As the idea of free agent Kevin Durant considering the Wizards looks bleaker by the minute, the question becomes who are the next main targets.
The latest update from ESPN NBA Insider Marc Stein has the Wizards focusing on Atlanta center Al Horford, Charlotte swingman Nicolas Batum and New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson. None of this is necessarily gospel, but confirms previous reporting and suspicions.
Some quick thoughts on the trio:
Best player: Al Horford
Seeing as Durant and LeBron James are viewed as likely to stay with their current teams, the four-time All-Star becomes the top true free agent in 2016. Horford turned into a stretch-5 last season, sinking nearly 35% of his 3-point attempts while averaging 15.2 point, 7.3 rebound and 1.7 blocks.
Downside: Perhaps 10-12 teams will be in pursuit of the veteran and former University of Florida star, including Atlanta and Orlando. Horford turns 30 next season, so if the Hawks re-sign him to a five-year deal, they (or any team he's traded to) would be paying max money to a 35-year-old. As for the Wizards specifically, adding Horford probably means trading Marcin Gortat. Horford can move around on the perimeter, but having him chase sleek power forwards isn't ideal.
[UPDATE - Saying Wizards would "probably"deal Gortat with a Horford signing is likely too harsh. Horford's versatility means he can play either of the big man positions. However the fit with Gortat isn't ideal if it means Horford spends most of his time on the perimeter. It's also not even close to being a dealbreaker. Just would be interesting if the Wizards, who in this case would be limited financially for other bold moves, pondered moving Gortat's now reasonable contract to help fill out the roster.
Best fit: Nicolas Batum
My opinion may differ from others, but I believe an insightful coaching staff can figure out how to use Batum without sabotaging the growth of Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr. The modern NBA requires teams to have two-way wing threats capable of guarding multiple positions. Batum, who stuffed the stat sheets for Charlotte last season while remaining a stout defender, is there now. Porter and Oubre can get there in time. All three lengthy players are in the 6'8" to 6'9" range. There are minutes to be had at the off guard spot behind Bradley Beal and at power forward when the Wizards go small. Batum would also give Washington a playmaker when John Wall sits.
Downside: Batum probably isn't worth a max contract, but that's going to be the cost during this wild offseason. Only Charlotte can offer a fifth-year, which is among the reasons Batum likely sticks with the Hornets.
Best bet: Ryan Anderson
My colleague J. Michael explained this week Washington's interest in the perimeter shooting forward. Get passed the letdown angle of Anderson not being Kevin Durant and you see a good option for a team that has lacked a stretch-4 with size.
Downside: Yikes on the defensive end. That's individually, but also with Gortat (who isn't a true rim protector at center) and without a lockdown wing defender on the team. Mirza Teletovic could provide similar help, but for fewer dollars than the rumored $17 million per year it will cost to snag Anderson.