wizards entered this past offseason with high hopes to pursue the second greatest athlete from the DC area (props to Katie Ledecky), 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant. Unfortunately, swinging for the fences sometimes means you miss so hard the bat comes around and bashes you in the back of the head. The Wizards didn’t even get a meeting with Durant, and they also missed out on their Plan B, four-time All-Star Al Horford, who ended up choosing the Celtics over the Wizards in the final minutes. Keeping in mind that the organization was going on Plan C, their offseason was decent.
The first and biggest signing the Wiz decided on was a five year, 123 million dollar extension for Bradley Beal, their second best player and starting shooting guard, who had entered restricted free-agency this past summer. While Beal hasn’t shown an ability to stay healthy for the course of a season yet, when he is healthy and playing in sync with John Wall, he looks like an All-Star who could rival Jimmy Butler as the top shooting guard in the Eastern Conference.
The first actual player signed who was not on the Wizards last season was Ian (pronounced Yan) Mahinmi, for four years at around 64 million dollars. Mahinmi was one of the best defensive players last year as the starting center for the defense-first Indiana Pacers. His signing shows the Wizards’ commitment to re-prioritizing defense after it dropped off significantly last year. Mahinmi will most likely be brought off the bench since the Wiz already have a starting center in Marcin Gortat, and although neither player can do much to stretch the defense out from under the basket, Mahinmi is a good rebounder and a slightly better rim protector than Gortat is. He’ll be able to play well with Wall, and should be comfortable closing games because of the defensive improvement over Gortat.
The next signing was for backup power forward Andrew Nicholson, with a 26 million dollar-deal for four years. Nicholson showed real promise as a backup for the Orlando Magic, and over his four year career he has expanded his shooting range to the three-point line. He should be able to start in case of an injury to Markieff Morris. He’s not a great defensive player or a rebounder, but playing on the second unit with Mahinmi should compensate for it. Likewise, Nicholson should be able to stretch the floor enough with Mahinmi so that defenses can’t just collapse in the paint to clog up driving lanes.
After losing Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple in free agency, the Wizards had a lack of guards, which they addressed by first trading a second round pick for Trey Burke, and then finally by signing 2012 second round draft pick Tomas Satoransky for nine million dollars. Burke was a lottery pick back in 2013, but struggled in Utah with his defense and efficiency, to the point where he fell out of the rotation. The Wizards are banking on a change of scenery helping the young scoring guard show off some of the potential he was once lauded for. Satoransky is a 6’7’’ point guard who is also capable of playing shooting guard and small forward. He was drafted back in 2012, but has played in Barcelona, Europe’s premier club up until now. While officially a rookie, he has plenty of professional basketball experience and will most likely play a combo-guard role off the bench, taking most of the ball-handling duties, while setting up Burke for most of the scoring.
To finish shoring up their front court rotation, the Wizards signed veteran big man Jason Smith for three years at 16 million dollars. The Smith signing came as a surprise as the Wizards had already invested money in the center position, but Smith is theoretically capable of playing out of position at the power forward spot. He lacks athleticism and defensive skills, but he can stretch the defenses out 16-20 feet. Most likely, Smith will play spot minutes, but should be capable of filling in in case someone goes down long-term with an injury.
The final signing of the Wizard’s season was of little consequence, resigning Marcus Thornton for the veteran’s minimum. Thornton was claimed off waivers last season after Gary Neal was waived because of injury. Thornton isn’t very good, but can score some and will most likely have to play a larger role than expected, given Beal’s injury history and Burke and Satoransky’s relative lack of experience. Make peace with it now, but he will most likely start some random games over Kelly Oubre if it comes down to it, because life is truly unfair.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS