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Best player, best fit and best bet of the Wizards' free agent targets

Best player, best fit and best bet of the Wizards' free agent targets

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.

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Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

When Mike Scott left to join the L.A. Clippers, the Wizards replaced him as the backup power forward with Jeff Green and in doing so found a guy who is similar in many ways, albeit for a cheaper price. He is experienced, versatile offensively and even a local guy who roots for the Redskins.

Where they differ on the offensive end is the ways they like to score. Scott is more of a three-point threat, while Green is more comfortable operating in the post. 

Last season with the Wizards, Scott attempted only a third of his shots from less than 10 feet, while Green took 54.2 of his attempts from that range. Nearly a third of Green's shots (30.3) came within five feet of the rim.

Green's ability to score inside and with his back to the basket may end up complementing others in the Wizards' second unit quite well. Three-point shooting is more important than ever in today's NBA and his ability to draw the defense inside can open up the floor for others like Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

The Wizards did not have anyone on their bench last season with Green's level of skill in the post and Green showed in the preseason a willingness to pass from the paint.

Against the Knicks in the Wizards' fourth preseason game, Green had the ball in the post when he noticed Satoransky's defender was moving closer inside, perhaps anticipating a rebound. He fired the ball to Satoransky, who pump-faked a three and dribbled to his right before knocking down a jumper at the top of the key.

"It's just smart basketball. There are a lot of unselfish guys," Green said of the Wizards' bench. "I think we just work well together. We feed off each other. I think we know how to play the right way."

Satoransky led the Wizards with a 46.5 three-point percentage last season. He knocked down 51.2 percent off catch-and-shoot plays. Rivers shot 37.8 percent from three last year for the Clippers and 37.1 percent on catch-and-shoot looks.

Oubre shot only 34.1 percent overall from three, but that number dropped significantly towards the end of the year. He can get hot from three and is dangerous when cutting to the basket off the ball. Ian Mahinmi, though not highly skilled in the post, can make defenders pay for leaving him on double teams.

It's not only about threes for Rivers and Satoransky, as Satoransky showed on that one play in New York. Both are solid at catch-and-gos. Rivers is decisive and quick and Satoranksy has made noticeable strides since he entered the league and taking off once he gets a pass. 

Green, 32, is still learning their strengths.

"I try to use their attributes to our advantage and creating what I can create," Green said. "If they can shoot and I'm being doubled, I'm going to make the right play and get it to the shooter."

The Wizards made upgrading their bench a big priority this offseason and the net result may be the most versatile group they have had in years. They can shoot threes, run the floor and, with Green in the mix, work inside and out.

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Capital City Go-Go now allow Wizards make final roster cut to 14 and leave the 15th spot open

Capital City Go-Go now allow Wizards make final roster cut to 14 and leave the 15th spot open

On Saturday, two days before the deadline to finalize Opening Day rosters, the Washington Wizards waived four players - LaVoy Allen, Chris Chiozza, Chasson Randle and Tiwian Kendley - and in doing so trimmed their roster down to 14 players. That's one fewer than the NBA roster maximum of 15 players, meaning they opted to leave one of their roster spots vacant.

This was not a big surprise, but it's worth going through the reasons why they chose to do so for those who may be wondering. 

For one, the Wizards have a lot of money committed to their roster and could use some savings. They are fourth in the NBA this season with a total cap of $134.9 million. That is $11.1 million more than the salary cap limit, which means they are due to pay $19.1 million in luxury tax next year, according to Spotrac.

The Wizards also don't absolutely need that 15th player. They have two two-way players in Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae who collectively give them depth at a wide variety of positions. 

Under two-way contracts, they can be activated for up to 45 days this season before the Wizards have to decide on a fully guaranteed NBA deal. The NBA adjusted the rules this season to exclude travel days from that 45-day clock. The NBA days limit for Robinson and McRae also does not begin until G-League training camps begin on Oct. 22.

Speaking of the G-League, the Wizards have their own team now. The Capital City Go-Go will begin their inaugural season in November and that will give the organization the deepest stable of prospects (and roster spots) is has ever had. They now have much more room than ever to stash young players that would otherwise be considered for the final spot.

Even if the Wizards didn't have that option, as they did not last year, it wouldn't necessarily convince them to fill the last roster spot. Last season, they went without a 15th player for much of the year and for extended stretches only carried 13, the league minimum. They even rolled with 12 after the NBA trade deadline, as the league allows two weeks for teams to reach the minimum.

That recent history alone was enough to suggest they wouldn't fill the 15th spot. And, truthfully, that 15th spot rarely came into play as an actual need. This isn't the NFL where injuries make every roster spot incredibly valuable, or MLB where extra innings can sometimes make it feel like their rosters aren't deep enough.

Perhaps the Wizards will fill the 15th spot at some point this season. They can do so in a variety of ways, including if they trade one player for two. Just don't count on it, for all the reasons listed above.

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