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Morning tip: Wizards sacrifice again for Kevin Durant

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Morning tip: Wizards sacrifice again for Kevin Durant

For the last week, the Wizards were dead set on Paul Pierce's return to give it another run before retiring and becoming a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. But in the end, they made the same decision regarding him as they did a year ago with the player he'd replaced in Trevor Ariza.

Both are different players at different points of their career, but the reasoning for letting them go quietly to the Western Conference was the same: The Wizards refuse to compromise their position to make a run at Kevin Durant in 2016 free agency, CSNwashington.com has confirmed with multiple persons with knowledge of the situation.

Ariza was a free agent and wanted $10 million for the next four seasons. He took $8 million per to join the Houston Rockets where he doesn't pay state taxes which makes it essentially the same deal. The Wizards offered Pierce, who will be 38 when the season begins, two years with just the first guaranteed and the second a team option at the veteran mid-level exception of about $5.5 million. Instead, Pierce took a three-year deal from his hometown Los Angeles Clippers -- the first two guaranteed -- which when aggregated is higher salary.

The Wizards weren't locking themselves into such a deal and made the prudent decision to allow Pierce, who they'll always revere for what he did last season in bringing them to the cusp of the Eastern Conference finals, to walk. Pierce knew that with a team option in Year 2 of a new deal in Washington likely wouldn't have been picked up. The Wizards got word from Pierce at the same time the rest of the country, early Wednesday evening on the first day of free agency.

They huddled late at offices in Verizon Center with an eye on Plan B with a pair of trade exceptions, a mid-level exception and a bi-annual exception available to retool:

  • A stretch 4: This remains their No. 1 priority. The problem here is there aren't many options on the open market.

  • A combo guard is the next need on the list, with Rodney Stuckey among those on the short list. However, he'll require the mid-level which is the larger of the exceptions at roughly $5.5 million.

When Pierce didn't immediately tell the Wizards that he was returning, the writing was on the wall. There are no hard feelings towards him because they can't fault him for wanting to play at home with coaches (Doc Rivers and Sam Cassell) he already had close relationships with before coming to Washington.

Pierce wasn't going to do much to help the Wizards during the regular season anyway because he paces himself and has to nurse aches and paints. They won just two more games than the previous year without him (46) but Pierce's boldness and big-shot making in the postseason was magical.

They swept the Toronto Raptors behind Pierce's daggers from long range to steal home-court advantage. They took the lead after three games in a second-round series with the Atlanta Hawks because of his game-winning shot. 

That, however, is where it ends. The responsibility for this now will rest on the shoulders of John Wall, the leader and $80 million designated max player, and his backcourt mate Bradley Beal who is in line for a hefty extension. Otto Porter is now on the clock at small forward, unless someone else is acquired this summer. Kelly Oubre, the Wizards' first-round draft pick last week, will be given time to learn but if he figures it out sooner rather than later that'll be all the better. 

Just as it was during the February trade deadline -- and it will be for this upcoming one -- every move that the Wizards make or ignore is with Durant 2016 in mind. That means no long-term contracts. No marginal players making $7 million and up for multiple years to come will be accepted in transactions that might help them now but infringe on their cap situation for 2016-17. Unlike the Sacramento Kings, who change their vision at the owner's whim every week, the Wizards prefer a unified vision and will see it through whether or not a game-changing superstar is at the end of that rainbow.

If they can land the NBA's most lethal-scorer in Durant when he becomes a free agent from the Oklahoma City Thunder, would it matter that they whiffed on Ariza and Pierce? This is the long game and it has another year to play out before drawing any real conclusions. And going 1-for-3 in this situation would be a home run.

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Tim Frazier

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Tim Frazier

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Tim Frazier's season...

Player: Tim Frazier

Position: Point guard

Age: 27

2017-18 salary: $2 million

2017-18 stats: 59 G, 14.2 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.5 FG%, 30.4 3P%, 76.7 FT%, 44.5 eFG%, 105 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 1/27 at Hawks - 4 points, 14 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2-for-5 FG

Season review: The Wizards tabbed Tim Frazier to be their backup point guard nearly a year ago when they sent a second round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans on the eve of draft night. They viewed Frazier as the solution to their years-long search for a capable backup behind John Wall. Frazier had thrived as a replacement starter in New Orleans and the Wizards saw him as worth a draft pick, even though he had just one year left on his contract.

Frazier began the season as the primary backup point guard, but ultimately lost the job to Tomas Satoransky once Wall went out with a left knee injury. Frazier became the starter and Satoransky the backup, but through two weeks Satoransky outplayed him and became No. 2 on the depth chart once Wall returned. Then, when Wall went down for months late in the season, Satoransky started and Frazier backed him up.

Frazier never found consistency as he moved back and forth between roles. His minutes, points and assists averages were all career-lows.

The Wizards added competition to their roster for Frazier and Satoransky midseason, first by signing Ramon Sessions in March and then adding Ty Lawson just before the playoffs began. That led to Frazier being inactive for four of the Wizards' six postseason games.

All in all, it was a frustrating year for Frazier. He even had to deal with a broken nose and surgery to repair it after getting inadvertently kneed in the face by Bobby Portis in a game against the Bulls in February.

Frazier has been part of small group of Wizards players continuing to work out at the team facility this summer. He has been there along with Wall, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith. That said, it does seem likely Frazier returns given how the Wizards used him this season. He was completely out of the rotation for extended periods of time.

Helping his cause in that regard is that the Wizards have his Bird rights, meaning they can re-sign him while going above the salary cap. They currently have five open roster spots and not much money to spend. Frazier could represent a cheap option and help them fill out their roster.

Potential to improve: Shooting, on-ball defense, consistency

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

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