There’s really no other way to say it- last season was a massive disappointment for the Wizards. The team that broke out in the playoffs last year with undersize lineups and great three-point shooting around John Wall was nowhere to be found. If only to compound that disappointment, it was a season that likely scared Kevin Durant from ever returning home and playing in the nation’s capital.
Still, things could turn around as quickly as next season. The Wizards still have Wall, a legitimate superstar and top-15 player. He very nearly dragged Washington to the playoffs by himself, finishing with averages of more than 19 points and 10 assists per game. Given his supporting cast, the degree of difficulty in putting up those numbers was off the charts.
Wall’s would-be sidekick, Bradley Beal, played just 55 games. Beal has been hampered by injury throughout his career and has yet to make it through a full 82 games. Now he is a restricted free agent on the eve of an unprecedented cap boom. The Wizards know they will have to offer him a max contract to keep him and it looks like that is their plan.
Beal has shown plenty of flashes that he can become a player worthy of such a large contract, but they have been inconsistent. Defensively, he lacks the size to be anything close to a stopper. Still, his three-point shooting will only become more valuable as the league continues to evolve and the Wizards should just be hopeful he stays healthy.
The Wizards made another investment in a troubling player at the trade deadline last february. They sent their first round pick Phoenix for the much-maligned Markieff Morris in the hopes he would become their smallball four of the future. It was a calculated risk, to be sure. Morris was nothing short of petulant at the end of his tenure in Phoenix and it’s hard to justify giving up a first-round pick for a player who mailed in a season. Still the Wizards’ thinking isn’t hard to see. Morris is undeniably talented and if he can help the Wizards create a more smallball-oriented identity he may prove worth the late-lottery pick.
Crafting that identity will be key for the Wizards next season. It looked like the Wizards had latched on to something during that aforementioned breakout playoffs run, but couldn’t find in 2015-16. Their defense was considerably worse as the team failed to adjust the quickened pace that often comes with playing small.
New coach Scott Brooks will have to try to rectify that. Brooks wasn’t perfect in Oklahoma City, but he was undeniably successful and he can develop similar relationships with Wizards players it will be a smart hire.
If the Wizards are able to turn their ample cap space into players who fit well, they have an excellent shot at making a deep playoff run. Wall could very well be the best point guard in the Eastern Conference next season and with more defense and shooting the Wizards could challenge the Raptors and Cavaliers.