When you look at the cap sheet of the Washington Wizards, you see Bradley Beal’s max contract and you feel pretty good about that one. Beal blossomed into nearly an All-NBA player this season. Troy Brown Jr. was a nice surprise as a rookie and looks like he’ll be a rotation player by the end of his rookie deal. Then you see Dwight Howard and Ian Mahinmi’s deals. Both are overpaid, but both are expiring. Not the end of the world.
Then you get to John Wall and his supermax extension. That’s when you sigh heavily and the sadness sinks in. Starting with the 19-20 season, Wall is on the books for the next four years and $171 million. The final season is a $47.3 million player option, but there is little to no chance Wall walks away from that.
And therein lies the crux of things for Wizards: how do you build a team with Wall clogging the cap? First, you have some hope that while this coming year is a lost season for Wall, maybe he can get back healthy and be a productive player over the final three seasons of the deal.
Beyond that, you simply move forward. The NBA doesn’t stop. Since Wall’s injury isn’t considered career-ending, there is only minimal help coming the Wizards way in the form of a Disabled Player Exception. It’s just something you have to work around as best you can, while hoping Wall gets back.
As for who will be working around that deal, that is still up in the air as of this writing. Washington fired Ernie Grunfeld and has yet to replace him. For now, Tommy Sheppard is running things for the Wizards and remains a candidate for the full-time job. As the draft and free agency creep closer, it’s Sheppard who is setting the table for the offseason.
As far as that offseason goes, the Wizards already made a big decision at the trade deadline when they moved Otto Porter Jr. to the Chicago Bulls for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. While Parker and Portis are talented players who played well for Washington, this was a cap-clearing trade. Porter never lived up to the max deal the Nets signed him to in restricted free agency and the Wizards matched. The trade was about cap alleviation as Washington simply wasn’t in a financial position to have Porter, Wall and Beal all on the team going forward.
Whether Parker remains in the Wizards plans going forward is still an open-ended question, but it certainly won’t be via the team exercising his $20 million player option for the upcoming season. Washington will decline that and possibly bring back Parker on a longer deal, but with a lower average annual value. Portis is a different story. He’s a restricted free agent this summer. Portis is someone Washington will retain as long as the bidding doesn’t get out of control.
Restricted free agency is kind of the theme of the summer for the Wizards, as several other players are scheduled to be restricted come July. Sam Dekker and Chasson Randle probably won’t make it there, as their qualifying offers might be too high for Washington to tender to either player. But Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant are certain to get qualifying offers and both are players that the club would like to have back.
Satoransky has played well as a backup/spot starter over the last few years. With Wall out, Satoransky took over as the starting point guard and put up career-best numbers across the board. He’s a good match with Beal, as the two work well together and bring great size to the backcourt. Satoransky turns 28 early next season, so his services might not be quite as in demand as some of the younger free agents. This should enable Washington to retain him on a somewhat team-friendly deal.
Bryant, on the other hand, is someone who you can see the bidding getting out of control for. He’s only going to be 22 years old at the start of next season and he’s coming off a big season after getting his first chance to start in the NBA. Bryant averaged 10.5 points per game, while shooting over 61% from the field. He also extended his range a little bit and hit 33 three-pointers at a 33% clip. He’s a solid rebounder and improving defender. As an Arenas Provision restricted free agent, it could get hard for Washington to retain Bryant, given their limitations. And this is a good point to remember that bigs who can play even a little bit always get paid in free agency.
Outside of the restricted guys, the rest of the Wizards free agents are replacement level guys. Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green probably have more value to contenders than a fringe playoff team like Washington. Neither will certainly get a big offer from the Wizards, as both are Non-Bird free agents.
This summer for Washington, and whoever they hire to run the front office, is about retaining some talent at reasonable prices, while adding enough in terms of reinforcements to make a playoff run. Beal is too good to let the team fall to the bottom. With the right additions, the Wizards can be in the mix at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If not, they can always re-evaluate the market for Beal at the trade deadline. That could bring in the necessary assets to kick off a rebuild, while the team waits out Wall’s contract. Overall, it’s going to be a “hurry up and wait” type of season for Washington, as they are too good to tank, but not good enough to be a real contender.
Guaranteed Contracts (5): Bradley Beal, Troy Brown Jr., Dwight Howard, Ian Mahinmi, John Wall
Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts (2): Jordan McRae, Tarik Phillip
Potential Free Agents (9): Trevor Ariza (UFA), Thomas Bryant (RFA), Sam Dekker (RFA), Jeff Green (UFA), Jabari Parker (UFA – Team Option), Bobby Portis (RFA), Chasson Randle (RFA), Devin Robinson (RFA – Two-Way), Tomas Satoransky (RFA)
“Dead” Money on Cap ($0): None
First Round Draft Pick(s): #9
Maximum Cap Space: $17.2 million
Projected Cap Space: None. $62.9 million over