The year 2015 is coming to a close and it's time for us to go through a roundup of the best stories of the year from various angles.
I've mentioned it many times throughout the year, but your content is as important to Bullets Forever as the stories, recaps, and other features we write. FanPosts are a way to write in depth on any Wizards or basketball-related topic that you like. When they're well-written, we front them to share your great content.
Over the course of the year, we have fronted over 80 FanPosts. Of them, some of them were particularly noteworthy. So on this Monday, let's review the some of the best FanPosts from 2015 based on topic.
Is it better to rebuild around a group of solid players or a few superstars?
In January, DCnhokies wrote this piece about which model of team building is more solid when he posed this question:
Is it better that some previous "Treadmill Teams," like the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012 and 2013 follow the Atlanta Hawks model instead? And if so would you take it over the current rebuilding process?
The Oklahoma City Thunder were able to build their team in three consecutive drafts (2007-2009) where they had three top-three draft picks: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. All three players formed the foundation of the Thunder's 2011 Western Conference Team and are some of the top names in the NBA today.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks have made the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons and built their team with some mid-first round picks like Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, and some savvy free agent signings like those of Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver. The Hawks were en route to an undefeated 17-0 January where their starting five won the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award and ultimately went to the Eastern Conference Finals later that spring. The Thunder had a down year and missed the playoffs last season.
There's no hard and fast answer as to which route a team should take when it comes to building a championship contender. But I tend to side with the Thunder's strategy -- I like teams having an alpha franchise cornerstone.
Coaching, coaching, coaching
In the 2014-15 season, the Golden State Warriors went 67-15 in the regular season and went on to win their first NBA Finals since 1975.
Steve Kerr was a first-year head coach during Golden State's magic carpet ride, just one season after the organization fired Marc Jackson despite a 51-31 record in the 2013-14 season. In February, the Wizards went 3-9 and had a six-game losing streak toward the end of the month. When the Wizards went on that losing streak, a growing number of fans wanted Wittman fired, which prompted Ben Becker -- who is now part of our staff -- to write this FanPost.
The gist of Ben's post goes like this: Wittman is a lot like Jackson was for the Warriors: a head coach who was able to improve a team and get them to play solid basketball. However, that coach is not the right person to take the team to a championship level. Ben finished the post with this:
Thus, the hopes of Wizards fans rest with Ted Leonsis. He must recognize, as new Warrior owner Joe Lacob did, that improvement upon a generation of ineptitude doesn't necessarily mean that the team is fulfilling its potential or is on a high enough trajectory. As Ballard noted, "Jackson was the right man at the right time. In many respects, though he was the wrong man for the long run." That rings true. Before long, the Wizards must make a change.
It's been a long time since the FanPost, but the Wizards haven't made any tangible progress from last season. I would certainly love to see Wittman lead the Wizards to a championship, I'm not holding my hopes up. SB Nation's Tom Ziller believes that a change is likely in store barring a 2016 Eastern Conference Finals appearance so if you are in the "Fire Wittman" camp, the time to find the next "Steve Kerr" may not be too long from now.
Don't copy the Warriors to a T ... yet the Wizards seem to be trying to anyway
wordonthesecret wrote a FanPost in June that we fronted soon after Golden State won their NBA championship. The Warriors won their championship with a smaller lineup that was predicated on three-point shooting and ball movement. In part because Golden State won their championship in convincing fashion, "pace and space" became the new thing in basketball every team just HAD to emulate.
But that said, these trends come and go. From the FanPost:
The book on how to win in the "modern" NBA has existed for a while, but the Warriors seem to be the paragon of these philosophies. You need a floor spacing big man and lots and lots of three-point shooters to complement a dribble penetrator. Systems will differ, but it’s no secret that the Grizzlies and Wizards of the league are winning on borrowed time. And who could argue with that after the season the Warriors just had?
And yet, I think there’s a lot to be learned from the past. It wasn’t so long ago that everyone was certain you needed a "big three" in order to win. One could argue that a lot of the reason Miami’s big three happened was their desire to emulate the effectiveness of Boston’s. But before that, everyone felt you needed a "big two" like the Lakers’ Shaq and Kobe. And still earlier, organizations league-wide attempted to model themselves after Houston’s winning formula of three shooting guards plus a dominant center. Let’s not forget when everyone felt you needed a big, Jordan-esque iso two guard.
Despite wordonthesecret's point, the Wizards have decided to double down on their efforts on "pace and space" this season. But it's not simply because they wanted John Wall and Bradley Beal to be the Eastern Conference's version of the Splash Brothers. They played Paul Pierce more at the power forward position and began taking more
The Wizards showed promise in the preseason with their new scheme, even with Pierce taking his talents back to his hometown of Los Angeles. But even before the season began, L.W. wrote that faster pace, at least in and of itself won't be enough to lead Washington to more wins.
Is the NBA becoming a league where teams take more three-point shots? Yes. Are there more players, including post players who are taking and making threes while playing at a faster pace than the 1990's? Sure. Even though the Wizards may be embracing more elements that are popular in today's league, the bottom line is that any championship caliber team must be elite at its strengths. Whether that's because of "pace-and-space," a "Big Three", or a Jordan-esque swingman shouldn't be the overriding factor.
Why isn't the Wizards fanbase where it needs to be?
If you read this blog on a daily basis, then it's safe to say that you are a more avid Wizards than the vast majority of the general public. When you're avidly cheering your Wizards on Comcast SportsNet, ESPN, or Verizon Center, your family and friends are thinking at least one of these situations:
- Why are you watching the Wizards so much instead of the Redskins?
- When the Redskins aren't playing, why aren't you rooting the Capitals or Nationals more fun to root for anyway?
- Can't you just go to Verizon Center when LeBron or Kobe are playing there?
I get these questions all the timer. Trying to answer these questions with something along the lines of "I like basketball the most and I root for the team in my city first and foremost" is never going to satisfy them. Therefore, I wasn't surprised to see a couple of our best FanPosts touch on this very topic in 2015.
In March, martin.villagran001 wrote about the Verizon Center's lack of homecourt advantage, comparing the Wizards' lack of energy to that of the Capitals, who also play in the same arena and have the same ownership. I think the first couple paragraphs of his piece hit the essence of what the lack of enthusiasm among the Wizards fanbase is all about:
I'm a first-year season ticket holder for the Washington Wizards and nothing grinds my gears more than the lack of passionate fans we have.
Over the last two seasons, the Wizards have made strides from the bottom come to be a middle of the pack Eastern Conference team with a lot of potential, and have beaten some really good teams; but nothing is changing. People still get more excited about the Chick-fil-A Fowl Shots in the 4th to win a free chicken sandwich. I get it: We aren't going to win the Finals and making the Eastern Conference Finals looks like a long shot. But now that we finally have something to cheer for why are we still not cheering?
I don't think fans always have to be rowdy to be called big fans of a team. However, the Wizards don't just lack enthusiastic fans, they also lack the sheer quantity of fans that some other NBA teams like the Lakers and any team with LeBron James plays for. Why could that be the case?
In early December, AnyGiven wrote a FanPost and tried to answer that question. He wrote about former Bullets/Wizards Team President Susan O'Malley marketing the team's ticket sales around other teams' stars as opposed to the home team in the 1990's. He goes on to claim that the effects hurt not one, but two generations of potential Wizards fans, which compounds the lack of enthusiasm among current fans. From his FanPost:
Instead of the Bullets/Wizards organization gaining new fans we gained many (paying 1-2 times a year when their team comes to town) enemy customers. They became fans of DAVID ROBINSON, SHAQUILLE O’ NEAL, and ALLEN IVERSON. As those kids became fans of those players more than likely became fans of those teams.
As those kids have grown to paying, adult customers, they pay for NBA League Pass and buy Wizards tickets 1-2 times a year to watch their favorite team play. Now they have kids as well. As a parent you (try to) pass your fandom onto your kids. Now you have two generations wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys.
I reluctantly agree that some of these ticketing practices hurt fan base development. But the lack of a high-performing team has also complicated matters. It has been 36 years since the Wizards won 50 or more regular season games, made an Eastern Conference Finals, and made the NBA Finals.
Children especially want to root for a winning team, and I've written myself that I never remembered the Wizards as a good team in my childhood during the 1990's before they moved to Verizon Center. In fact, Washington was simply a bad team in the 1990's when they made just one playoff appearance in 1997.
Things are starting to change somewhat because they made the playoffs four consecutive seasons from 2005-2008, and are coming off two more consecutive playoff berths this season. But it's not easy to get more D.C. area residents to root for the Wizards when they have yet to hit some of those benchmarks, whether it's a 50-win season or an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.