Nick Young and JaVale McGee are both in contract years, and have experienced some lean years in their time in Washington. Young got a taste of playoff success as a rookie, but in the past four seasons, he and McGee have been on teams that have combined to go 75-204. And in the past two seasons, they have both been the primary starters at their respective positions.
After failing to find a favorable free agent market after seeking a $9 million annual salary, Young decided to sign a one-year qualifying offer to stay in Washington and become an unrestricted free agent in July. He has a no-trade clause and would have to approve any deal made between now and March 15. Young is leading the Wizards in scoring for the second season in a row, but his inconsistency and production have mirrored the success and failure of his team. In the Wizards’ seven wins, Young is averaging 23.7 points on 55.3 percent shooting and in the 26 losses, he is averaging just 15.4 points and shooting 32 percent.
He has a reputation around the league as a scorer and little else, which would make him a candidate to play sixth man for most teams. Young is also shooting a career-low 40.3 percent and averaging just 1.2 assists this season. After five years with the organization, the two sides could break easily after this season.
The situation involving McGee is more complicated.
McGee has certainly made strides from last season. He has an improved jump hook. He is more confident and assertive in the low post. He remains one of the league’s best shot-blockers and has elevated his play since doctors discovered the need to change his asthma medicine with his increased weight.
McGee is one just five players to average at least 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocked shots. The other members of that select company are all-stars Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Josh Smith. The 7-foot-1, 260-pound McGee is one of the most athletically-gifted big men in the NBA.
But McGee still struggles with his basketball awareness, decision-making and endurance. McGee has been benched for critical stretches because of his failure to defend the pick and roll and the strain his attempts to block shots have had on the defense. He also routinely takes questionable shots.
The Wizards were unable to sign McGee to an extension last month, meaning that he will be a restricted free agent this summer. The team made it clear to McGee’s representatives that he is a big part of its future, but those words could be hollow if owner Ted Leonsis doesn’t bring back Ernie Grunfeld and his basketball operations staff and hires another decision-maker who has a different opinion.
Golden State is expected to make a run for McGee. But the market could be congested, with McGee facing some competition with Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Chris Kaman, and possibly Howard, if he isn’t traded by March 15, among the available big men.
DeAndre Jordan perhaps set the market for McGee when he signed a four-year, $43-million offer sheet with the Warriors that the Los Angeles Clippers eventually matched. But the Wizards would face an interesting decision if they win the lottery for the second time in three years and Kentucky center – and everybody’s favorite to go No. 1 – Anthony Davis is there for the taking.