The Wizards missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. As they enter another offseason hoping to make substantial improvements, here are the five biggest questions they will face...
Does Beal re-sign?
The biggest and most consequential question facing the Wizards this offseason is quite clearly the contract future of Bradley Beal, who can opt-out of the final year of his deal and earn a five-year contract in the range of $245 million. The Wizards want to keep him around and he seems to be leaning towards staying, but until he signs on the dotted line, it's a question and one that casts a shadow over everything else the franchise does this summer.
If he re-signs, the Wizards will keep a very good player but will also have to operate with him accounting for 35% of the salary cap. If he leaves them in free agency, the Wizards could be forced into a rebuild or at least a very different future. Perhaps they could recoup some value in a sign-and-trade scenario.
While Beal has indicated he is likely to re-sign, there's another big question that could be extremely important in all of this: does he take meetings? Does Jayson Tatum, his childhood friend, get to make an official overture on the Celtics' behalf? Does Pat Riley, maybe the best free agency pitchman in NBA history, get to sell him on playing in South Beach? If Beal does go on a free agency tour, it will be out of the Wizards' control. Given that, they probably want to get a commitment as soon as possible.
Who starts at point guard?
Regardless of whether Beal comes back or not, the Wizards will be shopping for a new starting point guard. They thought they found their floor general last offseason with Spencer Dinwiddie, but that experiment was over in a matter of months. Now the Wizards need to not only find a point guard but avoid what happened with Dinwiddie. That means finding someone who can develop quick chemistry with Beal, if he does come back, and probably someone who runs the offense in a pass-first way rather than someone who looks for their own shot, if you listen to head coach Wes Unseld Jr. Ideally, they could defend and make threes, given the Wizards' needs.
The Wizards are probably going to find this player in a trade or free agency, as the draft is unlikely to offer a plug-and-play solution at that position. It's not a deep draft class at point guard, at least at the top. Free-agent options could include Collin Sexton, Delon Wright, Dennis Schroder and Ricky Rubio (coming off torn ACL). Maybe someone from their past like John Wall or Russell Westbrook hits the market after a buyout. If it's via trade, Malcolm Brogdon is a name to watch given he's reportedly available and an ideal fit with his shooting and defense.
How to fix the defense and shooting?
The Wizards' two biggest needs in a general sense are defense and 3-point shooting, which are the same areas they tried to address last offseason. That has to be frustrating for the front office and perhaps adding to that frustration is the fact they seemed to have the personnel to be a lot better than they were. Defensively, they have some decent wings and shot-blockers behind them. They also have (and particularly earlier this season had) guys with solid track records as outside shooters.
It just didn't work as planned and now the Wizards have to figure out how to fix those problems and exactly how much they need to do to fix them. They finished the season 25th in the NBA in defensive rating and dead-last in 3-pointers made. But they also added Kristaps Porzingis at the trade deadline and after the All-Star break ranked 10th in 3-point percentage. They have already helped themselves a little bit, but probably still need a lot of work done on the roster to complete the repairs.
Any luck in the lottery?
The one positive of missing the playoffs is that the Wizards are going to have a lottery pick and even though they won four of five late in the season, they didn't sabotage their lottery odds to a significant degree. They are going to be in the 9-10 range in the lottery, depending on what happens with the Spurs on Sunday night and potentially with their play-in game. Basically, the Wizards are going to have between a 13.9% and 20.3% chance of landing a top-4 pick.
The Wizards have had some tough luck in the lottery in their recent experiences, most notably in 2019 when they had the sixth-best odds and moved back to ninth. Meanwhile, the ninth team in the lottery that year, the Pelicans, moved up to No. 1. Maybe this year will be different for the Wizards and the ping-pong balls will go their way. If they can get into the top-4, they should be in a really good spot as four players appear to have separated themselves from the rest in this draft; Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and Jaden Ivey. But either way, the Wizards will be in a good position to get a talented player. Recent drafts have had tons of good options still on the board in the backend of the lottery.
Time to trade any young guys?
Where the Wizards draft will also help determine how attractive their best trade offer this offseason could be, especially if they want to swing for the fences with a blockbuster trade for a star. Also factoring into that, and just trades in general, will be whether they are willing to part with any of their young players. The Wizards have rebuffed offers for Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura in the past, but those two along with Corey Kispert and Daniel Gafford, would probably garner some interest in trades.
Hachimura happens to be extension eligible, so that's a consideration. He's the only one without multi-year contract security and for guys like Avdija and Kispert, in particular, the fact they are still on rookie deals makes them very valuable to the Wizards, especially if they are going to give Beal a supermax. Gafford is going to get a big raise in 2023-24, but may still be a bargain even when his extension kicks in, if he continues to improve. Hachimura, meanwhile, is the most consistent scorer of the group, but is one to watch given he will be due for a fairly big raise in the near future.