Sometimes you have to take a few steps back before taking steps forward in the right direction toward winning.
Eastern Conference Loser Number 2: The Washington Wizards
After 11 years of the Bradley Beal experience, the Wizards have finally decided on a new direction after toeing the line of average play since 2017. Over the years, Wizards team owner Ted Leonsis has had a playoff mandate for the Wizards. This left Washington in the middle class of the league, which is the worst place to be and the no man’s land of the NBA.
In 2014 Leonsis told NBC Sports, “We will never, ever tank.” Well, it never came around faster than Leonsis probably ever expected.
Fast forward to March 23, 2023. The Washington Wizards made a huge change in management and direction by hiring former Thunder and Clippers basketball executive Michael Winger to be the president of Monumental Basketball, which made Winger the top basketball executive in the nation’s capital overseeing the Washington Wizards, the Wizards G-League affiliate the Capital City Go-Go and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
Winger was given the nod by Leonsis to do a “full tear-down” and rebuild the team altogether. Winger quickly got to work and made his first move, and it was a big one. Which led to them chasing Eastern Conference Play-in bids rather than generational talents.
June 21st, the Wizards made their first step towards a rebuild, trading former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis to the Boston Celtics in a surprising three-team deal. Bean Town added another big to their rotation in Porzingis, along with the 25th overall pick in the 2023 draft and a 2024 first from the Warriors, the Grizzlies got in on the action shipping out those picks in exchange for Marcus Smart and, finally, the Wizards come into play. Washington started loading up their draft asset pool by adding the 35th overall pick in the 2023 draft, a nice young point guard in Tyus Jones, and salary filler in the form of Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari.
Bilal Coulibaly was the man of mystery from this year’s draft, and the Wizards identified and got their man with the 7th overall pick in a trade-up deal with the Indiana Pacers. For those unaware, Coulibaly is a LONGTERM project that will need time, and it looks like he will get that after Winger’s next trade.
Bradley Beal, a player in trade discussions for years, was finally moved by the Wizards. This made it difficult for them to trade Beal with his massive contract and a no-trade clause. The Wizards and Beal were able to work out a deal that sent him to Phoenix to join Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on the Suns in exchange for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, and a grab bag of first-round picks, second-round picks, and pick swaps from 2024 through 2030.
Chris Paul touched down in DC for a quick stop before being immediately rerouted back to the West, joining the Golden State Warriors. The Wizards flipped Paul for Jordan Poole, Patrick Baldwin Jr, Ryan Rollins, a 2027 second-round pick, a 2030 top 20 protected first, and cash considerations.
This article is about teams who got worse this offseason; without a doubt, the Wizards did get worse, BUT this is the best thing that could have happened for them. They reset their timeline with new men in charge in Michael Winger and Will Dawkins, who will get his chance at a rebuild with a ton of young talent and picks.
The Wizards, for years, were directionless and were left wandering in the wilderness, but with Winger in charge, the team finally has a direction, and I’m confident this is the best path for their team, even if they are bad for the next few years. Having Bradley Beal as your best player, you knew your ceiling, but with this new iteration, the Wizards have a chance to reach greater heights.