The 2016 NBA Free Agency period is here and the Washington Wizards figure to be one of the most active teams in free agency this year due to the fact that they cleared their roster to chase their Kevin Durant pipe dream (#KD2DC). It has become apparently clear that Kevin Durant will not be coming home to win one for the District which leaves the Wizards with plenty of cap room to rebuild their threadbare roster and establish a new team culture under new head coach Scott Brooks.
In order to do so the Wizards will need to target multiple players at every position to fill out their roster. Therefore, I will be releasing articles the next five days chronicling the top 5 free agents the Wizards should target at each position; point guards June 27th, shooting guards June 28th, small forwards June 29th, power forwards June 30th, and centers July 1st.
The Wizards depth at the center position is thin with Marcin Gortat being the only center currently under contract for the upcoming season. Gortat has been a steady presence in the Wizards lineup ever since he joined the team before the 2013-14 season and figures to be the starting center for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, Gortat isn’t getting any younger (he will be 33 by mid next season) so it would be prudent for the Wizards to add young depth to set them up at the center position for the future. Fortunately, the Wizards have several options on the free agent market that can be solid backups now and potential starters in the future.
1. Meyers Leonard – RFA – 7’1″ – 24 years old – 11.36 PER
If the Wizards are looking for a young big man with upside then Meyers Leonard should be one of their top priorities this offseason. Leonard has had a disappointing NBA career thus far as he has been unable to translate his massive potential into consistent production, partly due to him missing significant time due to recurring injuries. Leonard’s skill set is rare for a player his size; he is athletic, lengthy, can score inside and out, and has potential to grow as a shot blocker and a rebounder. This diverse skill set allows him to play both power forward and center, although he could stand to add some weight to his frame to better match up against opposing centers. Signing Leonard would supply the Wizards with a big man that complements Gortat who would produce scoring off the bench, provide lineup versatility, and offer significant upside for the future.
2. Miles Plumlee – RFA – 6’11” – 27 years old – 17.43 PER
Miles Plumlee is a name that the Wizards organization is familiar with as they reportedly had interest in acquiring him last season at the trade deadline. Though nothing ever came of it, the Wizards should still consider bringing the 27 year old center into the fold. Plumlee is coming off an effective season in which he averaged 13.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. He has the ideal skill set for a backup big; he is a good defender, great rebounder, and can score effectively without needing many touches. Plumlee is a player who can contribute in all aspects of the game and his well rounded game would be a great addition to the Wizards second unit.
3. Dewayne Dedmon – UFA – 7’0″ – 26 years old – 17.08 PER
Athletic, defensive minded big men are all the rage these days with some of the best centers in the NBA today fitting this description (i.e. Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan). Dwayne Dedmon is another player that fits this mold, however, the Wizards would be able to get him for cheap. He is far from a finished product, with career averages of 3.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game, but he has room to grow in several aspects of the game. With increased minutes, Dedmon could grow his game and become a valuable role player for the Wizards. His ability to play above the rim and protect the paint would add a new dimension to a Wizards team that lacks athleticism and rim protection.
4. Festus Ezeli – RFA – 6’11” – 26 years old – 17.77 PER
Festus Ezeli is likely to be one of the most expensive free agent centers on the market as he is expected to receive a salary close to $17 million annually. That seems like a steep price to pay for a player at a position with an established starter, however, Ezeli is exactly what the Wizards need at the center position. Ezeli is a well rounded player who can score, rebound, and protect the rim, evidenced by his averages of 15.0 points, 12.o rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. The Wizards should take a look at Ezeli because he is a relatively young, high ceiling, well rounded player who would add another player to the Wizards young core, setting them up for years to come.
5. Ian Mahinmi – UFA – 6’11” – 29 years old – 16.66 PER
Ian Mahinmi is looking to cash in on a breakout season in which he started 71 games for the Indiana Pacers, averaging 9.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Mahinmi is a player that flew under the radar last season and free agency will seemingly be no different as he is sure to be overlooked with teams chasing big names such as Festus Ezeli, Dwight Howard, and Hassan Whiteside. The Wizards should take advantage of this by looking at Mahinmi early, the French big man could contribute energy, rebounding, and defense to a Wizards bench that need all of the above.
The position on the Wizards roster that needs the most attention for the future is the center position as Gortat is the only center under contract and he will be 32 at the start of next season. This highlights the need for the Wizards to get younger at the position and find a long term solution that adds to their young core. The Wizards should look to target two types of players: well rounded and developmental. Plumlee and Mahinmi are well rounded options who provide solid play but limited upside, Leonard and Dedmon are developmental options who offer upside for the future, and Ezeli falls somewhere in between. The Wizards should look to add a combination of these players in a way that accomplishes these goals: add diversity to their rotation of bigs, provide depth at the position, and supply them with a long term option at the center position. If the Wizards can form a rotation that accomplishes these goals then they will set themselves up for success both now and in the future.