There never may have been a more glorious end to a playoff run than for the Portland Trail Blazers, who fell in five games to the Golden State Warriors. They won 44 games and were seeded fifth in the West. They’d lost four starters from a team that won 51 games a year and made it incredibly difficult on the defending champions.
The Wizards will go into the offseason with as many as nine spots open. Their goals are to get younger without sacrificing experience (like Portland), more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.
They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.
These are the Blazers’ best free agents available, in order of best fit:
Allen Crabbe: In 81 games in his third season, the backup shooter had a breakout year (10.3 points, 39.3% three-point range). Crabbe is restricted and made just less than $1 million. He's the type of two-way player that successful teams covet. Crabbe only made eight starts because Portland was so deep in the backcourt.
Gerald Henderson: After being a starter in his previous four years in Charlotte, the shooting guard came off the bench in 72 games (8.7 points, 43.9% FG) in Portland. It was his first season in five years in which he didn’t average double figures. Henderson plays with a little bit of edge, too, which is good. He’s unrestricted and made $6 million this season and would be a true sixth-man option behind Beal. Of course, he'd have to be willing to accept such a role.
Meyers Leonard: At 7-1 with three-point range, he has blossomed into a perfect stretch option. The only reason he's not listed first is because Leonard separated his left shoulder and won't be ready to start 2016-17 because of surgery. Leonard is restricted after completing the final year of his rookie scale contract for $3 million and had his best season as a reserve (8.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 37.7% three-point range). He's a perfect complement to Gortat.
Moe Harkless: The 6-9 forward is restricted after having played out the final year of his rookie deal. He's not a gifted offensive player (6.4 points, 28% three-point range) but was valuable defensively. He's a good backup and made 14 starts in his only year in Portland. He's coming off a $2.9 million salary and should be an affordable option for a lot of teams.