NBA Rumors: Complete Roster Overhaul Possible for Washington Wizards

Mar 18, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma (33) looks on against the Sacramento Kings during the second half at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards are officially in a transition phase. Washington recently hired former Los Angeles Clippers general manager Michael Winger as team president of Monumental Basketball. Winger has been tasked with reshuffling the way that the Wizards operate. Specifically, he will be tasked with crafting an identity and setting a fresh direction for the team, including hiring a general manager-type figure to work under him and focus on formulating the roster, per Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. Wallace said that Winger has carte blanche with the registration. It is believed that owner Ted Leonis is not opposed to a complete roster overhaul.

NBA Rumors: Washington Wizards Seeking New Identity and Direction, Complete Roster Overhaul Possible

“Seldom, I think, in pro sports do those opportunities come along where almost all of your boxes, if not all of your boxes, are checked,” Winger told the Los Angeles Times. “And this was, I think the rare and supremely fortunate opportunity for somebody like me to check all the boxes: ownership, market, fan base, already a talented team.”

Washington finished with a 35-47 record this past season, marking the fifth straight year that the Wizards won fewer than 35 games. The Wizards are 70-84 in two seasons under head coach Wes Unseld Jr., who is expected to be safe. Unseld is reportedly a favorite of Leonsis and is well-regarded within the Wizards.

Washington was not very efficient offensively. The Wizards, ranked 22nd in offensive rating, shot the ball relatively well all season long, finishing eighth in field goal percentage. But the Wiz were just 21st in 3-point makes, 18th in 3-point percentage, 22nd in free throw attempts, and 15th in free throw percentages. Offensive rebounding, getting out on the fastbreak, and turnovers were also problematic.

Defensively, Washington wasn’t awful. But the Wizards finished 21st in defensive rating as they struggled to defend the 3-point line and didn’t force turnovers. They were also below average in allowing second-chance points and transition defense.

Winger’s First Job To Run Wizards’ Draft

Before Winger hires a general manager and decides whether to trade Washington’s stars, his first job will be to run the team’s draft room on June 22. The Wizards hold the eighth, 42nd, and 57th picks.

Washington doesn’t have a lot of talent, which isn’t a huge stretch to say due to their lack of success. The Wizards’ most talented players are Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma.

So, Winger’s job is theoretically easy. Select the most talented player available.

Washington hasn’t had much success in the draft over the past decade. Johnny Davis, the No. 1o overall pick last year, was a near disaster though he did demonstrate some scoring ability at the end of the season — scoring in double-figures in seven of eight, including the last six. Davis poured in a season-high 20 points on April 4 versus Milwaukee and then tied the mark on April 5 against Atlanta. So, the jury is still out.

Corey Kispert, the Wizards’ first-rounder in 2021, showed improvement this past season as he was a part-time starter. At worst, Kispert is a designated shooter as he is nearly a career 40% shooter from downtown. This could be a make-or-break year for Deni Avidja, the No. 9 overall selection in 2019, as he hasn’t been able to take over the starting small forward spot full-time. Avidja has shown improvement in the last two years, but he is too inconsistent offensively.

Rui Hachimura is like the other three players, he has shown the ability to put the ball in the basket, but consistency is an issue. Now, he will likely get a big payday from the Los Angeles Lakers as a restricted free agent due to his postseason productivity.

Who To Take At No. 8?

Otto Porter Jr. (2013) and Beal (2012) are the only Wizards draft picks in the past 10 years who could be considered great first-round picks. Winger can change this by selecting the right player with the eighth pick.

Washington has several options at No. 8. The Wizards have been linked to Jarace Walker, Taylor Henricks, Cam Whitmore, Ausur Thompson, and Antony Black.

So, which direction will Washington go?

Unseld Jr. told Josh Robbins of The Athletic that the Wizards “would benefit from drafting a player with size, athleticism, the ability to create his own shot, the ability to create shots for others and can defend multiple positions.”

Walker checks three of the five boxes that Unseld mentioned. While Walker does need to improve his perimeter shooting, the 19-year-old has the raw skills to become a versatile playmaker and scorer. He has a 7-foot-2.5-inch wingspan and a 38-inch vertical.

Thompson is a 6-6 wing who can do a little bit of everything, although he does need to improve his perimeter stroke. He is quick and athletic, with the ability to create separation.

Whitmore is a strong and explosive athlete with shot-making ability. The 6-7 18-year-old forward, who recorded a 40.5-inch verticle leap at the NBA Draft combine, has two-way potential.

Black, who recorded a 39-inch vertical jump at the Combine, is a selfless playmaker with excellent court vision and feel for the game. The 6-7 combo guard also is a versatile defender though he does need to improve his perimeter shooting.

Hendricks is a long and athletic forward who can impact both ends of the floor. He can also really shoot it from the perimeter.

Potential Second-Round Picks for the Washington Wizards

Second-round draft choices are harder to pick since it is no guarantee who will be available when a team picks. Washington’s two second-round choices are No. 42 and No. 57.

Seth Lundy may have piqued the Wizards’ interest enough with his performance at the NBA Combine that they will use one of those late-round selections on him. The 6-6 forward, known as an electric – -yet inconsistent- scorer at Penn State, showed off his shooting ability in the second scrimmage at the NBA Combine by dropping 18 points in the second scrimmage in Chicago. He was 8 of 11 from deep across the two scrimmages.

Lundy had his most consistent season in State College last year, averaging 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds. He also connected on a career-best 2.6 treys at a 40% clip. He scored in double-figures in 32 of 36 appearances and posted three double-doubles.

Jordan Walsh, Ricky Council IV, Adama Sonogo, Jordan Miller, Isaiah Wong, and Drew Timme could also be options for the Wizards.

What To Do With Bradley Beal?

Washington has 13 players under contract. However, Kuzma and Porzingis have player options, which both are expected to exercise. Meanwhile, Jordan Goodwin’s¬†$1.9 million contract is partially guaranteed.

Washington could have as much as $28 million in cap space available. The Wizards also have a $12.2 million non-taxpayer exemption and a $4.4 bi-annual exception. Additionally, they have a $6.2 million trade exception at their disposal.

Saying all this, Winger’s most pressing off-season decision besides the draft is what to do with Beal. The 30-year-old has been a bit of an enigma the past few years for the Wizards. He is still a productive player and efficient scorer. But turnovers and health care issues. The veteran shooting guard has appeared in 90 games in the past two years and has played in more than 60 contests in the last four years. Beal will receive $46.7 million in salary this year, with over $207 million left on his deal.

“His former coaches, his former teammates,” Winger said. “They all have extraordinarily high regard for him, and he is unequivocally a superstar. The hardest thing to do in the NBA is acquire a superstar talent, and it’s even harder to acquire superstar talent with his level of character. And so, I think it’s an extremely, extremely fortunate starting point. So to me, that’s really exciting to have somebody like Brad on the team.”

It will be tough to trade Beal and get any value in return due to his contract and injury history. Beal has a no-trade clause, so he can dictate where he goes to a certain degree. But if Winger ultimately decides to rebuild, it is unlikely that Beal would want to stick around.

Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis

Kuzma and Porzingis will be unrestricted free agents if they opt out as expected.

According to NBC Sports Washington, Kuzma plans on “going through the process.” But the Wizards have said they will push to keep the 27-year-old. Kuzma, who is coming off a career year, has indicated a willingness to return.

“It’s 100 percent an option… I’ve had a great time here. I’ve developed my game significantly here and there’s good people here. I’d be a fool to say it’s not an option for me.”

“I’ve grown tremendously these past two years and Wes [Unseld Jr.], Tommy [Sheppard] and Ted [Leonsis], they all gave me this platform to do this and even be in this situation. I definitely see it here because they do support me.”

“I’m just trying to be myself. I’m trying to get better every year. It’s not about money, I’m going to get paid regardless anywhere [I go] and here, too. It’s about can I come into work every day and be the best version of myself, can I help lead guys, can I make other players better, can I light up rooms. All those things matter when you’re trying to be successful,”

Porzingis is coming off one of his finer seasons. The 27-year-old center compiled 23.2 points, 8.4 caroms, and 2.7 assists while compiling a slash line of .498/.385/.851. He was also the most efficient of his career and posted 20 double-doubles, the third most of his career.

Porzingis and Washington have discussed a possible extension; according to reports, that is part of why he will opt out. The following was from Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype over five months ago.

“Two NBA executives who spoke with HoopsHype believe Porzingis could opt out of his $36 million player option and enter free agency with the potential to secure a new long-term contract from Washington or another team along the lines of three years, $90 million or four years, $120 million given his current health and play this season.”

It is possible that Washington could move Porzingis in a sign-and-deal. The New York Knicks have been linked to a potential destination for him.