WASHINGTON — With 12 players either under contract or having agreed to terms, the Wizards have mostly filled out their roster.
The preliminary depth chart is projected to be:
Point Guard: John Wall, Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky (Satoransky could also be the backup shooting guard)
Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal, Marcus Thornton
Small Forward: Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre
Power Forward: Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson
Center: Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith
Former Villanova center Daniel Ochefu also received a three-year deal.
But with just $50,000 guaranteed in the deal, and three other centers already on the roster, it’s far from a sure thing that Ochefu will actually make the roster. There is a chance the signing could mean Marcin Gortat is available for a trade, but at 32 years old on a contract of more than $12 million per year, it’s unclear what kind of return he would command.
With the primary goal for the Wizards being to add another star to complement John Wall and Bradley Beal having not been accomplished, many have labeled Washington’s offseason as a failure thus far. Top target Kevin Durant refused to even take a meeting with the Wizards, Nic Batum re-signed with the Charlotte Hornets and Al Horford almost picked the Wizards, but then picked the Boston Celtics.
However, Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis considers the team’s offseason to be a rousing success thus far. The responses to the owner’s tweet are less than positive.
The free-agent signings of Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith have received mixed reviews, but only the Smith signing has drawn overwhelmingly negative reviews. The additions of Trey Burke via trade and Tomas Satoransky, whose rights the Wizards owned from the 2012 draft, have generally been praised, and the consensus is Washington has upgraded its bench from a year ago.
Mahinmi was a starter for the Indiana Pacers last season, and he’ll be an upgrade over the true backup centers Washington used last season: DeJuan Blair, Ryan Hollins and J.J. Hickson.
Nene fit better as a power forward, as he was a below-average rebounder for a big man and preferred to shoot midrange jumpers, and he was injured for much of the time he was in Washington. Nicholson could prove to be an upgrade over Nene simply by virtue of remaining on the court. Kris Humphries and Drew Gooden didn’t provide much last season, and neither fit well in the flow of the offense, so having two potentially high-end big men off the bench in Nicholson and Mahinmi could provide a significant boost.
The Wizards struggled to create offense with Wall on the bench last year, which is where Burke and Satoransky could come in handy. Both players are comfortable with the ball in their hands, and each player has a respectable jumper. Ramon Sessions excelled at driving to the basket and drawing fouls, a trait the Wizards will miss, but he was an unreliable shooter and the offense often stalled when he took over for Wall. The possibility of that happening even with two ball-handling guards off the bench is still very real, but Satoransky at least figures to be a better offensive fill-in than last year’s combo guard-wing, Garrett Temple, off the bench.
Marcus Thornton is a one-dimensional player, a scorer, but there’s no harm in having a sparkplug like him, as long as he isn’t asked to carry too much of the load. He reportedly signed for the veteran’s minimum at one year, $1.3 million, and is a low-risk addition.
The bench is stronger in many areas than a year ago, but it’s also weaker in certain aspects, primarily on the wing; the only true wings on the roster are Beal, Thornton, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre. Beal’s health is a perpetual question mark, Thornton is a defensive liability and Oubre has little experience. At least on paper, the wing depth entering last season was much stronger for Washington, with Beal, Porter, Oubre, Temple, Gary Neal, Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley all capable of playing on the perimeter.
Danny Rouhier, co-host of Grant and Danny on 106.7 The Fan, ranked the five new additions — based on both skill and contract value — in the following order:
1. Trey Burke
“Burke I like,” Rouhier says. “Change of scenery candidate, fell out of favor with a new coaching staff, was a top-10 pick. You give up a distant future second-rounder. Maybe he can play, if he can’t, it didn’t cost you that much, and he’s still on his rookie deal.”
2. Andrew Nicholson
“I like the idea of Nicholson, maybe he blossoms into a player, maybe we’ve got a gem there. Otherwise, depth, bench, whatever. I like he’s kind of in that mold of stretch-4, a poor man’s Markieff Morris. That’s fine.
3. Ian Mahinmi
“Mahinmi’s a good defensive center, a physical presence, maybe plays more at the end of games. Maybe it’s leverage or an ability to either motivate Gortat or trade Gortat. You’ve got assets there, which I like. I like Mahinmi fine, but the contract’s an awful lot to deal with.”
4. Tomas Satoransky
“Satoransky — I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ll believe that it’s real, that he’s any good, when I see NBA production, not weird YouTube videos of a nine-and-four Euro.”
5. Jason Smith
“I don’t get the Jason Smith signing.”
Smith, is a better shooter than the other two centers on the roster, but he otherwise offers little that Mahinmi or Gortat don’t. He is the only real head-scratcher of the moves Washington has made this summer. A fifth big man isn’t a bad thing to have, but the Wizards used the majority of their remaining cap space to sign him to a three-year, $16 million deal, a bit high for a third-string player, especially with the wing depth being as short as it is.
Satorasnky, at just $9 million over three years, and Burke, who was acquired for the cost of just a 2021 second-round pick and is due just $3.3 million this season, appear to be the best bargains. If they can keep the offense running smoothly while Wall rests, the Wizards will have gotten their money’s worth.
Nicholson is a high-upside player, but he hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself. He could end up being the best deal the Wizards made this summer, or he could end up being a mediocre backup power forward. Either way, at just four years and $26 million, Nicholson was a safe pickup.
These rankings could look very different in 10 months’ time; a year ago, Gary Neal and Alan Anderson seemed like smart, useful pickups. For now, Washington spent all of its cap space redoing its bench, and the starting five that led the Wizards to a 41-41 record and an early end to the season returns.