The Washington Wizards had a shot headed into the fourth quarter of Game 7 in Boston, but the Celtics pulled away for a 115-105 win to send John Wall & Co. home for the rest of the postseason.
Monday night's game was a microcosm of Washington's successes and struggles. The starters played well, the bench was nowhere to be found, and in the end, the closing lineup ran out of gas because they had to carry the load far too often.
With no first-round pick and little salary cap space, the Wizards aren't going to make any big splashes this summer, but here are three steps they can take to avoid another playoff heartbreak in the future.
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Re-sign Otto Porter
There's an argument to be made for letting Porter go if he's offered a max deal in restricted free agency. You're risking quite a bit of your cap space (let alone the actual dollars) for a player whose ceiling still isn't quite clear — and a guy who didn't score in the Wizards' biggest game of the season.
But forget all that. Porter's one of the best, young, two-way wings in the NBA and a vital part of Washington's future. The Wizards should hope another team offers him less than the max; if necessary, though, you bite the bullet and match that offer sheet for the restricted free agent.
The Wizards are basically capped out for the next couple years, after all. They're not going to find a player of Porter's caliber with the bi-annual or mid-level exceptions — although they certainly can and should use those slots to fill out a roster that's looking awfully thin for 2017-18.
We've mentioned him a few times for a few different teams, but P.J. Tucker would be a great fit in Washington, as might Thabo Sefolosha. But those are players you should try to add to the roster, not guys who can replace Porter in free agency.
Short of a full rebuild, Porter has to be back next season.
Brad MillsBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Make everyone not named Wall, Beal or Porter available in trade and restructure around your "Medium Three"
The Wizards have to face a harsh truth: to move forward, they'll need to take several steps back.
The Ian Mahinmi deal severely limits Washington's success with this current roster. While Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris are fine pieces who can help you to a conference finals, they have holes in their games — holes you need to patch with reserves who can better defend the pick-and-roll and move the ball within an offensive system, respectively.
The smart move for the Wizards is to try to trade either big (or both) for a young player or draft pick along with an expiring deal, then replace them in the draft or by taking a chance on someone in the D-League.
If you can't find the right move, that's fine. Again, both players make solid contributions, and this team will continue to make the playoffs if they run it back over the next couple of seasons.
But if Washington has title aspirations, a smart, partial rebuild is the answer.
Unfortunately, that gets us to the Wizards' biggest problem ...
Pray for a huge change in the front office
Does Ted Leonsis want to win championships, or does he want stars who entertain for 82 games a year?
That question impacts the Wizards and Capitals, and the answer is probably the same for both.
Being content with playoff contention but coming up just short is acceptable. There's a certain nobility to knowing your team will have some modicum of success year-in and year-out.
Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld has shown he can put together that kind of team — he just can't build anything approaching a title contender, as that ridiculous Mahinmi contract proves.
For the Wizards to take the next step, they need a new general manager and a new mindset from ownership. Otherwise, this team will spend John Wall's prime teasing the fans on an annual basis.