The Washington Wizards have suddenly seen their competitive window come and go quicker than they would care to imagine. The franchise has two players that could be considered star caliber, but it seems John Wall and Bradley Beal have achieved as much as they can with this franchise. The only option? Blow up the team and start again.
John Wall taken first in the 2010 draft has had an impact for the wizards the moment he stepped on the court. His athleticism drew lots of praise throughout the league as one of the most exciting prospects in the NBA. He only lost out to the Rookie of The Year award to Blake Griffon who had a standout debut season. His backcourt partner of Bradley Beal who was taken 3rd in the 2012 who collected All Rookie honours along the way in his first year. This partnership has taken the wizards to multiple playoff appearance and above average seeding without anything major to show for it. It is a statement on the quality of the league that a team with two perennial All-Stars has reached a point where they are not only not competing for championships but are struggling to stay relevant for the fans. How do you fix this? Unfortunately, one has to consider starting over.
As writing this, the wizards have just lost to the Sacramento Kings on the road. Granted, playing at Sacramento, the opposite side of the country can be a difficult endeavor, but it has left them at 1-4. It is a difficult road for a team to come back into contention from this start but it has been done. But the question remains, even if they do get back into contention, are they really going to beat Boston, Toronto, Milwaukee, Philadelphia or even the hit and miss Indiana Pacers in a 7 game series? Any respectable gambling man would be putting a strong wager on the team that isn’t the wizards in those series.
As stated previously, the Wizards have two All-stars who are arguably in the prime of their careers, potentially only needing to acquire a few more pieces to be a contender. The problem? Well, for starters the above statement is a problem in itself. The team does is not one of the go to free agent destinations and there aren’t enough players of value they own that could be traded for an elite player while also not hurting their team. Furthermore, the team has one of the fuller salaries with Wall and Beal having fairly big contracts along with the acquisition of Dwight Howard and Austin Rivers who are paid more than a pretty penny for their services. Thinking about the quality of players they have on these sized contracts paints a sad picture for the wizards. The second issue is their viability in the modern game. No longer is the game built upon solely athleticism but a finesse and technique about it. Dwight Howard is one of the last of a dying breed of back to goal bigs. Receiving the ball in the paint and looking to post up their opponent for a bucket with collecting double-digit rebounds. Even a premier post player such as Andre Drummond has since had license to shoot more 3’s and is starting to make them, further developing his usefulness. Can Dwight get to this stage? Judging from his age and free throw percentage, I’d say no. John Wall is falling into the same category. He has developed a more consistent jump shot but is it to the same effectiveness as a title contending point guard such as Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving? Not at all. But what about Ben Simmons I can hear you say. Simmons is 6’10 with some of the best passing and vision in the league. He also scores almost at will around the bucket and is surrounded by shooters who can drain a 3. Is the situation the same as the Wizards? No. It is similar to comparing grapes to oranges. Both are fruit yet one of them will give you much more than the other.
The only solution to this situation is unfortunately, to start again. Beal and Wall are not getting any younger and the wizards can take advantage of this fact and get some young pieces along with draft picks to set their franchise up for another go. The fans may not be the biggest supporters of this, but think how they will slowly fall further out of contention until the decision is made to rebuild but by that stage, the already established teams such as Boston and Philly are head and shoulders above the wizards. Trading pieces such as a Beal to contenting teams could yield future dividends. The Lakers would reluctantly trade away a Brandon Ingram/Kyle Kuzma/Lonzo Ball for a player such as Beal as they feel they are one or two players away from winning a championship. The same can be said about acquiring draft picks. This is an avenue that the Wizards surely must consider. Having the fans support the team is extremely important for a market such as Washington and it is only a matter of time before the fans start to give up as more of the same continues to come out of the stadium. Just look at the situation for the Timberwolves. They have traded away an established star in Kevin Love to a competing team, received an All Star in the draft with Karl-Anthony Towns as well as picking up Jimmy Butler. Are they contending for a championship? Very debatable but the city has the most fans since the Kevin Garnett days and are one of the most talked about and exciting teams in the NBA.