Wizards Buck NBA Trend with Free Agency Moves

WASHINGTON — The Wizards entered the 2015-16 season with nine players on expiring contracts, meaning they knew they’d have to dramatically reshape their roster this summer.

As of Wednesday morning, they’ve re-signed restricted free agent Bradley Beal, added three unrestricted free agents — Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith — from other teams, traded yet another second-round pick away for point guard Trey Burke and brought point guard Tomas Satoransky over from Europe.

That brings the roster to 11 players.

Point Guard: John Wall, Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky
Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal
Small Forward: Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre
Power Forward: Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson
Center: Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith

Entering Tuesday, Washington had minimal cap space remaining, and the majority of it just went to the backup center’s backup. The team now has about $32 million committed to the center position for the 2016-17 season, which could end up being the most in the league by the time the season starts. Gortat is due $12 million this season and more than $26 million over the next two seasons, Mahinmi is due $15 million this season and $49 million over the next three seasons, and Smith is owed $16 million over the course of his three-year deal.

Each of the three centers are 29 or older and under contract for at least three more seasons. Gortat is 32 and will be 33 by the end of the coming season, Mahinmi is 29 and turns 30 in November, and Smith is 30 and will be 31 by the end of the season.

The Wizards also have Markieff Morris and Nicholson at the power forward position, meaning they already have five players who can only really play power forward or center.

Meanwhile, the Wizards have yet to add a single true shooting guard behind the oft-injured Beal, and they have just Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre at small forward. Porter and Oubre have yet to show much, but it’s possible the team has more confidence in the two of them than it has let on. New head coach Scott Brooks has a sterling reputation for developing young talent, which Randy Wittman was often criticized for being reluctant to do. Perhaps he is intrigued by the idea of developing Oubre and/or Porter as multidimensional wings.

While the rest of the league is trending toward an increased focus on versatile wing players and away from one-dimensional, unathletic big men, the Wizards are actively heading the opposite direction.

Both Morris and Nicholson have the ability to hit 3-pointers, but neither are known as 3-point shooters; Nicholson has made just 82 over four seasons at a .336 clip and Morris has made just 226 over five seasons at a .323 clip. Smith has made just 34 triples over his eight pro seasons, and Mahinmi and Gortat don’t shoot 3s.

John Wall is not a great outside shooter, and neither of his new backups are known for being sharpshooters. Burke is a volume shooter who has averaged 327 3-point attempts per season with a .329 shooting percentage. Satoransky, who finally agreed to a deal with the Wizards four years after they drafted him, went 55-for-141 from the international 3-point line last season, and it remains to be seen how good his outside shot will be in the NBA.

Beal is an excellent shooter and has one of the best-looking jumpers in the league, but he doesn’t do the team much good if he’s on the sideline injured. Porter has improved his outside shot each season — he went 4-for-21 (.190) from beyond the arc as a rookie, 35-for-104 (.337) the next season and 98-for-267 (.367) last year — and he might emerge as the team’s second-best shooter. Oubre had his moments, but he was just 25-for-79 (.316) from deep as a rookie.

Snider: Did the Wizards do Enough to Contend?

Washington has less than $2 million left in salary cap space, and it still needs to add four players to fill out the roster.

Of the 11 players on the roster, only two — Wall and Beal — made at least 100 3-pointers last year. Porter made 98 and Burke made 88. Oubre has the potential to make 100 3s, as does Satoransky. But that’s four players out of 11 that have ever made at least 98 3-pointers in an NBA season.

Perimeter shooting isn’t everything, of course, but it’s a more significant part of the game than it ever has been.

The Golden State Warriors made the most 3-pointers in the league last year, by far. The Cleveland Cavaliers made the second most. The Warriors and Cavaliers later met in the finals for the second time in a row. The top eight teams by total 3-pointers made all made the postseason, and seven of the top eight teams by 3-point percentage made the postseason. Ten of the top 11 by 3-point attempts made the playoffs, as well. The year before, the top eight teams in 3-pointers made all made the playoffs, as did the top 12 teams by 3-point percentage.

The league average for 3-point attempts in the 2012-13 season was 1,636 attempts. That number has increased in the years since as such: 1,766 attempts in 2013-14, 1,838 in 2014-15, and 1,975 this past season.

As a whole, the NBA is shooting more 3-pointers than ever before, and space-eating big men are being phased out. Washington briefly attempted to follow that trend a year ago, but the pace-and-space concept disappeared from the Wizards offense within the first half of the season.

In Nicholson and Morris, the Wizards have two players who somewhat fit the mold of a stretch-4 — that is, a power forward who can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting — but just as quickly as the stretch-4 swept the NBA, it was replaced by the playmaking 4. A playmaking 4 is essentially a stretch-4 who can also handle the ball and pass. Draymond Green is the prototypical playmaking 4, and Giannis Antetokounmpo could be considered another in that ilk.

Morris and Nicholson are not playmaking 4s, and neither of them is a strong enough 3-point shooter to really force defenses to pay attention to them behind the line. None of the three centers on the roster is a competent 3-point shooter. Add in a handful of backcourt players with questionable outside shots, and the Wizards look a lot like they did in 2014-15, when they were critically panned for running an antiquated offense.

The Wizards are more likely than not to add 3-point shooting with at least two of the final four players they sign. They needed additional ball-handlers last year, and they got them in Burke and Satoransky. They needed better frontcourt depth, and they got that in Nicholson, Mahinmi and Smith. Now, they need some players like the ones they signed last year — Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Gary Neal — players who can play multiple positions and knock down 3-pointers.

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