The Washington Wizards have no desire to take a step back after a promising season in which they fell just two wins short of the Eastern Conference finals. President Ernie Grunfeld believes maintaining continuity will be the key to helping the Wizards move forward — or at least make it back to the conference semifinals — next season.
The Wizards already have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene under contract and brought back Coach Randy Wittman with a three-year deal last month. After deciding to pick up Andre Miller’s contract for next season, the Wizards only have six players signed to fully guaranteed deals, totaling almost $46 million. The salary cap next season is projected to be around $63.2 million, with the luxury tax level rising to about $77 million.
With the free agent negotiating period beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Washington is in a good position financially to bring back starters Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza while keeping key reserves and possibly finding some upgrades. In the summer of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the initial focus for the Wizards is to keep their own free agents — and they have to concern themselves with nine. Flip to page D3 for a breakdown.
Marcin Gortat: After surrendering a first-round pick in a deep draft to get him and watching him emerge as an invaluable and durable defensive cog, the Wizards will make every effort to bring back Gortat. In his lone season in Washington, Gortat averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 81 games and meshed well with Nene. His developing bond with John Wall was evident during the Wizards’ playoff run. Senior Vice President Tommy Sheppard, Coach Randy Wittman and assistant Pat Sullivan assisted Gortat at his basketball camps in Poland over the weekend and delivered a not-so subtle message about his importance to the success of the franchise. In a league in which talented, true centers are rare, the 6-foot-10 Gortat will be in high demand this summer. The Wizards lost a competitor for Gortat’s services when Dallas — the team that signed him to his previous five-year, $34 million contract in 2009 — traded for Tyson Chandler last week. But Gortat, 30, is still expected to attract interest from Miami, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers, among others. Gortat could command a new deal worth the same $12 million annual salary of Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic — or more. “I love the team here,” Gortat said in April. “We can have something special here for the next three, four, five years.” Keeping Gortat is an important part of making that a possibility.
Trevor Ariza: Ariza picked an opportune time for a career resurgence. He took on the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer every game, created space on the floor with an improved three-point stroke and worked behind the scenes to establish team chemistry through dinners, social gatherings and by organizing a season-altering players-only meeting in mid-November. The 29-year-old swingman led the team’s frequent shooters in three-point percentage (40.7) and finished with the fourth-highest season total for three-pointers in franchise history (180). The Wizards have already committed about $10 million to the small forward position next season in Otto Porter Jr. and Martell Webster, but they have a greater need to retain Ariza with Porter lacking experience and Webster expected to miss the start of the season after surgery to repair a herniated disk. Ariza should get a raise on the $7.7 million salary he received last season, but Washington has a number that it is unwilling to surpass and is unlikely to get into a bidding war with teams like Atlanta, Charlotte, Phoenix, Houston, Toronto, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers, where Ariza already won a title.
Kevin Seraphin: Seraphin had a disappointing fourth season in Washington, took steps back on both ends of the floor, and was rarely used in the playoffs. But the team is still expected to tender a $3.9 million qualifying offer to the 24-year-old, 6-foot-9 big man because he remains the most offensively skilled low-post reserve and provides some insurance if Gortat leaves in free agency.
Drew Gooden: A late-season pickup who helped the Wizards maintain their playoff hopes after Nene had a late season injury, Gooden was so confident about his chances to return that he didn’t clear out his locker. He is unlikely to demand a huge salary since the Milwaukee Bucks still owe him $6.7 million next season as part of the amnesty provision.
Glen Rice Jr.: Rice would become a free agent only if the Wizards decide to waive him for the cost of $400,000. After rarely seeing him in action last season, Washington plans to keep the 23-year-old swingman around and will need some perimeter depth, especially with Webster’s back injury.
Trevor Booker: Nene’s various ailments helped give Booker the long-awaited chance to show the Wizards and the rest of the league what he is capable of doing when he is healthy. But after starting 45 games, Booker’s qualifying offer increased from $3.4 million to $4.7 million, exceeding what the Wizards planned to pay him next season. Washington still wants to bring him back on a multiyear deal with a much lower salary but no longer has the right of first refusal. Booker can sign with the team of his choice as an unrestricted free agent.
Al Harrington: Harrington hinted at retirement several times during a season in which he dealt with a nagging right knee injury. He needed left shoulder surgery after the season ended, but the 34-year-old said recently he is healthy and looking to continue his career. It could happen in Washington if the team is unable to find a younger replacement at a similar cost.
Garrett Temple: The Wizards would love to bring back Temple because of his versatility, familiarity with the system and willingness to defend every position on the perimeter. Temple is also a great locker room presence who never complained about his role.
Chris Singleton: By letting Singleton go, the Wizards would concede they whiffed entirely on the 2011 draft. Singleton is a hard worker, but a divorce is probably for the best since he could never find a role in Washington.