First, this is not a "counting our eggs before they hatch" piece. The Wizards are currently up 2-0 in the 1st round of the playoffs vs. the Bulls, so the Wiz still have work to do. Nothing is gaurunteed. However, if we win this series, and at this point, chances are that we will, are we obliged to give Ernie Grunfeld credit?
We all know the many, many, many failings of Ernie's now 11-year tenure as the Wizards GM. They have been redacted ad nauseum, so I will not specifically delve into the laundry list. But if this team, a true playoff underdog makes it out of the 1st round - who would then have a legit shot of making it to the conference finals- don't we have to give EG some credit? Isn't a team who makes it to the conference finals, by definition a championship contender?
Consider that Steve Kerr said during game 2 vs. Chicago : "What’s fairly obvious is that Washington is the much more talented team. They’re faster, they’re more skilled, they shoot the ball better from the perimeter." Or that Charles Barkley said during halftime of said game : "Man, this team is loaded. They’re good at every position. Nobody has to play well for them to win….I don’t know if they got enough experience to go deep — really deep — in the playoffs, but I think they’re gonna win this series." (We got talent!) That's two highly regarded former players and analyst speaking highly about the Wizards' talent.
Yes, Ernie didn't build this team in a tidy, neat way. Wasted draft picks galore, and a perceived go all out for a playoff birth attitude. Those are fair reasons to criticize EG. However, by the same token, shouldn't we give him some credit for assembling a team that seems to have a real chance of advancing at least to the NBA's Final Four? Assuming this ends up not just being a token playoff appearance but much more, don't we have to credit the Nene trade, the Okariza trade, and subsequently the Gortat trade? It's another subject, but don't we also have to give some of that credit pie to Randy Wittman?
Since 2010 (when we drafted Wall), the entire roster has been reshaped, and the culture has been changed. Actually, the culture is still changing before our very eyes. Three of our draft picks (Wall, Beal, Booker) are growing up before our very eyes. It wasn't perfect but here we are. CBS Sports NBA analyst Matt Moore probably put it best in his evaluation of the Wiz: (DC plan paying off).
Folks, this is not the Joe Johnson era Atlanta Hawks. Something feels different about this team. Some things are different. In fact, no matter what this team does for the rest of the playoffs, we would still have a ton of upside and potential. Porter basically hasn't played but has some promise. More importantly are two core players, are 23 and 20. Wall has superstar potential. I'm starting to think that Bradley Beal also has superstar potential. In other words, they are just scratching the surface, are already really good, yet are years away from beginning the primes of their careers. It is fun watching these playoffs knowing that these young guys are just starting to grow up and that this is just the beginning!
Again, this is by no means a pulling the cart before the horse post. The Wiz still have to take care of business for this discussion to truly matter. We don't know where this ride will take us. Furthermore, I am not Ted Leonsis, not employed by someone in the Wiz organization, or even a Grunfeld fan. Like basically all of us who come to Bullets Forever, I'm just a true Wizards fan all the way. It's a touchy topic for some, polarizing for others. But the question is when do we give Ernie Grunfeld some credit?
PS: Have these playoffs been fun or what?!?!?! Let's go Wiz!!!