Yesterday, we went over the biggest storylines of the 2016 calendar year as we began to recap all of the content our site covered. In Part 2 of what will be a three-part series, I’ll go over our staff’s favorite Wizards and Mystics pieces from the year that was.
Wizards Team Analysis
There is no “I” in team, right? Many of our pieces focused on the Wizards as a whole. The following were some of the best general pieces we had over the course of 2016:
- Even without Kevin Durant, the Wizards still have plenty to root for this season (Albert Lee) - I wrote this as a KD2DC postmortem after Durant decided to move to the San Francisco Bay next season. Though Durant decided not to play for the Wizards, it allowed other wing players like Otto Porter to continue playing starter-level minutes instead of being a backup or perhaps play on another team. It also allowed Kelly Oubre to play rotation minutes for most of this season so far. It’s hard to see that happening if Durant played here. I get that the record of the Wizards isn’t where we’d like it, but a Wizards team with Durant on it would also take away opportunities, and perhaps lower the appreciation we have for the current core players on the roster like John Wall and Bradley Beal.
- The striking similarities between the John Wall era and the Gilbert Arenas era for the Wizards (Jake Whitacre) - Both are point guards and led the Wizards to the second round of the playoffs. But there’s much more to it than that. Trust me. Hopefully, both of their eras won’t end on such sour notes.
- It's time for the Wizards to move on from Ernie Grunfeld (Ben Becker) - Grunfeld has led the Wizards’ basketball operations since 2003. The only other people to be in their roles as long or longer are Pat Riley of the Miami Heat, R.C. Buford of the San Antonio Spurs, and Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics. The other three men on this list have won at least one NBA title and made at least two NBA Finals appearances. Grunfeld did neither, and he’s made his fair share of drafting mistakes in the John Wall Era. For that reason (and a lot more), Ben makes the case for Ted Leonsis to terminate Grunfeld ... in the 2015-16 season.
- Recent Wizards history suggests going after DeMarcus Cousins would be a bad idea (Alan Jenkins) - With Kevin Durant no longer in the Wizards’ plans, some fans are holding onto hope that the Kings center will demand a trade to Washington to play alongside John Wall. However, Cousins has such a checkered history with most of his coaches to the point where he may not be worth the risk.
- Why the Wizards have finally started to click in December (Fim Oshin) - This last month was certainly one to remember given that the Wizards won eight straight home games. Fim gives us four reasons as to why they were able to get things together just in time for the calendar year.
- The Wizards’ bench will be key to their success this season (Kyle J. Andrews) - Before the 2016-17 regular season started, we pointed out that the bench play will dictate just how far the Wizards can go. In November, the bench was awful, and it’s no surprise that Washington ended up 6-11. But they played better in December, which partially explains why the Wizards went 10-5.
- Podcasts with Candace Buckner of the Washington Post and Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated (Jake Whitacre) - It’s always a cool thing to talk with fellow media pundits on the podcast!
Wizards Coaching Analysis
The Wizards had two head coaches last season, so we had no shortage of content that focused on how well Randy Wittman or Scott Brooks were doing:
- Wizards show a repeated lack of creativity in their coach hiring process (Akbar Naqvi) - Scott Brooks was to be the Wizards’ next head coach just days after Wittman was let go. Though Brooks is a well-respected head coach, the Wizards — namely Ernie Grunfeld — didn’t look for other names in their search. In fact, they seem to be a bit conservative in their approach.
- A list of Wizards head coach candidates to replace Randy Wittman (Albert Lee and Jake Whitacre) - I wrote up an initial list of coaches from inside and outside the NBA who could be the next head coach of the Wizards in January, while Jake added a couple names to the list after Wittman’s departure. To Akbar’s point, perhaps some of the names on this list — some of whom were since hired to coach other teams — could have been more compelling and innovative candidates.
- Billy Donovan's success with the Thunder is not a referendum on Scott Brooks (L.W.) - Brooks was fired by the Thunder in 2015 after they failed to make the playoffs. In the following season, they hired former Florida head coach Billy Donovan who led them to the 2016 Western Conference Finals and put the Golden State Warriors on the brink of elimination. Though the Thunder got right back to where they left off in their first year after letting Brooks go, it’s important to realize that they’ve been at this point for quite some time. Brooks is a major reason why they are as good as they are right now.
Wizards Player Analysis
There may be no “I” in team, but there’s “me.” Here were some of the player-centric pieces that our staff particularly liked this season:
- Improvement for John Wall lies in more trust to his teammates (Mike Sykes) - Before this season started, Mike wrote in depth on one area of his game where Wall needs to improve: trusting his teammates to find him when he’s open or being a factor off the ball. Wall is already a great playmaker when it comes to making the right passes for his teammates. That’s great, but it’s also a two-way street.
- Bradley Beal is finally becoming everything you wanted him to be (Mike Sykes) - Beal may not be the undisputed franchise player of the Wizards, but it’s safe to say that he faces more expectations that anyone else due to his new max-level contract. Fortunately, he has answered the bell by improving his shooting efficiency and his passing ability.
- It will be hard for the Wizards to replace Jared Dudley this season (Mike Knapp) - Dudley only played one season for the Wizards, but he filled the “stretch four” and “seasoned veteran” roles quite well during his short time here. Other players on the roster, whether it’s Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson, or Jason Smith probably won’t be able to fill it quite as well. This post also generated a good amount of discussion in the comments since some questioned the value of “veteran leadership.” Veteran leadership shouldn’t just be measured in terms of playing experience, but also in terms of the amount of meaningful postseason experience, and other intangibles.
- Marcin Gortat is quietly turning a great year for the Wizards (Alan Jenkins) - The Polish Machine seems to be less and less appreciated in D.C. with each passing day this season. But we were already getting signs of Gortat being under-appreciated last winter. Gortat was very close to averaging a double-double last season and more than held the fort in the low post. Alan sets the record straight on all of those who are thinking this:
- The Wizards are wasting an outstanding season from John Wall (Alan Jenkins) - This piece was written in the 2015-16 season. Let’s hope it doesn’t apply again this season.
- The Wizards cleaned up another one of their mistakes by trading for Markieff Morris (Umair Khan) - Morris was acquired at the end of the 2015-16 trade deadline in exchange for a protected Wizards’ first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft . Umair wrote up an excellent analysis on what he could provide on offense and defense at the time he was hired. So far this season, we haven’t seen him recapture his 2014-15 form when he scored a career high 15.3 points and shot 46.5 percent from the field, but he is playing at a level where he can contribute right away, which is why the Wizards brought him in the first place. But it leads to one of the peeves many have with Ernie Grunfeld: Morris is in D.C. because Grunfeld did not address the power forward position effectively in the past.
- The case for trading Otto Porter before he hits free agency (Marcus Atkinson Sr.) - The Wizards signed Bradley Beal to a max-level contract extension, to the surprise of no one. That signing for better or worse gets the Wizards dangerously close to being cap-strung for years to come. If they sign Porter to a max contract while keeping Wall and Beal, the Wizards won’t have much room to make moves toward building a contender. For that reason, Marcus believes it’s worth trading Porter now, not after he’s earning a salary possibly higher than Wall’s.
- Examining Marcus Thornton's [2015-16] performance with the Washington Wizards (Courtney J. Ward) - Thornton only played a few weeks in Washington last season. But in his short time, he managed to outperform Gary Neal, who was his injured predecessor. That, and his ability to create some instant offense played a major reason to his return for the 2016-17 season.
Washington Mystics posts
When the Wizards had their offseason, the Mystics had their regular season. Here were some of the best pieces we had on D.C.’s WNBA team.
- Emma Meesseman's scoring compared with other WNBA superstars shows both promise and concern (Albert Lee) - I wrote this piece before the 2016 season on Meesseman’s shooting efficiency compared with a number of known superstars in the league, such as Elena Delle Donne, Candace Parker, and Maya Moore. Her efficiency was better than most of the big names. However, Meesseman also shot the ball and scored less than they did. This piece and one I wrote last year on Meesseman were shared quite a bit in Belgium, where the bulk of her fanbase is.
- Four reasons why Elena Delle Donne’s free agency news is a great present for Mystics fans (Elle Ward) - This offseason will be interesting for Mystics fans, and it’s because Delle Donne is ready to move on from the Chicago Sky. On top of that, there are rumblings that she wants to play in Washington. For a team that hasn’t had a bonafide superstar in over a decade, this is a present in and of itself. Here’s hoping that Delle Donne wears another red, white, and blue jersey very soon.
- UMMC Ekaterinburg is not necessarily the best thing for Emma Meesseman's development (L.W.) - Meesseman was arguably the biggest star on Sparta&k, the team she played before UMMC. But with Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner on the roster, L.W. makes the case that this team, as good as it is, isn’t the best one for Meeseman’s long term development.
- Previewing the Mystics vs. Lynx game with Star Wars characters (Elle Ward, Jake Whitacre, Mike Sykes, Albert Lee) - On June 11, the Mystics hosted their Star Wars game when they played the Lynx. As you might have guessed, Mike Thibault was Yoda (okay, that was the gimme), and Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was Darth Vader.
In Part 3, we’ll go over our favorite FanPosts, and some miscellaneous pieces that our staff enjoyed.