Over the last 10 years the Wizards, on average, have finished, 8th in the Eastern Conference. This record would land them in the playoffs (barring the new play-in tournament) each year. The only issue with that is that, although they are making the playoffs, they have never made it that far, and then on top of that playoff teams don’t get a chance at the lottery odds. So, the Wizards have been stuck in this weird loop for the past 10 years where they are a solid team who are competitive most years, but they don’t ever cross the threshold of being a great team and also aren’t bad enough to go into a rebuild.
2021-22 Season Recap
The Washington Wizards started the season without one of their star players from the previous season, Russell Westbrook. In a trade with multiple teams, the Wizards traded away Westbrook and got back in return Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Spencer Dinwiddie. This very different roster started the season strong going 10-3, but quickly faded to the bottom of the standings by the end of the season. Mid-season after realizing they will not be competing for the playoffs, the Wizards traded Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans for Kristaps Porzingis from the Mavericks. The Wizards then had an uneventful end to the season.
2022-23 Season Outlook
With the arrival of Kristaps, the Wizards are looking to build chemistry with their new star center and their 3x All-Star, scoring aficionado, Bradley Beal. Their supporting cast of Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and more will be looking to fill in the gaps for their 2 stars. The big question is, will Kristaps be enough for the Wizards to make that leap to the next level? It’s definitely possible.
What does Kristaps bring to the Wizards?
Kristaps is an interesting case. The 7’3, 26-year-old can do anything on the court. He is very solid on defense and has a solid scoring bag. Anthony Edwards even left this fascinating quote:
So why has Kristaps bounced from team to team the past several years? That question has an easy answer. Kristaps can’t stay on the court long enough to have a significant enough impact for his contract to be worth its value. If this Kristaps experiment fails as it has for the Knicks and the Mavericks, the Wizards will again be at a point of not being good enough to compete for anything and also not being bad enough to enter a rebuild.
What should the Wizards do if the experiment fails?
First, we need to talk about Bradley Beal and what he brings to the Wizards. Beal is a Tier-1 scorer in the league. He can get a bucket from anywhere on the court and is the focal point of opposing teams’ defensive schemes. Beal has been with the Wizards for his whole career and has proven to be loyal to the city that selected him in the draft. Beal was John Wall’s right-hand man during Wall’s tenure with the Wizards. The duo was considered to be a top 3 backcourt in the league during their time together.
After Wall’s departure, Beal took a huge leap in usage and proved he could maintain his efficiency given the big increase in offensive responsibilities. While this all sounds great for Washington, Beal has had a hard time proving he can be the best player on a competitive team. While he is a Tier-1 scorer, he would be considered average in terms of distributing and playing defense. He would need to improve on one or both traits in order to elevate his team as the number one option.
Why does Bradley Beal hinder the Wizards?
As mentioned, Beal is a phenomenal player but lacks the capabilities of being a sole number 1 option. In order for a Bradley Beal team to elevate into a contending team, he would need to either be a number 2 option or be in a 1a/1b type role. With the recent acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis, we will see something close to a 1a/1b role.
Of course, Beal wouldn’t agree with this sentiment that he isn’t a number 1 option. Because he wants to be paid the amount of $$$ that a number 1 option would require.
This is where he will forever hinder the Wizards as long as he is on their team. The Wizards will feel inclined to give him a supermax contract of 5 years $246 million due to him being a great player who will win them a lot of games and is above all else, loyal. But if they are to give him that, the Wizards will be in a tough spot of never really competing at the highest level and also not being able to rebuild and get the elite young talent coming into the league. Which would put them in that loop for as long as they are paying Beal and don’t have a good enough secondary star.
What do the Wizards do with Beal if the experiment fails?
If this Kristaps Porzingis experiment fails and the Wizards have paid Beal the supermax contract, the first name that should be out the door after Porzingis should be Beal. Beal himself would probably request the trade as I’m sure he doesn’t want to be a part of a team that is changing identities again. But, if the Wizards want to ever break the loop of being a low-end playoff team, they will need to part from their star and go through a proper rebuild phase. This shouldn’t be too difficult as Beal should command a solid trade market and would provide the Wizards with a lot of assets.
Will the Wizards break the loop?
I think they are more than capable, the fact that they have 2 stars on their team is beyond valuable. They can either leverage their value to acquire young assets/draft picks or they can leverage them to bring in players on league-friendly contracts who want to be a part of a winning team. Wizards fans have an exciting year ahead, watching their young players develop and seeing how their 2 stars mesh with one another will be must-watch TV for Wizards fans and NBA fans alike.