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The Wizards can’t afford uncertainty heading into a pivotal summer

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NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Owner Ted Leonsis conceded that “It doesn’t look like we’ll make the the playoffs now” after a 113-108 loss to the Miami Heat just over a week ago. However, Leonsis was hesitant to shut the door on this season as he stated: “Let’s see how they do out west.” The Wizards went 2-2 over that west coast road trip where we unsurprisingly learned nothing new about this roster on top of being officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Now, the Wizards season is over. Technically, they still have to play out four more meaningless games to wrap up a 2018-19 campaign that failed to meet any of its goals, but for all intensive purposes, it’s over. The door is shut.

Washington ran it back to start the year with the core of Wall, Beal and Porter and stuck to their tried-and-true method of overpaying veterans who were past their prime hoping they had enough left in the tank to fill voids on both ends of the court and in the locker room; a tactic that’s only proven mediocre to slightly above average results on its best days.

And with their once franchise player shelved for likely all of next season with no plan in place, the franchise is at a fork in the road. Do they try to ride it out and hope things look better on the other side, or do they make aggressive moves to get the most out of Beal and Wall before it’s too late?

The Wizards are about to enter the most pivotal offseason of the Wall/Beal era. Now, more than ever, the Wizards have to be confident with who is calling the shots since the decisions made this summer will shape the franchise and determine how fans respond to the team now that they have taken a step back. Consider the following decisions that must be made this summer:

  • Thomas Bryant, Tomas Satoransky, Bobby Portis, Jeff Green and Trevor Ariza will all be free agents.
  • Scott Brooks will only be a handful of games over .500 through his first three years in Washington.
  • The Wizards will likely have their highest draft pick since they selected Otto Porter Jr. in 2013.
  • Washington has to make a decision on whether to stretch the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s contract, pursue a trade to unload his expiring contract, or finish swallowing this tough pill while John Wall is on the shelf.
  • Washington will be out of the tax and have enough wiggle room to be aggressive with their mid-level exception for the first time since Paul Pierce left.
  • If Bradley Beal makes an All-NBA team, the Wizards will have to decide on whether or not offer him a supermax extension, or possibly run the risk of him demanding a trade if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

Before they tackle this hefty to-do list, they must answer the most important question of them all - what is the plan for this team? There is too much on the line to be on the fence about what the plan is or who should put it together.

With the Wizards now lottery bound, it’s time to focus on the draft. The Wizards will likely have a top-ten pick and draft in the highest position since 2013. So not only is it important that the Wizards feel confident that they have the right people in the right place to make the right calls, but there’s also an enormous sense of urgency as this draft pick should be a building block for the franchise.

Who Washington ends up taking in the first round will hint at their plans for the future as they’ll then have to pivot to free agency and make important decisions on Beal, Bryant, Portis, Satoransky, Ariza, and Green this summer. Trading Otto Porter at the deadline this year freed up a bit spending power to use that they won’t have after they restock the team this summer.

Is it time to start building around Bradley Beal by plugging in overpriced ‘proven veterans’ in hopes that that’ll be good enough to slide back into the playoff picture next year? Or should Washington make Beal the centerpiece of the franchise and start developing some of the younger talent on this team while scanning the rest of the league and filling in holes with younger players with more upside? Lastly ***gulp*** do they consider trading Beal and carry out a complete reset?

This offseason will say a lot about how ownership responds when the team underperforms. Leonsis has been patient — which paid off in spades with the Capitals — but that core has demonstrated far more together in their long road to success than the Wizards have, and even then, he had to let George McPhee go in 2014 after several shortsighted moves set the team back.

Despite the team’s struggles, the Wizards are in a good financial position thanks to new revenue pouring in, with the potential for even more as Leonsis leads the charge for more legalized sports gambling. If the Wizards stay the course after back-to-back disappointing seasons which included several moves prioritizing the short term over the future, it will not inspire much confidence about what’s in store for the rest of the Wall/Beal era. If ownership is going to right the ship and make the Wizards relevant once again, it all starts with getting the right people in key positions ASAP — something they haven’t been able to do yet.