Ultimately, the Wizards elected to end their season in a manner similar to the way it began, trading No. 46 overall pick Jordan Clarkson, a point guard out of Missouri, to the Los Angeles Lakers for cash considerations. Washington received just less than $2 million in the deal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, granting them more flexibility on the free agent market, which opens July 1 and is expected to include Gortat, Trevor Ariza and six other Wizards.
“We focused in on two, three players who we thought would be there but were gone by the time it was our turn to pick, and we didn’t want to waste it and just bring someone in that we didn’t think would fit in with what we were trying to do,” Wizards General Manager Ernie Grunfeld said after emerging from the Wizards’ draft war room at Verizon Center late Thursday night. “Nothing really came up for us and we felt like it was best to move the pick for cash considerations, and this way it opens up another roster spot for us to get someone who’s established.”
The last time the Wizards traded their pick for cash was in that 2009 draft, which also marked the last draft that the Wizards did not take a player. That year, the Wizards selected guard Jermaine Taylor out of Central Florida with the 32nd overall pick before shipping him to Houston for $2.5 million.
Prior to Washington trade on Thursday, the Suns used the No. 18 pick acquired from the Wizards in the Gortat trade to select Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis in the first round.
With the draft behind them, the Wizards’ front office will turn its attention to free agency in hopes of re-signing most, if not all, of the team’s core on the heels of the team’s first playoff appearance in six years and a run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Andre Miller is expected to be brought back as the backup point guard under the final year of his contract that’s worth $4.6 million, bringing the Wizards’ 2014-15 payroll of Miller, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Nene and Martell Webster to about $46 million. With the cap expected to fall around $63 million, the Wizards will have a fair amount of space to go after Gortat and Ariza, who are likely to demand the highest salaries among the team’s free agents.
“We have a fairly deep team with players at every position, so we’ll see who’s out there, who’s available,” Grunfeld said. “But our priority is to get the players that we already have on this team and sign them back up.”
With New York sending Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks in a Wednesday trade, the Wizards likely have one fewer team to worry about in the battle for the physical, skilled Gortat. Ariza enters free agency fresh off a career year with the Wizards, and once the clock strikes midnight Washington is expected to be one of several teams that will reach out to the sharpshooting swingman in hopes of landing his services.
“We’ve said we like our nucleus and we’d like to keep our core together. Obviously you never know what happens in free agency,” Grunfeld said. “That’ll start next week, and we have some work ahead of us.”