As a fan of the Washington Wizards, the peak moment for me as a fan has been the 2017 playoff run that ended with a loss to Boston. We may not have made the conference finals, but for once the Wizards overachieved. The Celtics were the number one seed in the east and they were supposed to handle the Wizards with ease on their way to face LeBron in the Eastern Conference Finals. Due to the sheer toughness and grit of all-stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, The Wizards were able to force the series to seven games where they eventually lost a close game-7 in Boston.
Since then, the front office has been making poor decision after poor decision until the entire thing came undone this year. A few years ago, Wall and Beal were still young enough to build around (ideally through the draft) to hopefully establish a winning culture for when LeBron finally made his exit from the eastern conference. Instead, management chose to trade countless draft picks for “quick-fix” players with expiring contracts who would go on to leave during the offseason. They also took on contracts and paid players that would put the franchise in a no-way-out situation.
With John Wall out for at least the next year, our chances of competing for the East are done for this season, if not the next as well. If there’s a silver lining to this sorry-ass situation that our front office has created, it’s that it created a breaking point. I believe that it’s still possible for things to work with Wall and Beal as the franchise centerpieces. The pair of them still have a chance to make a run at the eastern conference finals as Washington Wizards with the lone stipulation being that the front office commits to a thorough roster overhaul. The first big step was to trade Otto Porter, who I loved, but underperformed greatly and should never have been signed to a max contract. NOW is the time to trade for expiring contracts like those of Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis.
Most people believe that the only option the Wizards have now is to tank. In an ideal world, that would be true. We could lose our last 25 games or so and get a top ten pick in the draft. There are multiple problems with that idea. The first problem being: good luck getting Bradley Beal to tank. Since becoming a Wizard, all he’s done is work hard and fight for every win. A full-on tank would require trading Bradley Beal. He’s too good and too much of a born winner to allow himself to lose games. The second problem is that we are too far in to this mess to tank and get a draft pick that would have an immediate impact. The final problem: a lottery pick doesn’t solve the real problem. The Wizards drafted Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre. Beal and Wall aren’t getting any younger and now is the time for a third piece that would come in and help us win immediately. This is why it’s important for the Wizards to use the remainder of the season to compete.
I have been as optimistic of a fan as I possibly can be, but the reality is that we probably won’t make the playoffs. The rest of our season is basically an audition for free agency. The Wizards have been unable to convince good players to come to DC and the Wizards may seem undesirable as ever with the narrative the media has created about the locker room issues throughout the past few seasons. If the Wizards can prove that they can work together and they can play hard and compete with other teams (without their super-star player) then it might be enough to convince someone to come play with them next year and make a run at the conference championship.
With Wall hurt, Beal’s game has grown to a level that was not expected. He has become way more than a spot-up shooter that just spaces the floor. Adding a third star to the team could give the Wizards the win-now situation that is needed to make a run at the East because the team now has good role players that could perform when they aren’t expected to play like the first, second, and third options.
In a perfect world, this could play out the way I imagine it. To be honest, all of that was an unrealistic hypothetical. It’s way overdue for Ernie Grunfeld to make an astronomically bad move as one of the worst GM’s in recent history. Expect the Wizards to resign Dwight Howard to a five year extension for 100 million dollars (or more).
featured image courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images sourced from USA Today