The Wizards eliminated themselves from being major players in free agency nearly four months ago, when they acquired Nene, and essentially became spectators two weeks ago, when they shipped Rashard Lewis and his cap-room saving buyout to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said the Wizards are looking for “players who are going to be professional, ready [and] good locker room guys.”
Grunfeld said the team is in no rush to make additions to the 12-man roster. “We just have to see how everything shapes together. There is a domino effect, everybody is waiting for the big prize, the big catch.”
But even if they had instead bought out Lewis for $13.7 million – as the Hornets did on Saturday – the Wizards wouldn’t have been in position to make any significant signings. Paying Lewis not to play for them would’ve only left about $3.5 million – and potentially five roster spots to fill.
As it stands, the Wizards have about $59.5 million committed next season, with about $3.4 million going to recent draft pick Bradley Beal. The team plans on keeping second-round pick Tomas Satoranksy, a 20-year-old combo guard from the Czech Republic, in Europe for another year or two.
The Wizards can fill their final three roster spots by utilizing the midlevel exception — $5 million — and the veteran’s minimum, which takes them out of the running for notable free agents such as former Georgetown star and Indiana all-star center Roy Hibbert or shooting guard Eric Gordon of the New Orleans Hornets, both restricted free agents. Portland reportedly gave the 7-foot-2 Hibbert a maximum contract offer worth $58 million over four years. Indiana would have three days to match if Hibbert signs the offer sheet.
Acquiring Nene at the trade deadline deal helped the Wizards avoid entering bidding wars for JaVale McGee and Nick Young, the two prominent free agents on their roster in the first half of last season.
Grunfeld remains enthusiastic about how the Wizards fared after acquiring Nene, Okafor and Ariza. Those three players are slated to earn a combined $34 million next season – money that the Wizards would’ve had to spend, either way, with new collective bargaining rules forcing teams to spend up to at least 85 percent of the projected $58 million salary cap in the first two years of the deal and 90 percent thereafter.
“Free agency, you have cost uncertainty,” Grunfeld said. “To be able to add two players that have started in the NBA and have been definite rotation players, was pretty important.”
The Wizards could potentially create more spending money by using the amnesty provision – a one-time clause that allows teams to waive a player and have his contract removed from the salary cap – on Andray Blatche. They have until July 17 to make a decision on Blatche, who has three years and $23 million left on his contract. Grunfeld said Blatche is currently training with former Maryland star, NBA player and coach John Lucas in Houston.
“He’s under contract with us,” he said. “He’s out working out with John Lucas right now. Working hard. Trying to get back into shape and doing the kind of things that he needs to do.”
The Las Vegas summer league, which is less than two weeks away, is currently a high priority as the team looks to fill out its roster in time for mini-camp next week. The Wizards expect to have second-year players Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack, and recent draft picks Beal and Satoransky. Satoransky is currently under contract in Spain and would need to receive clearance from FIBA to play for the Wizards.
“We have already applied for” clearance, Grunfeld said. “Whether they grant it or not, remains to be seen. You just don’t know.”
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