The Boston Celtics, the Wizards' most difficult opponent, are out of the playoffs and their season is over after losing 4-2 to the No. 4 seed Atlanta Hawks. They'll have draft picks and plenty of money under the salary cap to make a run at a max player.
It's going to be difficult for anyone to want to leave coach Brad Stevens who has a knack for making average players look better than they've ever looked in the NBA. But the cap is growing from $70 million to about $93 million so that's a lot of enticement.
The Wizards' goals are to get younger, 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 salary 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 Boston's free agents, in order of best fit:
Evan Turner: The second overall pick in the 2010 draft, after Wall, Turner has become a valuable commodity because of his ability to score and playmake. He can start (think of Beal's health issues) and is accustomed to coming off the bench and is an ideal sixth man. He averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Turner isn't a three-point shooter (24%) but overall shoots (45.6%). He's solid inside the arc. Turner is an unrestricted free agent and will be in demand by a lot of teams desperate for his skill set that'll drive up his pricetag. He's going to cost well above the $3.3 million he was paid this season.
Jonas Jerebko: The Celtics can decline his option by July 3 and make him an unrestricted free agent. By chance he hits the market, the career backup 6-10 forward can be a valuable stretch option off the bench for Markieff Morris. Jerebko's numbers this season were modest, 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15 minutes per game, but he shot 40% from three-point range. He's got experience but is relatively young at 29. Big men who can open the floor have value and the good thing should Jerebko come avaliable is he'd be affordable. Made $5 million this season.
Tyler Zeller: The 7-foot backup center is restricted, so the Celtics can match an offer to keep him. Zeller averaged 6.1 points and 3.0 rebounds in 60 appearances. No bad for a guy who played 11.8 minutes a game (Zeller averaged 10.2 and 5.7 on a playoff team last season when he started 59 games). Could he start for Gortat in a pinch? Yes. Zeller is 26 and has four years of experience. And he's coming off a deal that paid him $1.9 million so he's definitely affordable.
Amir Johnson: This one is tricky because Johnson was supposed to be Boston's big free-agent get when they lured him from the Toronto Raptors on a two-year deal at $12 million per. Johnson averaged just 7.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in 76 starts. That's hardly an even swap but the Celtics could refuse to pick up his option for next season and allow him to become a free agent. In his last three NBA seasons, Johnson has been a starter but would be a backup for Morris but still would demand a salary that's probably too high for a backup. Johnson has 10 years experience but is just 28. He has developed three-point range, though he went from 41.3% last year with Toronto to 23.3% in Boston.
Jared Sullinger: The 6-9 center/forward is difficult to figure. His conditioning leaves much to be desired but he has a skill set that's unique for such a wide body. He averaged 10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists as Sullinger missed just one game and started a career-high 73. Like Zeller, he's coming off his rookie scale deal and is restricted. Sullinger can hit the occassional three-pointer though he's never been above 30%. If he develops more range, his future is that of a stretch four. Sullinger is not a shot-blocker or a great inside player because he doesn't have the athleticism needed. If he ever commits to an offseason program and gets into serious shape, his ceiling will rise significantly as will his salary from the $1.6 million he made this season. Because of the ifs, he's the highest risk most on this list.