The Wizards' Sneaky Off-Season
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The Washington Wizards struggled towards the end of last season, just limping into the playoffs as the fifth seed with a respectable 46-36 record. The Wizard did catch fire once the postseason started, and did away quickly with the Toronto Raptors, sweeping them in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Wizards then fought hard against the number one seeded Atlanta Hawks, forcing them to six games before eventually losing. It also should be noted the Wizards did this without John Wall for most of the series.
After a successful season the Wizards headed into the off-season looking to build around their young players. They added more talent in the draft by selecting Kansas forward,Kelly Oubre. Kelly will help add more athleticism and depth to the wing.
The wing position became an off-season concern when forward Paul Pierce decided to opt-out of his contract and sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce came up huge for the Wizards during their playoff run, hitting multiple big shots and adding veteran experience to a relatively young team. With Pierce's departure, Otto Porter Jr. could be put in the starting rotation. Porter showed flashes of being a solid rotation player in the playoffs, after not playing that often or that well in the regular season.
After losing Pierce the Wizards were in danger of regressing, but quickly and quietly they replaced Pierce with three solid role players who add more depth to the roster.
They signed Alan Anderson to a one year, four million dollar deal, the shooting guard averaged over seven points and two rebounds for the Brooklyn Nets last year while shooting 34 percent from three. He also was productive in the Nets' first round playoff loss to the Hawks, averaging 11 points while shooting 61 percent from the field.
The Wizards signed guard Gary Neal as well, who adds to some of the postseason experience they lost with Pierce. Neal spent his first three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, and was part of the team that almost beat the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. Since then he has spent the last two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves. The frustration of losing led him to sign with the Wizards. He wanted to play for a team that “was actually playing for something, and had expectations.” (ESPN.COM) Neal averaged 10 points last season for both the Hornets and Timberwolves.
The Wizards also made moves via trade, acquiring Jared Dudley from the Milwaukee Bucks for a future second-round pick. The 30 year old veteran believes he will be a great fit with the Wizards. He can stretch the floor for them as a small/power forward, a nice luxury to have in today’s NBA, but for the most part he will be playing the wing and perhaps take over in place of Pierce if Porter continues to be inconsistent. The eight year forward averaged over seven points, three and a half rebounds per game, while shooting 38.5 percent from three.
The loss of Paul Pierce hurt the Wizards, and could have led to them having a poor off-season, but the front office responded nicely and has added more depth to the roster this season. The Wizards will be able to spread the floor better with their new acquisitions, and these players will see better shots with John Wall giving them great looks. The Wizards should be right back to where they were last year as one of the top teams in the East.