Wizards Take Different Approach to Free Agency This Time

WASHINGTON — A year ago, the Wizards went after big names such as Kevin Durant and Al Horford.

They, of course, missed on both of those players. Reacting to those misses, GM Ernie Grunfeld turned around and dished out a 4-year, $64 million deal to Ian Mahinmi and a 4-year, $26 million deal to Andrew Nicholson.

Mahinmi barely played in his first season in Washington due to injury while Nicholson was wholly unproductive and struggled to see minutes. Grunfeld was eventually forced to attach a first-round pick to a deal to get rid of Nicholson in exchange for Bojan Bogdanovic, who is now a restricted free agent that Washington will be hard-pressed to retain.

Largely due to that splurge and the max contract Bradley Beal was awarded, the Wizards are virtually out of cap space this offseason. Because of Grunfeld’s tendency to trade draft picks for players on expiring contracts — in this case Bogdanovic and Tim Frazier — the Wizards have a very narrow pool of young, cheap talent, basically consisting of Kelly Oubre, Chris McCullough, Tomas Satoransky (who, at 25, is not that young) and Daniel Ochefu.

So what were the Wizards to do this offseason? There were rumors of interest in a Paul George trade, though that never came to be, and there has been speculation that a Marcin Gortat trade could come at some point in order to clear some cap space, but there hasn’t been anything of substance on that front.

Instead, Washington has identified buy-low free agents and signed them to reasonable deals. Frazier came over in a trade and will be a free agent after the upcoming season, but he’ll cost just $2 million.

The Wizards signed wing Jodie Meeks to a 2-year, $7 million deal that looks good as long as Meeks can stay healthy. Four seasons ago with the Los Angeles Lakers, Meeks made 162 3-pointers on .401 shooting while averaging more than 15 points per game. However, he’s played in just 99 games in the three years since.

On Tuesday morning, Washington agreed to terms with forward Mike Scott, a five-year veteran from Virginia, on a one-year deal for less than $2 million. Scott is a capable 3-point shooter, having made at least 60 in each of the three seasons prior to 2016-17, but Wizards fans will probably know him best for his thunderous dunks — often on Wizards.

That trio should help shore up what was a disastrous bench for the Wizards a year ago, and it’s difficult to find issue with the moves Washington has made so far. There is little room to operate, financially speaking, and barring a trade to clear up space, the Wizards won’t have much room to work with next year, either.

And all of this is without signing Otto Porter, who is expected to get a max contract from Washington, or extending John Wall, who is contemplating the “supermax” deal the Wizards put on the table.

Considering the circumstances, Washington certainly could have done much worse for itself in free agency. Even if all goes wrong, the Wizards won’t be hampered by any of these contracts for the long term, so it’s been a fairly risk-free offseason so far.

But they’re also bargain bin guys who, if they exceed expectations this season, will likely be due a considerable pay raise, and will therefore likely leave Washington. That would leave the Wizards in the same place they are now, which is stuck trying to cobble together pieces for a bench.

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