When it comes to free agency, especially with a team such as the Wizards who will have about eight roster spots open, there are a lot of moving parts. Nothing is dead certain, even with Ryan Anderson being on a short list of leading targets for them when the period opens Friday.
Since I've been bombarded with questions, let's clear up the basis for this interest in Anderson and why as well as some other observations:
- The speculation from front office personnel that I've talked with in the weeks leading up, the ballpark is Anderson would cost around $17 million. That doesn't mean he will get $17 million, or that the Wizards would make that size offer for the 6-10 stretch forward. He could go for more or less. The biggest challenge for front offices is trying to project how everything shakes out finanically when the cap rises to $94 million which is $24 million more than it was for 2015-16. There was interest from both sides during the trade deadline in February.
- Anderson is not a consolation prize for Durant. No singluar player replaces that void. It's a by-committe approach. Having Durant takes care of a scoring burden and the Wizards can focus more on the defensive side of the ball. Anderson is a career backup who can score. Durant was being courted as a starter. Look at the free-agent field this summer outside of Durant. It has a lot of solid players but few superstars. The Wizards have to balance how much they want to commit long-term this summer vs. next summer when the free agent stars will be far more plentiful. One thing is for certain which is after a 41-41 season they've got to get back to being a playoff team that gets out of the first round.
- The Wizards like their core. From coach Scott Brooks to president Ernie Grunfeld to majority owner Ted Leonsis, they've stuck to the party line of liking their starting five of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat. If they genuinely mean that, every other position on the team that's open is a backup. So when assessing free agents, you've got to ask yourself if Player A will command $20 million is that a good investment for a backup? And if you do pay that pricetag, who goes to the bench or who gets moved in a trade? And is there a trade partner who is offering you market value for that piece.
- Porter and Kelly Oubre are expected to blossom under Brooks. That's a significant part of why Randy Wittman was ousted and Brooks brought in on a fully guaranteed five-year deal. If they believe (jury is still out on this one) they have a legitmate starting small forward with a competent backup, they'll be less likely to spend max money at this position without Durant. If the Wizards think Porter hasn't developed enough or Oubre isn't ready, then this spot -- the toughest to defend in the NBA -- is a priority. Not a stretch four option such as Anderson.
- The Wizards' small ball failed for two reasons: Kris Humphries wasn't equipped as the starter playing around the arc and Jared Dudley was too small and not athletic enough. Dudley was put in situations where he had to switch out on speedy guards in pick-and-rolls or get posted by legitimate bigs. The arrival of Morris made the Wizards a significantly better rebounding and defensive team and that cleaned up a lot of the early-season mess. Morris hasn't developed into a three-point shooter, an area where Anderson (or someone like him) can excel and give opponents a different look.
- Bigger picture to all of this is what happens to locker room chemistry in the NBA if reserves are earning twice the salaries of some bonafide starters? Morris will make $7.4 million. Whoever his primary backup might be in that position.