For the most part, the NBA world loves the mauvering pulled off by the Washington Wizards this offseason. Some pundits have them as the most intriguing team entering the 2013-14 campaign. The Wizards kept Marcin Gortat and added Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair to offset the losses off the Trevor's, Ariza and Booker.
Of course, other teams made moves. If you haven't heard, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed LeBron James, for example. One NBA writer listed teams 1-30 based on their offseason moves or more specifically, "who did the best at making their team better." Some were placed ahead of the Wizards. How many? Twelve.
David Aldridge from NBA.com ranked the Wizards 13th*. In addition to discussing the importance of Otto Porter contributing in his second NBA season. Aldridge provided the skinny on why he ranked the Wizards where he did.
(These rankings were posted before Thursday's news of the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins deal between the Cavaliers and Timberwolves)
Losing Ariza was a huge setback, especially considering he signed with the Rockets for just a little more than the Wizards were offering. Fortunately for Washington, Pierce was willing to play for the mid-level when potential deals with the Clippers fell through. He's certainly not the force he was a few years ago, but he showed during his one season with the Nets that he could still play important minutes, especially at power forward. Washington could only do that if Otto Porter (see above) flashes; otherwise, Pierce will have to have to try and guard the LeBrons and Carmelos of the Eastern Conference. But Pierce will give Washington someone to play through at the ends of games, and help the Wizards get into the penalty earlier. Re-signing Gortat was a no-brainer and well worth the $12 million annually. He was terrific at both ends last season and helped the locker room chemistry.
Seven of those teams are in the Eastern Conference teams, though that's the not the same as saying those teams will finish ahead of Washington (Hello, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks). The Cavs added LeBron. The Bulls get back Derrick Rose, signed Paul Gasol, drafted Doug McDermott and unloaded Carlos Boozer. The Hornets took on potential and madness known as Lance Stephenson The Raptors largely stayed status quo while the Celtics, Knicks and 76ers had nowhere to go but up.
Perhaps what's most interesting about Aldridge's take is the simple reminder that the Wizards are next focusing on the 2014-15 season and not the Summer of Kevin Durant, a.k.a 2016. That's not an angle Aldridge focused on, which is totally fair even though he's a local and clearly knows how all-consuming the KD2DC has become.
That said, long-term planning certainly played a part in the decision not meet Ariza's contract demands. There's the Durant angle, there is the Otto Porter-needs-reps angle. There is also the fear that Ariza once again played his best in a contract year.
As Aldridge pointed, there is also concern about how Washington will fare without one of the game's elite perimeter defenders. There is also a belief that the Wizards have made enough of the right moves to contend.
ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst on the BS Report talking about the Eastern Conference title race following Paul George's gruesome injury: "I thought it was a three-team race in the East with the Pacers, Cavs and Bulls. Now I think you bring the Wizards into the conversation and maybe depending on (Dwyane) Wade the Heat."