You can use a lot of words to describe the Wizards during the John Wall Era, but “risky” usually hasn’t been one of them. Remember Flip Saunders’ infamous story about the team’s decision to take Jan Vesely over Klay Thompson?
Thompson had blown Saunders away during a pre-draft workout in 2011, when Saunders coached the Wizards. The Washington brain trust considered reaching for Thompson with the no. 6 pick before going the safe route with a big man — Jan Vesely, who ranked higher on most draft boards but is now out of the league. “We toyed with it,” Saunders says, “but heaven forbid you go out of the box and pick someone you’re higher on than anyone else.”
While there have been plenty of poor decisions, you could argue most of them were bad specifically because they were made to mitigate risk, rather than increase it. Even the moves that were risky in some respects weren’t risky at all in others. For instance, you could argue trading for Markieff Morris was risky, given his combustible personality. At the same time, the Wizards were also mitigating risk by acquiring him on a team-friendly, long-term deal. They missed out on a chance to get someone useful in the lottery, but they also avoided drafting a lemon like Georgios Papagiannis or Wade Baldwin IV, who have both have already been cut by the teams that drafted them less than two years after being picked in the first round.
In a lot of ways, you could argue this whole era has been defined by taking the safe route. Drafting Otto Porter Jr. over Nerlens Noel was a choice to value stability over top-end potential. Signing cheap veterans instead of trying to take a swing with young players with upside is the safe play. Maxing out John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. instead of trying to retool before they got expensive, was an expensive, but safe choice to ensure the team would maintain a level of respectability.
As discussion heats up on the extremely risky idea of the Wizards trading for DeMarcus Cousins, it begs the question: What is the biggest risk the Wizards have taken in the John Wall era to date? Was it the Morris trade? Trying to recruit Kevin Durant? Letting Trevor Booker walk? Drafting Glen Rice Jr.? Let’s talk it out as we wait and see what happens with Cousins.