The Wizards came into this season looking like a team poised to take a step forward. Then they stumbled backward.
Due to a combination of injuries — John Wall played in just half the team’s games — and disinterested play against teams they should have beaten, the Wizards backed into the playoffs as the eighth seed with 43 wins, down from 49 the season before. Then the Wizards got unceremoniously bounced in the first round by a superior Raptors team.
Wall looked at what Toronto had in that series — depth, and a versatile lineup of big men — and said that’s the direction Washington needs to go this summer. Wall pulled no punches at his exit interview with the media, as reported by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
“Just got to add some pieces,” he said. “A lot, to be honest. There’s a lot that we can use… I think it’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things. We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian [Mahinmi] is older. [Marcin Gortat] is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible…
“I think it’s just figuring out what pieces can add to our team, what guys can stay and what guys can go, that make us, that really want to be here, that really want to win and really want to take that next step,” he said.
Wall added he wanted players who would push back when things got difficult, a kind of fight the Wizards didn’t show this season.
That all sounds good, but it’s going to be far more challenging to pull off than Wall may realize.
With Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter locked in as max contracts, Washington has a top-heavy payroll and $115.9 million on the books in guaranteed contracts for just eight players next season (Ian Mahinmi, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Tomas Satoransky, and Kelly Oubre are the others). The salary cap next season is expected to be about $101 million. That means the Wizards have no cap space to go out and add free agents (outside of guys at the mid-level exception or at the minimum).
This is a roster that will pay the luxury tax this season with the fifth highest payroll in the league and will be pushing it again next season (the tax line is expected to be at about $121 million), and for the two seasons after that when Wall’s super-max extension kicks in. Plus this summer, Oubre is eligible for a contract extension off his rookie deal. Will ownership be willing to pay the tax again next season, or could there be some payroll trimming coming to our nation’s capital?
Gortat and Morris are on expiring contracts and could be shopped in trades, but how much of a return they would bring in a tight market with a lot of capped out teams is up for debate. Otto Porter’s no-trade clause ends in July, but that’s not a position where the Wizards are deep on the wing.
All of which is to say, Wall may want to see a roster shakeup, but with all the money spent on him and the other players at the top of the roster, Washington is more likely to run it back, just with a couple more young players, next season.