But that doesn’t mean the summer is over before it began.
No, Durant almost certainly won’t be coming to Washington. But the Wizards still have plenty of salary cap space and roster flexibility to remake their team as they start a new era under freshly hired coach Scott Brooks.
With only five players under contract — John Wall, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre Jr. — the Wizards will have somewhere north of $30 million to spend, even after factoring in the salary cap hold of restricted free agent guard Bradley Beal. That kind of money will be more than enough to allow Washington to snag at least a couple of difference-making players to add to its roster.
Now it’s up to Washington’s front office, led by President Ernie Grunfeld and his senior vice president of basketball operations, Tommy Sheppard, to fill them.
Here are a few names that could be in the mix for the Wizards when free agency begins:
What, you thought we’d start somewhere else? There’s no question the Wizards, like every single other team with cap space to sign the all-world forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, will make an attempt to do so. But while the chances of the Wizards getting a meeting are remote, their chances of signing him won’t be much different than anyone else outside of Oklahoma City.
Given that staying presents the best chance for him to win next season — at least barring any unexpected moves elsewhere — the expectation is that Durant will sign a one-year deal with the Thunder to become a free agent in 2017 along with Russell Westbrook. Washington has some intriguing talent, led by its back court of John Wall and Beal, but not enough to compete with the Thunder or the Golden State Warriors, the other strong suitor for Durant’s services.
The Wizards have had plenty of time to get to know Horford over the years, given that the Atlanta Hawks big man has spent the past nine years playing in the same division as Washington and helped knock the Wizards out of the 2015 playoffs.
Now Horford is an unrestricted free agent, and the clear second-best player on the open market behind Durant. If the Wizards can’t get Durant, it would be far from a consolation prize to get Horford, a versatile big man who would be able to play both with Marcin Gortat and also operate as a center when Gortat is on the bench. The question, though, is whether Horford is even going to hit the open market. He could easily get a five-year maximum contract offer from Atlanta, making any pursuit of him futile.
Like Horford, the Wizards got plenty of time to see Batum up close over the past year, after the longtime member of the Portland Trail Blazers was traded to the Charlotte Hornets. Batum had a terrific season, helping the Hornets get back into the playoffs, with his injury during Charlotte’s first-round series with the Miami Heat contributing to the Hornets’ loss in seven games.
Again, though, he finds himself in a situation similar to Horford’s. The Hornets could offer Batum a five-year max contract, something they’ve been rumored to be willing to do. And, if they do, it’s hard to see Batum turning it down. Still, if either of them choose to leave their respective teams, the Wizards will be in line to offer them a new home.
Perhaps the Wizards can have something of a do-over of the 2001 NBA draft, when they took Kwame Brown with the number-one overall pick instead of selecting Gasol, who went to the Grizzlies at No. 3. Gasol is a free agent after two productive years in Chicago, and is all but certain not to be back there next season.
The Wizards already have Gortat at center, so if Gasol were to sign it would either be to play alongside him, or to come off the bench in a sixth-man role — which, given his scoring and passing abilities, along with his age (35), is probably the best role for him. But Gasol will also undoubtedly attract attention from his former coach Phil Jackson in New York, where the Knicks will be looking for a big man after using Robin Lopez to trade for Derrick Rose.
Another way the Wizards could go, instead of focusing on a big man, would be to go after players capable of alternating between forward spots like the two they already have, Porter and Morris. One of the more intriguing options available in that category is Deng, who was outstanding at power forward in Miami this season after Chris Bosh was lost for the year because of a recurrence of blood clotting.
Deng would fit nicely with Washington’s hopes of playing more up-tempo because of his ability to defend at either forward spot, shoot effectively from three-point range and handle the ball. But he may be in search of a more guaranteed path to a starting job, and it’s also unclearwhether the Wizards would offer enough money to secure his services, given the number of holes they have to fill.
A fiery competitor and skilled defensive player, Noah has been the face of the Bulls from the moment he arrived with the franchise in 2007. But the 31-year-old has seen his offensive production fall the past two years, including missing most of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Wizards have interest in signing Noah, though not for a max contract as has been reported. Still, there should be plenty of competition for his services — including from the Knicks, who are also interested in Noah’s soon-to-be-former teammate Gasol.
One of the things the Wizards need to do this summer is to sign a backup point guard. It just so happens they have the signing rights to a player who could fill that need.
Enter Satoransky, the second pick of the second round of the 2012 NBA draft, who has spent the past two years playing for F.C. Barcelona — one of the best teams, if not the best, outside of the NBA. This summer presents an opportunity to bring the 6-foot-7 guard over to the NBA, and Satoransky could be a nice option to serve both as Wall’s backup and someone who could play alongside him, given his size and length.