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Free agents, player options and a major expiring deal await Wizards


Free agents, player options and a major expiring deal await Wizards

Now that the Wizards' season is over, and the NBA draft is next month with a No. 19 overall pick, the bigger picture is the offseason. They'll have decisions to make on the roster which has four unrestricted free agents, two player options and a mammoth contract that will be expiring:

  • Rasual Butler: The forward appeared a total of 7:29 in the postseason, both times in a first-round series with the Toronto Raptors. Butler was on a veteran minimum deal of $1.4 million and given how much he cost he brought a lot of value early when the Wizards got out to a 31-15 start. He sputtered late. At 35, he started to lose his legs though he could still find a roster spot somewhere because shooters at the end of benches are always needed.

  • Drew Gooden: At 6-10, he gave the Wizards a viable option off the bench behind Nene because he could stretch the floor to the three-point line. Gooden completed his second consecutive season with the Wizards and can find an NBA job if he still wants to play at 33. He'll no longer be collecting amnesty paychecks from the Milwaukee Bucks, and if the Wizards want him to stay it'll be closer to the vet minimum of $1.4 million again. Gooden has size, versatility and is content with his role. That makes him the strongest possible returnee amongst this group.

  • Will Bynum: The 6-0 guard signed in late March and played spot minutes on a pro-rated salary. When John Wall went down with a broken left wrist, Bynum's presence was key in helping them win Game 3 with clutch free throws to end the game. Bynum was added to bolster a bench that was thin on guard play. It's not very likely that he stays given that the primary backup role belongs to Ramon Sessions and the Wizards probably want to add a better shooter.

  • Kevin Seraphin: He's not returning. The center scored a career playoff high 13 points in Game 6. He wants playing time and a chance to start, and with Marcin Gortat entering the second year of a five-year deal that pays him an average of $12 million per, Seraphin will have to go elsewhere. He'll command more money in the open market than what the Wizards would be willing to offer him as a backup.

  • Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple: Both have player options. Temple will play, obviously, and has a good rapport with coach Randy Wittman because of his work ethic and commitment to defense. Every playoff team has a sparsely used player off the bench who can defend the perimeter and they come inexpensively (Temple made the $980,00 vet minimum). At 6-6, he's also great on the practice court when pushing Wall and Bradley Beal. Last season, the Miami Heat, who had Temple in training camp, made him an offer but he chose the Wizards. Pierce, 37, might choose to retire. If he does opt to play, it'll be in Washington but perhaps in a reduced role at small/power forward.

  • Nene: The 6-11 forward is owed $13 million. It's a large contract but it is expiring which could make him a valuable trade chip February 2016. 

[MORE WIZARDS: Paul Pierce sounds ready to retire after 17 seasons]

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

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John Wall offers thoughts on Wizards' biggest offseason additions including Dwight Howard

At his final media availability of the 2017-18 season, John Wall highlighted specific types of players he wanted to see added to the Wizards roster this summer. Most notably, he pointed to an athletic big and bench scoring.

The Wizards ended up adding those things and more.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green to free agent deals, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. Howard is the athletic big and Rivers is the bench scorer Wall coveted.

Whether coincidental or not, Wall got his wish. And he's excited for the possibilities now that the Wizards appear to have shored up some weaknesses.

In his recent interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall offered thoughts on each key addition.

On Howard: "Even though he's older, he's still an athletic big and still has respect in this league. I mean, averaging [16.6 ppg and 12.5 rpg], he's a guy who can score in the low-post and block shots, a guy that gets a lot of rebounds and a guy that can catch lobs and do things that when teams switch against us or we're attacking the paint, if they help for a second then we're throwing lobs. Now, do you get more layups? Probably. Or, you get more wide open threes because guys are going to have to crack down on him. If you don't crack down on him, that's an automatic layup or a lob. I think that benefits us a lot. It's going to help. If you look at [Clint] Capela, DeAndre [Jordan] and those types of guys that are athletic, JaVale [McGee]. Even JaVale at times, being athletic and just getting to the paint. Guys are stepping up and you're throwing lobs to those guys. We have a person that can do that."

On Rivers: "I think it's going to be fun and interesting. Austin is someone who I've always watched since high school. He's a competitive guy. He definitely can score the ball. High volume shooter, once he gets it going, he's going. I think it just gives us that guy that we've never really had off the bench, that can create for himself and can create for his teammates at the two-guard position."

On Green: "Just being able to switch one through four, a guy that can post up if you put smaller guys on him. He can guard every position. He's athletic and can run the floor with us in transition. He does the little things that a lot of people don't notice."

On Brown: "He's very poised for his age. He doesn't try to force anything. The only thing I would tell him is just be more aggressive... and make mistakes. Try to make mistakes and improve your game to get better. It's going to be hard to find minutes and at practice at times with [Kelly Oubre, Jr.] and Otto [Porter, Jr.] and those guys being there."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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