Given their financial restraints, good fortune in the NBA draft lottery and swift blitz through free agency, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld sounded pleased with where his team stands after an already productive offseason. Coach Randy Wittman is still hopeful that the team can do more – possibly another big tweak – between now and the start of training camp in three months.
The contrast in what they had to say about the current roster was noticeable on Thursday, when both Grunfeld and Wittman held separate sessions with the media, roughly an hour apart, to discuss the state of the team: Grunfeld was more coy, Wittman more direct, but they remain on the same page.
“I think we feel good about the team,” Grunfeld said at Thursday’s news conference. “We have 14 guys under contract. We’re ready to go to training camp. You never what know what happens between now and training camp. There’s always a lot of discussion going on, but I think we have most of our positions filled. We’re two deep at least at every position, and with the versatility we have, we probably have three guys at every position, so we feel good about where we are. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Moving up five spots to the No. 3 pick allowed the Wizards to add another talented and versatile piece in Otto Porter. And with the team already above the salary cap before the free agent recruiting period, the Wizards were able to fulfill their goals by using the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception and a minimum contract to sign sharpshooter Martell Webster, backup point guard Eric Maynor and utility defender Garrett Temple. Swingman Glen Rice Jr., a projected first-rounder, was also available for the Wizards to acquire after making a deal to move up to the 35th pick.
The Wizards appear set in the backcourt, with starters John Wall and Bradley Beal, and backups Maynor and Temple, and they have loaded up on the wing, adding Porter and Rice and bringing back Webster to compete for time with Trevor Ariza. But after Nene and Emeka Okafor, the Wizards remain unsettled with the quartet of Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton available to serve as backups.
“We do have to look probably at a bigger, from a bigger standpoint, maybe adding someone to the frontline of that nature. See if we can do that,” Wittman said. “We need to find a stretch-four. That’s always good to have the ability to go big, which we can obviously with Emeka, Nene or Kevin. A situation where you can bang people, but you also want to have the ability where you can stretch the floor especially with the players we have now on the perimeter with John and Bradley.
“We need to continue to see if we can add a piece to this team, whether that’s through picking up a free agent or a trade or making a move like that,” he added. “I don’t think we’re going to relax now and we shouldn’t.”
Prior to the draft, Grunfeld said the Wizards might already have a player capable of being a “stretch four” already on the roster. The summer league will serve as an important time for both Vesely and Singleton to distinguish themselves as they head into possibly their final seasons in Washington. The Wizards also have the expiring contracts of Okafor ($14.5 million) and Ariza ($7.7 million) to use as trade chips for possible upgrades, as well.
“We expect to have everybody back,” Grunfeld said, “but having said that, if the right opportunity comes along, it’s something that we’ll look at, but right now we expect to have everybody that we have on the roster currently, and we are having conversations as we move along like every team is.”
The Wizards have already committed almost $70 million in payroll this season – just below the luxury tax line of $71.75 million – and Grunfeld doesn’t feel pressed to added a 15th player to the roster, especially if the team feels the need to make a trade or sign a free agent that can address a need.
“We want to have a little bit of flexibility,” he said. “If the right player comes along, we want to have the ability to be able to sign that player. You never know. You might have some trade possibilities where you might need the spot, but if the right player comes along, that’s something that we’ll look at, but we really haven’t put a time frame on it. We might not even use the spot when we go into training camp. We’ll see.”
Wall remains eligible for an extension that can be negotiated between now and October and Grunfeld reiterated his desire to get something done. “We said all along we want John with us long term, and that’s something we’ve let them know that’s our intention, and that’s something we’ll work on as the summer progresses.”
Wittman added that this is the best he’s felt about the team since taking over as Flip Saunders’s replacement in January 2012. “Yeah, as long as we stay healthy,” Wittman said. “I felt pretty good about our team last year to be honest with you…We’ve totally changed since I took over in the middle of the year in terms of players, transitions of players, the culture of our team, how we go about things, the way we want to play. It’s different and hopefully we can make a couple of more moves here. We’ve got situations that I think we need to look at.”
Grunfeld continues to believe that the Wizards have assembled a team that should make a postseason run.
“That’s been our goal the whole time. We’re not running away from that. We want to be a playoff team,” he said. “That’s been what we’re trying to build toward, and we feel good about the additions that we made. We wanted to keep continuity also. You can’t keep changing the roster, flipping it over year after year. When we went through our rebuild, we don’t a player on this roster who was with us over three years ago. John is the longest tenured player on this team. Last year we added six new players last summer, and you just can’t keep adding six new players every year.”
Staff writer Gene Wang contributed to this report.