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A Very Productive Off-Season, My Perspective

July 8, 2016
The Washington Wizards have had a busy and successful off-season. It started in late April when we hired Scott Brooks, who had the best winning percentage of any coach available and who has a well-respected history of player development. It has continued into early July with NBA free agency.

Our primary goals heading into free agency were developed in deep collaboration with the front office, the coach and members of his new staff (this is important because we all should be in total alignment on the outcomes we would manage to this off-season) and were as follows:   

1) Secure Bradley Beal to a long-term contract (we have agreed in principle to enter into a contract). We believe drafting, developing and retaining core young players is paramount to success in the new NBA, and losing a star player in free agency can be a huge step backwards for a franchise. We are pleased that Bradley wanted to play in D.C. in front of our fantastic and growing fan base.

2) Add another star player to a max contract, if possible and prudent. We were entering unchartered territory as a league, and we worked diligently to develop multiple “what if” scenarios for constructing our team. If we were able to land a UFA max player, we still would have budget remaining to add to the team. If we couldn’t make such an addition, we would add team depth and create a balanced set of rotational options for the coaching staff. We anticipated the free-agency dominoes would fall quickly, and we knew we would have to move according to plan based on decisions players were making. We entered free agency with confidence in our current starting five, allowing us to use free agency to explore adding a starter or providing depth.  

3) Add a big man who is defensively oriented and a rim protector.

4) Add skill and scoring at the stretch-four position.

5) Acquire additional backcourt help.

6) Sign a player we previously had drafted and who was playing overseas (we have also agreed in principle to enter into a contract with Tomas Satoransky).

We also had non-specific goals of getting bigger and younger.

I had served as chairman of NBA Media Committee and saw firsthand the new dollars that were coming into the league. We wanted to use this increase in revenue to help us execute our overall strategy. Our returning starting five players, led by John Wall and Bradley Beal, is an extremely solid core, and we are pleased with the strides made by Kelly Oubre, Jr. We had put ourselves in a position where we had flexibility, but didn't have to make specific position-related moves or overpay new players.

We entered free agency prepared to execute the plan that we conceived, developed and refined during a three-year period and based on an anticipation of where the NBA salary cap might land. While we came close, we weren’t able to land an additional star player to our lineup. So we then moved swiftly and smartly to execute the remaining parts of our plan and add to our returning core. We were prepared and executed according to plan based on how we modeled multiple scenarios.

We now have 12 players under contract and maintain additional flexibility should the right situation arise, but we are confident in the team we have constructed. We bolstered our depth with quality players who have outstanding character. I am proud that we have been able to stay true to the principles we have previously articulated, more specifically:

Use the draft to build our team. This started with John and includes Bradley, Otto Porter and Kelly as well as Tomas, who has developed nicely into a versatile player during his stint overseas and whom  we have agreed in principle to enter into a contract. Tomas technically was a free agent, but we were able to sign him because we retained his rights from the draft. That gives us five home-drafted players this coming season.

Retain our key young players. We now have John and Bradley, both players we drafted, secured for the long term. Working collaboratively with Bradley, his family and his agent, we had a drama-free negotiation that was based on trust and loyalty. I am pleased to say we had the same type of negotiation with John, and now both players are committed to our franchise and our fan base. We now have two well-deserving max players on our team.

Add to the team as needed via trades. We have executed extremely well in this regard, adding the starting frontcourt tandem of Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. With Markieff, we felt that we used a sound strategy to take a proven starting power forward who is under contract rather than select a player with the 13th pick. We also used this tactic to add Trey Burke, a very good young guard who was a first-round pick, a member of the All-Rookie team and who will bolster our backcourt. All three players were acquired in exchange for draft picks and helped us mold a strong, balanced roster.  

Use free agency to add talent and provide depth. We signed   Ian Mahinmi, who was a starter on a very good Indiana team last season, and he will provide defense, rebounding and rim protection. We also signed Andrew Nicholson, a former first-round pick who gives us a budding young inside-outside threat at the four position, and Jason Smith, whose shooting and toughness will add to our frontcourt depth.  We also have agreed in principle to enter into a contract with Marcus Thornton, who is a proven scorer at the two-guard spot and showed last season that he can provide instant offense off the bench.

Our team construction includes five guards (two point guards, two shooting guards and one who can play both positions), five big men (two centers, two big forwards and one who can play either position) and two small forwards. We also have available cap space to fill in as needed.

We are looking forward to participating in summer league and continuing the process of improving our team. We always are exploring ways to make our team better, improving and developing those on our roster and looking outside our organization, too. We will use the rest of the summer to be selective with our final roster spots and focus on player health and development

Our busy off-season continues, and Coach Brooks and his new staff are looking forward to working with our players and preparing the Wizards for an improved and exciting 2016-17 season.

Our goals continue to be to build through the draft, add players through smart trades and use free agency to fill needs as well as retaining our key players and not losing them via free agency.  

The NBA landscape changed dramatically this off-season and just about every team added and lost players; we will have a new look going into next season. It is time for us to let the free-agent dust settle and get back to business. I’m pleased and relieved that we now are allowed to communicate our thought process to our fans as the NBA moratorium on communicating around free agency has been formally lifted. It was quite frustrating to see so many rumors and pixels being generated during the last 10 days and not being allowed to speak directly to our great fan base.

We want to continue to develop a team that will qualify for the playoffs, make deep playoff runs and eventually compete for a championship and get a ring for our community - that is our goal. We have a strong core, we are younger and bigger and we will continue to develop our young players with even more vigor. We have tools at our disposal to continue to grow, and we are committed as a big-market team to making investments to continue to improve.

It all starts with winning. We have our mandate. Let us get back to work.  Thank you so very much to our Wizards fans for being loyal, loud and passionate.


July 9, 2016