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Morning tip: Wizards remain committed to 2016


Morning tip: Wizards remain committed to 2016

Unless the Wizards are able to find a way to move up in tonight's NBA draft -- that would seem difficult given their lack of assets other than future picks and commitment to keeping Bradley Beal -- they probably won't make major waves this offseason.

A year ago, they surprised everyone by landing Paul Pierce in free agency and making another run to the Eastern Conference semifinals that probably would've continued had John Wall not broken his left wrist. They'd signed a host of players to short-term deals that allowed them to free themselves under the salary cap for the summer of 2016 when Kevin Durant comes available.

By all accounts, and CSNwashington.com has talked to several people with knowledge of their situation, they're what poker players call pot committed. Even if president Ernie Grunfeld can find a way to move up a few spots from Nos. 19 or 49 to get a player they covet tonight, it's not going to come at the expense of blowing up this blueprint. He likes the hand that they've dealt themselves.

This means taking on long-term salary as part of any deal, as has been reported here multiple times since the Feb. 19 deadline for the 2014-15 season, is a conversation-stopper. 

The East is wide open. The Atlanta Hawks probably won't be the dominant team that won a franchise-record 60 games. The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but are far from a lock as he gets older and their roster remains thin because of the bench.

But the Wizards are intent on not overreacting. Yes, they didn't get any deeper in the postseason than they did previously but two years in a row they've advanced. And this was a better team when the season ended despite having the same seeding (No. 5) and a similar record to the 2013-14 version. 

That success should make Washington an even more attractive destination for free agents, some of whom could be willing to take shorter money when the period opens July 1, to join a contender. That's what Pierce did and he walked away from the experience speaking glowingly about the organization and coach Randy Wittman (the opposite of what he said about spending one year with the Brooklyn Nets and then-coach Jason Kidd). 

If Pierce opts out of his contract, a decision he'll make official after the draft, thank him for his service and move on. He'll be 38 and plans on retiring after 2015-16 anyway. Pierce never was part of any long-term plans.

The core of Wall, Beal and Marcin Gortat is in place. Beal is under contract for next season but is eligible to negotiate an extension this summer. Otto Porter looks like he has found his rhythm as a pro.

In terms of personnel, this next roster probably will look a lot like the one that lost in Game 6 to the Hawks. Kevin Seraphin (unrestricted) already has said he won't return. Rasual Butler (unrestricted) seems likely to not return if the Wizards can fill the void he leaves through the draft. There's a good chance Drew Gooden (unrestricted) stays as there appears to be mutual interest in having him back. Garrett Temple told CSNwashington.com via text last week that he exercised his player option for Year 2. 

So expect rookies from the draft and 2-3 new faces. If they make the right choices, it could be enough to get the Wizards to the conference finals without impacting their 2016 plan. 

MORE: NBA Mock Draft 8.0: The final countdown

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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.