The Wizards aren’t going to win this series. I think you already know that.
Sure, we can talk about how solid Mike Scott has been or, say, how incredible John Wall has been and even how bad the Wizards frontcourt is right now.
But that’s pointless. You knew the Wizards weren’t winning this series before it ever started, and nothing that has transpired since the start of Game 1 has changed that. Number one seeds have never lost a first round series after going up 2-0 and that’s unlikely to change this season.
This series is an indictment on how poorly this franchise has been run. Wall has been spectacular and the Wizards have scored well enough to win in both games. Their bench is still weak sauce, the wonkiness of Scott Brooks’ rotations seems to outweigh any positive player development and the questions about their core’s chemistry together remain unanswered.
They’ve missed on every single detail and its coming back to haunt them. And what makes it worse is that they’re locked in with the core of this team for years to come without the ability to improve on the fringes as the Raptors have.
The facts are that the Wizards have $124 million on their payroll next season being dished out to 10 players. The pot is quite literally spoken for. In terms of assets, the best two things they have are their first round pick and John Wall. One of those pieces is going to be paid $40 million in a few years and it ain’t the pick.
On top of that, you’ve got about $35 million due to three centers next season — none of whom can stay on the floor for more than five minutes this series without looking like they were only drafted because they were tall.
It’s not that the path to prosperity for this team is a difficult one — it almost feels like it doesn’t even exist. Do you remember those Joe Johnson/Josh Smith Hawks teams from the last decade that couldn’t get past the second round? The Wizards are them. Loads of talent, loads of potential, three solid players and two All-Stars between Bradley Beal, Wall and Otto Porter and almost nothing to show for it. At some point, something has to give.
Blowing the team up seems like a reasonable option at this point. What’s the point of having a $40 million player if your team is no good? Trading Wall is an option — even if it’s the nuclear one. And if Wall goes, then everyone should go. At that point, it’s probably time to start things anew.
But here’s the thing: Far too often, we only deal in absolutes. Player X is good, player Y is terrible. Team X has no future, team Y will win this many titles in five years. Those things don’t work that way in reality. Half of the things that you think are options just aren’t. And most of the things you think have no chance of happening probably could. There’s a ton of nuance involved in every decision in the NBA.
Blowing it up is an easy sell for frustrated fans. It provides emotional closure and allows the team to move on from a core that will only get more expensive in coming years, but it doesn’t guarantee a path back to contention. The Process worked in Philadelphia, but results can vary. The Suns are no closer to closer to the playoffs now than they were when Steve Nash left. The Magic might be further from contention now than they were when they Dwight Howard.
For a rebuild to work, you need the front office to find diamonds in the rough, make shrewd moves, and have a little luck -- things a team still needs even once they become a playoff contender, if not moreso.
Teams can build from the middle too. Two years ago, the Rockets were a capped out team stuck with a petulant, regressing star. Now they’re the best team in the league with the MVP and a completely revamped roster. Last year the Raptors looked like a team that had peaked and needed a shakeup, now they look primed for a Finals run.
The Wizards have good pieces to work around. It’s hard to get All-Stars and the Wizards have two. Sure, things aren’t working right now, but who’s to say they won’t? Beal and Porter are both 24 years old and are getting better. Wall is 27 and had knee issues this year, but he’s looked incredible since his return and, if he’s fresh moving forward, should continue to be. They’ve had some of the very best lineups in the league over the last two seasons -- particularly when Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter play together in the frontcourt.
There’s no easy path to relevancy. Every option is fraught with risks and pitfalls. But in a league where little is certain, Washington stands a better shot of getting to next level with what they have than by trying to start over again. If their counterparts up north have shown them anything, it’s that patience can pay off in the long run.