Since last summer, the Washington Wizards have locked up their young trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to expensive, but perhaps unavoidable extensions.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, left, center Marcin Gortat, from Poland, guard John Wall, and forward Otto Porter Jr. walk on the court after a timeout during the second half of an NBA basketball game. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Porter officially signed a restricted max offer a few weeks ago, while Wall agreed to his four-year, $170 million extension this past weekend. Wall, who has two years remaining on his current contract, will see his extension kick in during the 2019-2020 season, keeping him in the District until 2023. Over the next four seasons, Washington will pay close to $458 million in guaranteed salaries alone, mostly from the deals handed to the young trio. The return on that investment is what Wizards fans will be awaiting.

With recent news that Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, and rumors circulating that LeBron James could depart in 2018, the balance of power in the Eastern Conference could shift tremendously, positioning the Wizards to finally take the next step. Boston finished first in the East last season and made some critical additions over the summer, but a little self-improvement of their own could take Washington a long way. Porter and Beal still have room to improve and Wall is just scratching the surface on his prime.

Cleveland Cavaliers players LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. (AP Photo)

If the Cleveland empire falls, then it’s open season in the Eastern Conference. Despite the presence of Boston, the Wizards are right in line for first dibs on the crown. Milwaukee, Miami and even Philadelphia could improve significantly over the next few seasons, but the Wizards have arguably the best point guard in the conference, and possibly the best backcourt in the conference. Washington’s payroll isn’t indicative of their current success, but the Wizards are banking on improvement from their stars to justify their vision of Eastern Conference success.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO