Wizards

Wizards offseason will be defined by John Wall, and maybe already has been

Wizards

At this current point in time, it looks like the Wizards' offseason will be defined by what happens with John Wall. They already made a big move in re-signing Davis Bertans, plus drafted Deni Avdija in the first round. But Wall's status and future has cast a shadow over everything.

It's his stature as a player, his contract, the reports he wants out and the apparent difficulty required to trade him if that is indeed what ultimately happens. Did we mention the contract?

Set that aside and take a step back and you may see a plan that has ventured away from expectations a bit. All signs seemed to point to an offseason of win-now moves, knowing what the organization had riding on making a reunion between Wall and Bradley Beal work. 

Then, they took a player in the draft - Avdija - who will likely take some time to develop. And in free agency, outside of retaining Bertans, they have favored short-term, minor moves that maintain future financial flexibility. That's probably the best way to describe signing Robin Lopez when there were younger players at his position available, but that would have required giving multi-year deals to.

Lopez will be an upgrade over Ian Mahinmi, and maybe by a good margin, but he will by no means overhaul their league-worst defense all by himself. Guys like Aron Baynes and Tristan Thompson would have helped more, but they would have required a greater financial commitment, particularly when it comes to the years of the contract.

 

The Lopez move combined with the tertiary signings of Anthony Gill and Raul Neto are not the types that vault a team into contention. They add depth and, again, they maintain flexibility moving forward.

And that brings up an important question we may never get a direct answer to: was this the plan all along or did the Wall situation change everything?

Consider the fact the rumor involving Wall and Russell Westbrook was leaked the day before the draft. That probably had no bearing on the Wizards' decision to go with Avdija rather than someone who can help more quickly at a more pressing area of need. That was more a matter of a player they had rated highly unexpectedly falling to them.

But the Wall situation definitely could have changed the calculus for free agency. All of a sudden, what the Wizards were planning years for got blown up by the reality they now have a high-profile, highly-paid disgruntled player.

There was already uncertainty involving Wall and what he would bring to the table following his Achilles surgery. Now there is zero assurance in the road ahead, not knowing whether he will be here or not.

So, if that forced general manager Tommy Sheppard to change course, that would definitely make sense. Perhaps the plan was to make more substantial moves with Wall in mind, but once the train veered off the tracks it became more important to protect the future.

The end result to this point appears to be a future that is brighter than the present. They haven't done much to address their defense and, until they do something about it, will only have so high of a ceiling in the Eastern Conference. They will have Beal back, but barring more moves his supporting cast could closely resemble what he had last season. A big step forward would have to come from their young players continuing to ascend.

The rest will depend on what happens with Wall. If they trade him to the Rockets and get back Russell Westbrook, as the original rumor suggested, that would certainly change some things. But it remains to be seen what they can get back given their point of leverage.

Everything hinges on Wall and Sheppard's plan is likely evolving because of that. It should probably be kept in mind when evaluting what they have done so far.