The Washington Wizards are in a transition to youth mode with the additions of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter these last three years. I believe that they have the potential to compete for one of the final playoff spots next year if the key players can stay healthy. The Wizards also have several decisions to make regarding those players from last season that are headed into free agency. A couple of these decisions seem like no brainers but there are a few that come with challenges. My faith in Ernie Grunfeld has never been very high but these decisions will be important on where the team stands next year. The Wizards have one restricted and five unrestricted free agents going into the off-season. I will cover these six players in the order of importance on their return to a Wizards uniform.
1) Martell Webster (Unrestricted):
Martell Webster came into this season with several question marks hanging over him. Would he be able to find the basket? Would he be able to stay healthy and play significant minutes? He answered all of these questions with a resounding yes, averaging 11.4 ppg while playing almost 29 minutes a game over 76 games this season. I consider Webster to be the Wizards top priority in free agency. He is currently the starting small forward for this team barring a better free agent signing. He and Otto Porter will have to find a good balance for time on the court next year but that is a good challenge to have if you are Randy Wittman. His presence should allow Porter to come off the bench in a sixth man role.
UPDATE: The Wizards have reportedly signed Webster to a four year deal worth $21.99 million. This is a good sign that they were able to get this deal done.
2) A.J. Price (Unrestricted):
Price is currently the primary backup to both guard spots on the court and I was torn on who was more important for the Wizards to bring back between him and Webster. The deciding factor for me was that he probably will come with a much higher price tag (~$3-$4 million range) based on what he was able to do this year and how few solid ball handling backup guards are available this year. He was a critical piece of this team while dealing with the injuries to John Wall and Bradley Beal this season.
UPDATE: The Wizards have reached agreement with Eric Maynor on a multi-year deal, likely signaling the end of Price’s time in Washington. This is a solid signing that should provide the Wizards with a stable backup to John Wall for the next few years.
3) Garrett Temple (Restricted):
Garrett Temple has bounced around the league for several years and the Wizards decision to call him up from the D-League with the injury to Beal was surprisingly successful and with the relatively lower price point of his contract compared to Price at $1.1 million he offers a solid ball handling backup guard that contributes just enough scoring and just enough assists to make bringing him back important and a priority if they are unable to reach an agreement with Price.
UPDATE: The Wizards have reached agreement with Temple on a one year contract. This will give the team an opportunity to evaluate his potential while not committing long term to Temple. It appears to be a win-win for both parties as the Wizards needed the guard depth and Temple has a chance to make a case for a long term contract.
4) Cartier Martin (Unrestricted):
Martin came into this season knowing that he needed to deliver to lock himself into a place on this team, the only problem with that was he couldn’t stay healthy with a balky knee injury and when the opportunity arose to play a major roll due to injury to other teammates, he was sitting right beside them hurt. He posted numbers that while acceptable as a reserve player, might be difficult for him to be on the roster with the addition of Otto Porter. I do not think that Martin will return
5) Jason Collins (Unrestricted):
Collins really wasn’t a factor last season after the trade that brought him over from the Boston Celtics. His numbers don’t leave much thought to bringing him back although with his size and skill level it is likely he will catch on somewhere.
6) Leandro Barbosa (Unrestricted):
Barbosa also came over in the trade with the Celtics but never played a game for the Wizards so I would think that its highly doubtful that he will be retained.
Let’s hope that Wizards are able to bring back Webster and Price, make a qualifying offer to Temple and part ways with the other three. Either way it will be an interesting offseason as we get closer to having to make a decision on John Wall staying here in Washington.