The Washington Wizards didn’t swing for the fences to start free agency but they certainly didn’t rest on their available cap room. The Wizards moved fast to acquire veterans Jared Dudley and Gary Neal after Paul Pierce announced earlier in the week that he would be joining the Los Angeles Clippers. The acquisitions of Neal and Dudley adds deep shooting and a pair of interchangeable pieces who could play multiple position in a pinch. Washington is pressed against the cap with veteran forward Nenê’s $13 million contract looming large on their books all the way until next summer. The Wizards are expected to chase blockbuster free agent Kevin Durant next off season so staying conservative is a must. But, they still have to improve their team and they made a step in the right direction.
Neal gives them a 6-foot-4 combo guard who can play off of Bradley Beal or John Wall at a moment’s notice and a player who isn’t afraid to take the big shot if needed. The Wizards signed Neal to a one-year deal, returning the Baltimore-born native to his old stomping grounds. Neal averaged over 11 points per game in the playoffs for Charlotte last season, proving to be a vital piece in the Hornets’ rotation. Washington needed a guard who could create his own offense off the bench, and it appears they found one at the start of the free agency period. Washington wants to play fast and furious next season and they may even be able to get away with some three guard rotations.
The addition of Dudley provides the team with a tough small forward who can knock it down from long range and even switch forward spots with his 6-foot-7 frame. Again, Washington is looking to push the limits of Wall and Beal’s legs, and being able to shift Dudley to the power forward slot should present a ton of problems for opposing defenses. Dudley is close to a 40 percent three-point shooter for his eight-year career, and his veteran presence will be a welcomed addition to the Washington locker room. Dudley’s arrival fortifies the small forward position which will be manned by Dudley, rookie Kelly Oubre and emerging third year forward Otto Porter. That rotation should ease concerns over the departure of Pierce and will give the team more athleticism within its starting lineup.
Washington may not be done with adjusting their roster as rumors have circulated that the team is hot in the pursuit of veteran forward David West. With dominoes falling across the league, the team may even be able to dangle Nenê into the trade pool as his expiring contract and aging skill set may be enough to entice a buyer. The Wizards didn’t explode out the gates to jumpstart free agency but they’ve made a pair of solid moves with some wiggle room left over that could allow the team to challenge for a deeper playoff run than the middle of the second round that the last two seasons have produced.