The Washington Wizards are quickly approaching one of the most important and unpredictable summers in the history of their franchise. The team will have plenty of money to spend on talent and lots of roster spots that need to be filled, even once you factor in the max deal they'll likely offer Bradley Beal to keep him in Washington.
To help guide the process (and give us something to talk about because the Wizards don't have a draft pick this summer) we've created a list ranking the Top 30 players available, based strictly on their talent and how they would help the Wizards.
Previously, we took a look at Hassan Whiteside. Now we finish our series with a look at the top player on the Wizards’ list since 2014, if not earlier: Kevin Durant.
In the wake of Kevin Durant’s decision not to schedule a meeting with the Wizards, there’s been a lot of anger, which is completely understandable. After two solid years of debate, speculation, hiring coaches with ties to Kevin Durant, custom-made jerseys, fundraising campaigns, and lame attempts to misconstrue Kevin Durant’s comments, Washington didn’t even get a chance to make their case. That stinks.
The thing is, no one can seem to agree on where to direct the anger, so let’s try to break down what went wrong with the Wizards’ recruiting pitch and try to figure out where to assign blame.
Was KD2DC just a dumb idea from the get-go?
It’s complicated. As Michael Lee detailed in a recent podcast, Kevin Durant never really gave an indication he was genuinely interested in the Wizards. If anything, most of his public comments suggested quite the opposite. He even went as far as to say Wizards fans were “disrespectful” in the way they cheered for him when he visited the Verizon Center. There was also a report he found his most recent trip to Washington “stressful” because of the demand for tickets and everything else that goes along with a yearly trip to your hometown.
Despite those obstacles, that would have made it hard for the Wizards to have a shot at recruiting KD, I still find it hard to fault the Wizards for trying. When it comes to Kevin Durant playing for the Wizards, it’s not just about Washington acquiring a star. It’s about acquiring THE star who could have changed everything about Washington basketball. He’s the one player who could have truly made the Wizards the talk of the town, and the NBA.
There are now two generations of Washington basketball fans who have been waiting for the Bullets/Wizards to matter. Since 1980 (when the NBA started to emerge as a major sport, thanks to Bird & Magic) every franchise has had at least one season where a team has won 50 regular season games, reached a conference finals, or see a player win an MVP award, except Washington D.C.
Durant would have given Washington a chance to finally do all of those things, and in doing so, could have reversed malaise and indifference that has pushed fans away for a long, long time.
Even if the Wizards only had a one percent chance at Kevin Durant, they would have been completely justified in doing everything they could to put themselves in a position to sign him. He would have meant that to Washington and the Wizards’ chances of restoring their identity in this town.
Did Durant owe it to Washington to at least give them a meeting?
Not really. If anything, he did them a favor. The best gift he could give the Wizards if he truly wasn’t interested in coming to Washington would be to let them know before free agency started. Now, Washington can get a head start on Plan B, C, and D while other teams who will inevitably strike out on Durant are stuck in limbo.
Still, it’s kind of disrespectful, isn’t it?
To answer, let me use an example from my own life. I live in Winchester, Virginia, the town where I grew up. But every day I hop in my car and drive into Northern Virginia for work. Why? Because there are better paying jobs out there in fields that fit the skills I’ve developed over the years.
Am I disrespecting Winchester when I take my talents elsewhere instead of pouring them back into the community where I grew up? Do I owe it my hometown to apply for jobs closer to my home, even if the jobs don’t fit what I’m trying to do and the pay isn’t as good? I sure hope not.
Did the fans push Kevin Durant away?
It’s no secret that the Wizards’ fanbase can be underwhelming at times, which made it all the easier for people to criticize their efforts to pander to Kevin Durant in recent years. And to be fair, there were certainly moments when things got out of hand with the KD2DC hype. But as we discussed earlier, if there’s one fanbase out there that’s entitled to go a little overboard after decades of mediocrity, it’s Washington’s.
Besides, when was the last time a player signed or passed on signing with a team because of their fans? Two years ago we saw LeBron James return to a city where people burned his jerseys in the street. There’s probably a dozen things, if not more, that factor more into a free agent’s decision on where to play.
Did Bullets Forever push Kevin Durant away with all their dumb blog posts about KD2DC?
Yep, it’s definitely our fault. We even went ahead and prepared an article about it. Here’s how it starts:
See? It makes total sense. It’s definitely our fault.
Okay, but seriously ... it’s Ernie Grunfeld’s fault, right?
Believe it or not, the answer might actually be no here.
I know what you’re probably thinking “But he made so many poor choices over the years!” And yeah, there’s no way of avoiding that fact. If the Wizards had made better draft picks during their rebuild like the Warriors and if they had been more open-minded in free agency, they would have a lot more to offer Durant from a basketball perspective.
But take a look at those Warriors. They’re coming off the best regular season in NBA history, and they can surround KD with a two-time MVP and two other All-Stars. Despite all this, they still don’t have a great shot at being able to pry Durant away from Oklahoma City.
So you can criticize Grunfeld and the Wizards all you want for what they did wrong, but you still have to concede that even if they had done everything right, it might not have been enough to get Durant in a Wizards uniform. Of course, if KD signs with the Warriors or Spurs, ignore everything I just said.
So ... whose fault is it then?
Why does it have to be anyone’s fault? The odds were always stacked against KD2DC being anything more than a really cool dream. It wasn’t wrong for the Wizards to pursue their dream, it wasn’t wrong for the fans to want their dream to become a reality, and it wasn’t wrong for Kevin Durant to say he didn’t share the same dream and wanted to pursue other opportunities that made more sense for him. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.