A rollercoaster season was perfectly summed up by the Game 6 Paul Pierce buzzer beater that was 0.1 seconds too late. It was exciting, it was hard to believe, but ultimately we fell short.
Still, the Wizards have a lot to be proud of: John Wall led his team despite playing with five fractures in his left hand and wrist. Bradley Beal bounced back from an injury-filled first half of the season to show his scoring prowess and potential to be an all-star shooting guard. Otto Porter showed flashes of brilliance with his blend of athleticism, hustle and above average jump shot (do we have a new/young Trevor Ariza?!). Paul Pierce hit more last second shots in one playoff series than most players do their whole career.
However, the second half of the season and the Eastern Conference Semifinals showed where Washington needs improvements to win the East and put up a fight against elite Western Conference teams. The following are the main upgrades I believe would continue the Wizards’ rapid climb atop the East.
Upgrades in Bench, Youth
The main takeaway I had from playing the Hawks is we lack an athletic big man. While I have nothing but love for our starting frontcourt, Nene is starting to show his age after a decade+ in the league and a few lower body injuries. While Gortat looked clueless most of the Eastern Semifinals (and is a little on the inconsistent side in general), he is still a solid center who can block shots and grab rebounds. But when Nene was resting and the Wizards shifted Pierce to the 4 spot, Gortat was absolutely man-handled by Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
With Nene’s contract running out and Paul Pierce retiring, there will be a lot of money available when these two leave after the 2015-2016 season. I think it would be incredibly beneficial to sign a young, athletic power forward such as Thaddeus Young or Tristan Thompson, who could run the break with Wall and soon become a valuable starter for Washington. There are plenty of solid power forwards in free agency this year that could really elevate the Wizkids bench: Brandon Bass, Ed Davis, Thomas Robinson, Tyler Hansbrough.
At this point, I’m officially off the Kevin Durant bandwagon in favor of adding valuable pieces around our young core group. Which brings me to my next point…
Resign Bradley Beal Sooner Rather Than Later
Despite a couple brief stints on injured reserve, Bradley Beal has proven to be a dynamic scorer and an exceptional partner in crime for John Wall. Beal is a focused and hard-working player who is easy to like and any NBA organization would love to have him. With that said, it is paramount that Washington resign Beal to a fair deal when he becomes a free agent in the near future. Beal is eligible for an extension this summer, and the Wizards should have locking him up high on their list, whether that means breaking the bank for a max-extension or not.
Drawing comparisons to a young Ray Allen, Beal has shown that he can score inside and outside, in addition to providing speedy and aggressive defense. Wall and Beal have become a tornado of a backcourt, providing athleticism and skill on both sides of the ball. I truly believe Washington has the second best backcourt after Golden State and I hope to watch these two paired together for another decade. If this means forgoing the pursuit of Durant for keeping Beal and Porter and signing a solid scorer to come off the bench, then cheers.
The 2015 draft has an outstanding amount of potential. Even though the Wizards will be making their pick at 19th overall, there will still be some excellent players available, such as Kentucky’s Trey Lyles, Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Virginia’s Justin Anderson.
Ideally, Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell will fall to when the Wizards are on the clock. That kind of size and athleticism would provide the spark needed in the Wizards frontcourt and would fit nicely with the upbeat run-and-gun style the Wizards have identified with. Harrell also wouldn’t have long to wait for a starting spot to open up.
Picture this for the 2016-2017 season: Wall, Beal, Porter and Harrell running the floor with Gortat as the anchor down low, along with some key role players coming off the bench.