Wizards will try to retain top free agents and build on promising season

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards returned to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and only the second time since 1979, but face difficult decisions on two free-agent starters.

The Washington Wizards entered the 2013-14 season with a mandate to make the postseason for the first time since 2008. They signed franchise guard John Wall to a maximum contract, and it was time to end rebuilding and begin to win. They accomplished that despite an uneven regular season, riding Wall's All-Star performance and several other strong years from their veterans to 44 wins and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

From there, the Wizards surprised almost everyone by advancing to the brink of the conference finals. A five-game series win over the well-respected Bulls, led by a standout performance from 20-year-old off guard Bradley Beal, opened everyone's eyes. Washington then challenged Indiana in the second round, winning twice (including in a Game 5 blowout) and nearly winning two other times (Game 4, in which it blew a 19-point lead, and Game 6) before falling in 6.

This summer puts the Wizards in an interesting spot. Small forward Trevor Ariza and center Marcin Gortat, both critical parts of the team's success last year, are free agents. Washington lacks a draft pick after trading it to Phoenix for Gortat, and while the Wizards technically have cap space to sign a top free agent, they must say goodbye to Ariza and Gortat to even have a chance. General manager Ernie Grunfeld has an interesting decision on his hands.

The assets

Picks: No. 46
Free agents: Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker (RFA), Drew Gooden, Al Harrington, Kevin Seraphin (RFA), Chris Singleton, Garrett Temple
Cap space: $16.5 million

Depth chart

PG: John Wall -- Andre Miller -- Garrett Temple (UFA)

SG: Bradley Beal -- Martell Webster -- Glen Rice Jr.

SF: Trevor Ariza (UFA) -- Otto Porter -- Chris Singleton (UFA)

PF: Nene -- Trevor Booker (RFA) -- Al Harrington (UFA)

C: Marcin Gortat (UFA) -- Drew Gooden (UFA) -- Kevin Seraphin (RFA)

Team needs

The Wizards could use more shooting, particularly up front. Their wings -- Beal, Ariza and Martell Webster -- were proficient three-point marksmen, and Wall became competent as well, but they often play with two big men who cannot space the floor beyond mid-range jumpers. Al Harrington was signed to fill this void, but he couldn't stay healthy consistently. If Ariza leaves, the Wizards desperately need shooting, because he was one of the top perimeter shooters in the league last year.

They could also use more shot creators in general, particularly in the backcourt. Wall carried one of the heaviest loads in the league, and while the Wizards tried to develop Beal's floor game, it's still not quite there yet. A guard with the ability to generate instant offense off the bench would help lessen Beal's load; he played so often with the second unit last year just to give it enough punch.

The Wizards could also use a strong backup to Nene and Gortat up front, should the latter return. Trevor Booker did a decent job last year when Nene was injured, but he too is a free agent. Washington could really use a solid third big man to step in when Nene inevitably gets injured for some time.

Potential targets

The Wizards could use their mid-level exception to bring more help should they keep Ariza and Gortat, though they'll need to be careful not to hamper future cap flexibility. Toronto's Patrick Patterson is a former college teammate of Wall's and would be the shooting big man they'd desperately need. But Toronto is a fan of Patterson, and it may take more than the Wizards can offer to pry him away. Washington would also be smart to place a call to Jordan Hill or Channing Frye; the latter could certainly space the floor beautifully for Wall.

Should Ariza and Gortat walk, expect Greg Monroe to be a priority. Monroe has long been a Wizards favorite and would give Washington the third young building block to pair with Wall and Beal. But it'll take a lot to get Monroe away from Detroit, and the timing of his restricted free agency may cause the Wizards to lose a chance at signing Ariza or Gortat.

Should one of the two players leave, the Wizards will need to find a cheap replacement at their position. Cleveland's Spencer Hawes or New Orleans' Jason Smith could be affordable fill-ins for Gortat, while Cleveland's C.J. Miles or even Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha could provide a percentage of Ariza's production for half the price. Washington could also prioritize other needs if Ariza leaves and hand the position off to Webster and Porter.

The Wizards have only a second-round pick, but with many open roster spots, they could look for a big man ready to play right away. Florida's Patric Young is a potential option.

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