Reporting David Elfin
Since the end of yet another ugly Wizards season in April, owner Ted Leonsis has re-upped general manager Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman, approved the former’s acquisition of power forward Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza for the expensive and underwhelming Rashard Lewis, and signed off on the choice of shooting guard Bradley Beal with the No. 3 pick in last month’s NBA draft.
If Beal unseats too-often off-target Jordan Crawford as point guard John Wall’s running mate and Ariza beats out last season’s musical chairs to start alongside Okafor and center Nene, Wittman will have his regulars.
But what should Grunfeld do in free agency to bolster the bench? Although Maurice Evans is a respected leader and vice president of the Players Association, neither he nor fellow free agents Morris Almond, Brian Cook, Cartier Martin or James Singleton are consequential in reviving the long-dormant Wizards.
So what about signing other teams’ available talent? That doesn’t appear likely as most of the top players have come off the market before it even officially opened today and without the Wizards making a run at any of them.
Point guard Deron Williams is staying with the Nets (even as the franchise moves from New Jersey to Brooklyn). Shooting guard Eric Gordon and center Roy Hibbert have already received mind-blowing offers as restricted free agents from the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively, and will either take them or receive the same contracts from their current employers, the New Orleans Hornets and the Indiana Pacers.
Ray Allen left Boston for the NBA champion Miami Heat, but fellow shooting guard Jason Terry is moving from the 2011 champion Dallas Mavericks to the Celtics to replace him. Jason Kidd is headed to the New York Knicks while fellow veteran playmaker Steve Nash left the Suns for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kidd would replace last winter’s Asian sensation, Jeremy Lin, who’s apparently going to Houston. Ryan Anderson is going from the Orlando Magic to New Orleans while fellow young forward Nicholas Batum will either stay put in Portland as a restricted free agent or join the Minnesota Timberwolves. Big men Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Kevin Garnett of the Celtics, both 36, will reportedly re-sign with their teams.
All of those moves leave only one available player among the top dozen or so free agents: center JaVale McGee, whom Washington traded to Denver four months ago. McGee and the Wizards aren’t missing each other and a reunion ain’t happening. The same goes for shooting guard Nick Young, whom the Wizards dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers and who has moved on to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who’s coming off two down seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, is probably the top young player available, but the Wizards want to give Beal and Wall, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, as much playing time together as possible. Mayo would not be a happy camper as a backup.
So as has been the case this month with their Verizon Center partners, the Capitals, free agency doesn’t figure to be very exciting for the Wizards. Which means that they might well report to training camp in September with Beal, Okafor and Ariza as the only additions to the team that finished last season on a six-game winning streak. Not that a bench of Crawford, Trevor Booker, Shelvin Mack, Kevin Serpahin, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely with one spot to be filled is much to get excited about, but as the Redskins have learned, overspending for someone else’s players usually ends up getting you nowhere.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin