Also Saturday, the Wizards declined to make a qualifying offer to forward Trevor Booker, according to a multiple people with knowledge of the situation, meaning he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Washington is still debating whether it will make Kevin Seraphin a restricted free agent by extending a $3.9 million qualifying offer by Monday. The 6-9 Seraphin had an uneven season as he battled a knee injury and lost his spot in the rotation. But a league source with knowledge of the situation said the team is “likely” to extend the offer to a 24-year-old big man who was taken 17th overall in 2010.
The decision regarding the 6-foot-8 Booker might not be as startling as it seems. The Wizards still want to bring back the energetic, rugged forward but Booker actually played so well in his fourth season – averaging 6.8 points with 5.3 rebounds in 72 games – that he priced himself out of what Washington had intended to spend on him.
Before the season began, Booker was eligible for a qualifying offer of $3.4 million as the 23rd pick in the 2010 NBA draft. But Booker was set to earn an offer nearly $1.3 million higher after meeting what the NBA collective bargaining agreement calls, “starter criteria.” If a non-lottery first-round pick starts at least 41 games or plays 2,000 minutes, he is eligible to receive the same qualifying offer as the ninth overall pick. Booker started 45 games.
Utah’s Gordon Hayward went ninth in 2010 and received a qualifying of $4.7 million from the Jazz this week.
The Wizards could maintain more financial flexibility by giving Booker a multi-year deal for a lower annual salary. But they also have the risk of losing Booker since they will no longer have first right of refusal on any free agent deal that Booker signed with another team. Now, Booker can negotiate with the team of his choice without the Wizards receiving any compensation.
The move to bring back Miller had been expected since the season ended, but the Wizards had until Sunday to waive him and buy out his contract for $2 million.
Washington now has committed nearly $46 million in salaries to six players under fully guaranteed contracts — John Wall, Nene, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Martell Webster and Miller. Glen Rice Jr. has a partially guaranteed deal but could be waived for a cost of $400,000.
Free agency will begin at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and the salary cap is expected to increase to $63.2 million for the 2014-15 season. The Wizards have prioritized bringing back free agent starters Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza to maintain some continuity from last season, when the franchise claimed the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Booker, acquired by the Wizards in a draft-day trade with Minnesota after he was selected with the 23rd overall pick in 2010, was one of the team’s longest-tenured players along with Wall and Seraphin. He played a huge role in helping the Wizards snap a six-year postseason drought last season, especially while Nene recovered from various ailments.
The Wizards went 13-9 after Nene strained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Feb. 23, with Booker filling in as the starter. Booker averaged 5.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in the Wizards’ first-round series against the Chicago Bulls and former TNT broadcaster and current Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr called him his “favorite player.”
Booker had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks while starting in place of the suspended Nene in Game 4 of that series. Coach Randy Wittman used Booker sparingly in the second round against Indiana.
Drew Gooden, Al Harrington, Garrett Temple, Chris Singleton are also unrestricted free agents this summer.