When Scott Brooks took the Wizards job back in April, he made it clear that he embraced being labeled a player developer. Here's what he had to say at the time:
I love developing players. I don't look at players as "Okay, this is a young guy that needs to develop." I think once we all are committed to being NBA players, we're NBA players. Once you get drafted, or once you get picked up, you're an NBA player and I will coach everybody from the guy who plays the most minutes to the guy who doesn't play a lot of minutes. I will coach them with everything I have and I will build a staff that believes in the same philosophies I believe. We will develop players every single day.
Well, congratulations Scott Brooks, you’ve got a roster filled with players who need to develop.
Let’s start with John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, the centerpieces of the Wizards’ rebuild. They’re all top-three picks, they’ve earned starting spots, and they’ve all shown promise. Yet, there’s a sense with all three that they haven’t quite maximized their potential, whether it’s because they haven’t developed correctly, or because they haven’t been used properly. Either way, Brooks needs to figure out how to unlock whatever untapped potential is there if they want to take a step forward this season.
Then you’ve got Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky, two young players who are still trying to find their way around the NBA, but will have to figure it out while playing key roles off the bench. Much like in his Oklahoma City days, Brooks is going to have to get his young players to be reliable since they’re holding down such important roles.
Then there are Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson, and Trey Burke, the team’s reclamation projects. Washington is betting Brooks can get more out of these former first round picks than the teams that originally drafted them. Because let’s not forget, player development isn’t always about cultivating your own talent, sometimes it’s about finding an opportunity to buy low on a player with promise and hope you can turn them into something more with the right development.
Finally, there is the most ambitious part of the Wizards’ big bet on Scott Brooks’ ability to develop players: Their undrafted rookies. They’re using three of their fifteen roster spots on players who were not selected in the 2016 draft. And while Sheldon McClellan, Danuel House, and Daniel Ochefu may not be asked to play a meaningful role right away, it only takes one or two injuries for any of them to be put in a position where they’ll be asked to contribute. If Brooks can get them to the point where they can hold their own if they’re thrust into meaningful playing time, no one will be able to say he just gets by thanks to the natural development of high lottery picks.
For better or worse, the Wizards made a quick pivot in their roster construction to suit their new coach. After years of bringing in plug-and-play veterans who could execute Randy Wittman’s schemes, the team is now stockpiled with young talent Brooks can nurture. If Scott Brooks is as good at player development as his track record at Oklahoma City suggests, the Wizards have a lot of players who stand to benefit this season.
With where things stand at the moment, Brooks might be the last hope for this team’s core to take another big leap forward. They don’t have the cap space to make another big free agent signing for a few years, and they won’t have a chance to add another lottery pick to the mix unless something disastrous happens. The only way up from here is through improving the players they already have on board. If nothing else, the Wizards have certainly given him plenty of players who are ready to grow.