The first major hurdle is over with for the Wizards now that they have Scott Brooks.
The next step is reconstructing the roster around John Wall and Bradley Beal and recent developments point to them being a major player in free agency regardless of what Kevin Durant decides.
Just last summer, David West narrowed his choices upon opting out the final year of his deal with the Indiana Pacers to the Wizards and San Antonio Spurs.
A coveted veteran such as Alan Anderson, though his season was ruined by ankle surgeries, took a one-year deal to come to D.C. Of course two summers ago, Paul Pierce found it worthwhile.
"This is a very desirable situation for a lot of people. We have a starting five coming back. We have a young player in Kelly Oubre who has a lot of potential," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said last week. "Bradley (Beal) obviously is a free agent and we hope to get him signed. Very few teams are playoff-ready. We also have a lot of flexibility from a financial standpoint going forward. This is a desirable job and a lot of agents have already called expressing interest for their clients."
Despite the 41-41 finish outside the playoffs, Grunfeld is correct in how he assessed the view from around the league about the Wizards though it'll be difficult for some to share that optimism. The hard truth is almost everyone has cap space and if you're not careful it can be overrated.
The Dallas Mavericks had plenty of it and they won an NBA championship a few years prior in 2011. They put all of their eggs in one basket to chase Dwight Howard in 2013 and came up empty. Last year it was DeAndre Jordan who backed off his verbal commitment to join them in the final hour. The Mavericks still made the playoffs but now have a roster loaded with mid-level players who received bumps in pay to meet the salary cap floor to avoid a collective bargaining agreement violation.
Despite Washington having a down season, this isn't the 29-win team that couldn't lure a single marquee free agent in the summer of 2013 and ended up with Eric Maynor as Wall's backup. Veterans generally want two things once they get around or past 30 years old: Multi-year deal (aka money) or a chance to win. Ideally, they want both but West was willing to take the short end to play for the 67-win Spurs.
RELATED: Why hiring Brooks makes sense
In a conversation with CSNmidatlantic.com, Jared Dudley, who'll be going into his 10th season and is a free agent, said he wants to play where he can earn the best payday and if that turns out to be the Philadelphia 76ers so be it. He'll be 31 when the 2016-17 season tips.
Grunfeld is responsible for bringing Brooks, considered "a player's coach," on board with a five-year deal worth $35 million Thursday which upgrades the face of the franchise from Randy Wittman. But the best pieces remain around Wall and Beal in Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter and Oubre.
No one looking at the Wizards' situation on the balance is going to be so dismissive. Since the emphasis is always on what a player does in the postseason, check what Wall and Beal did vs. the All-Star backcourts of the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks. How about winning a first-round series in five games -- including all three games in Chicago against the Bulls who supposedly had the superior coach in Tom Thibodeau -- two years ago? Is that all of a sudden forgotten or irrelevant, or is it just convenient because it would douse cold water on the doom-and-gloom hot take universe?
Representatives for Ryan Anderson, a rising free agent shooter from the New Orleans Pelicans who would've been a target at the trade deadline, contacted the Wizards to gauge interest at that time, persons with knowledge of the situation told CSNmidatlantic.com back then. The problem, of course, was the Wizards weren't willing to give up a first-round pick with no guarantees they could retain Anderson on the open market this summer which is part of the reason why Morris, who is under contract through 2019 at $8 million a season, was the better option.
Wall has a habit of producing career seasons for three-point shooters such as Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza (40.7%) and Dudley while he was a starter before All-Star break (46.6%). All three flourished because of Wall's ability to get to the rim and the screen-setting of Gortat opened up the wings. To be exact, 64.6% of Dudley's buckets were assisted by Wall. Ariza hasn't come close to that mark since he left for the Houston Rockets. Webster was re-signed by injuries derailed him and eventually he was waived. This season, the Wizards were sixth in the NBA in catch-and-shoot points per game (28.7). The reason? Wall.
Ramon Sessions is in line to cash in as a free agent even though he was Wall's backup. Sessions shared the backcourt a lot with him which spread the floor even more and allowed him to get to the rim, too, which is why the backup shot a career high 47.3% from the field.
What the Wizards need is more roster versatility and that can be had without Durant, who could opt to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the upcoming season and not make his choice until 2017 when the salary cap is greater, his max deal is greater, he'll know the status of teammates Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka who become unrestricted free agents then and he can better assess the NBA landscape.
If Gortat isn't playing well or isn't a good matchup in a particular game, that's where a backup center who can stretch the floor (a Pero Antic-type) or a rim protector who can run and doesn't need the ball to impact the game (a Brandan Wright-type) presents a different look. If Beal isn't in a groove or banged up, that's where a shooter (Jamal Crawford-type) viewed more of a team player than Gary Neal, who generally wasn't well-received by some teammates in the locker room, can be that instant offense. If Porter is being pushed around in the mid-post because he isn't strong enough, that's where a more physical option (a healthy Alan Anderson-type) is vital. If Morris can't find his range from three, there's where a stretch player (a Mirza Teletovic-type) works.
All of those names mentioned are just an example of how the roster can be reconstructed with attractive, quality role players minus the max-salary demands such as what's expected from Golden State's Harrison Barnes. The name sounds good, though not nearly as good as Durant, and he may turn out to be worth the risk but Barnes has the same career numbers as Porter and rejected a $64 million extension last year.
The Durant-or-bust theory is a false dilemma. The Boston Celtics won 48 games and grabbed a top four seed in the East with a roster full of role players expertly coached by Brad Stevens. It's up to Grunfeld to put the right pieces in place by going younger but proven. It's up to Brooks, who'll have input on as many as nine openings with the roster, to make them work. He'll have far greater talent on the floor.
For all the criticisms made about Wall, he's still a pass-first point guard in a league full of primary ball-handlers who shoot first. And he's a three-time All-Star who has played through a broken hand and wrist in a playoff series.
The atmosphere at Verizon Center leaves a lot to be desired, but the Wizards have a foundation with their core players and Brooks. As long as they position themselves to be in the conversation, they have a chance.
Maybe it won't be enough for Durant. But Pierce was a good start, and retaining players of his standing -- not just being a one-year jump off -- is the logical progression.
If the Wizards have nothing to show for all of this future planning, then this topic is worth a revisit. It's only April.