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

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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 getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.

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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.

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