The Bullets Forever team chatted on three different topics last week after their time in the 2019-20 NBA season restart ended. In this part, we talked about whether the team needs to rebuild or “go for one more run” with the John Wall and Bradley Beal backcourt.
Albert: Ben Becker wrote about the Wizards being at a crossroads between rebuilding and going for one more run with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Which side are you on and why?
I am on the side that the Wizards must rebuild, but they do have to see how good Wall looks before making any trade decisions.
Ben Mehic: The Wizards are kind of, sort of already rebuilding. I mean, just look at the roster. Their rebuild is in a weird spot because John Wall is a holdover of what once was, and I suspect he’s only in Washington because his contract is probably the least attractive in the NBA.
That complicates stuff — and it’s why the team is composed mostly of young, borderline-contributing players. I don’t think it hurts to try it again — what do the Wizards have to lose, after all? If a team led by Wall and Beal doesn’t compete, teams will come calling. And if Wall looks good, his contract becomes more tradable.
Kevin Broom: When I did research on the history of All-Star level players returning from multi-year absences due to injury, I concluded the Wizards should go ahead and start the rebuild. Instead, they decided on a one-year reload, apparently believing Wall will return at a high level.
Since they’re going to have Wall no matter what, they’ve committed to Beal, and they’re going to re-sign Davis Bertans (for probably a lot of money), they should commit to trying to win for another year or two. If it’s clear they aren’t going to compete for anything meaningful going into Wall’s last year, then tear it down and start over. Rebuilds take a long time.
My only hedges against the future: don’t trade the first round pick in 2021 or in 2023 and beyond.
Osman Baig: They are already in on trying it out one more time and with Beal’s mini-extension giving them time, there’s no harm in seeing how the first 50 games next season play out. I think there’s a way to pick a lane without losing flexibility or mortgaging their future but their current path isn’t on that lane. They don’t have players who can defend, their 2018 1st round pick isn’t compatible with a Wall/Beal lineup, and they have too many players on rookie deals pulling in their own direction.
They need a lob threat - rim protecting five to compliment Bryant (who showed improvement in the Bubble) and they need two-way help on the wing. As an example - if they can find a way to bring in a Jerami Grant - he’d immediately help, but if they do have to pivot and go rebuild, he would be the type of player the Wizards would want to be here as part of the rebuild. The question is can Tommy find that type in the offseason.
If he can’t and if the plan is to show up next year with the Bubble team plus Wall, Beal, Bertans, and a rookie - it won’t work and they (and more importantly Beal) will realize that quickly next season.
The other kind of funny thing about trading Beal and going full rebuild is I don’t think it would amount to that big of a step back. Beal is valuable and as many covering the league has said, every team would express interest. If they could get a Caris Levert, Jarrett Allen, and picks from Brooklyn or Brandon Ingram and players or picks from New Orleans, how big of a step back are they actually taking?
Matt Modderno: It depends on what you mean “one more run.” I don’t think that even with a great draft, a solid free agency, and a 100% Wall that they will be real contenders next year. But I do think there’s a lot of value in being at least a middle of the pack playoff team.
Good free agents are a lot more likely to consider a team that has at least marginal playoff success in the semi-recent future. The Wizards are less likely to have to grossly overpay for those players if you have some track record of at least competing come playoff time. Larry Hughes and I talked to Jared Jeffries who worked in the Denver front office under Tim Connelly about why Washington isn’t more of a popular free agent destination.
The consensus from the former players was that Washington’s inconsistent track record of success under the previous General Manager probably didn’t do them any favors. Looking competent next year would be a signal to the league and its players that Tommy Sheppard is moving things in a positive direction. So I do see a lot of value in running it back, even if the ceiling would only be like a 5 or a 6 seed. If Wall looks cooked this season then you blow the whole thing to smithereens next year and we can all look forward to our version of “The Process.”
Alan Jenkins: Aren’t the Wizards trying to rebuild on the fly right now? I think the Wizards should “go for one more run” but I’m not 100% sure what that actually means. A run to the Eastern Conference Finals? Semi-Finals? Or is merely making the playoffs good enough?
The fact of the matter is, they aren’t going to be able to move John Wall, they’re committed to Bradley Beal (and vice versa), and one will assume that they’re going to open up the checkbook to keep Davis Bertans around. Since all signs point to those three guys being in DC, you have to try to maximize that opportunity over the next two or so years before a significant dropoff occurs.
Marcus Atkinson: I think you have to go forward with Wall and Beal, but there are a few things you have to consider. I hear the calls for Beal to be traded and start over, but that doesn’t get you to a rebuild because you are probably stuck with Wall’s contract for at least another year or two.
If he comes back and doesn’t play at least at the All-star level he has played in the past, then the Wizards are basically stuck with a virtually immovable contract along with a player incapable of living up to it. They are going to be financially strapped, so the Wizardsmight as well see if they can build something while Wall is still there. If Washington can get a good player out of this year’s draft and if Rui Hachimura and other young players develop (I know a lot of ifs), they give themselves at least a chance to build something that should equate to a playoff team.
Yanir Rubinstein: Before doing a rebuild, a big question is who does the rebuild and who is in charge of the ensuing “process”? Those are the GM and head coach usually.
The Wizards need a cultural and mental restart, first and foremost. Ted Leonsis failed to move on from the Grunfeld-Sheppard duo that has been calling the shots for the last 17 years. This is the bottom line the media in DC usually ignores (for various reasons I won’t get into).
I really like Sheppard and I’m actually happy he’s still part of the organization but it is clear to anyone that followed the GM search that Leonsis tried hard for several months to bring someone else to lead the organization and ultimately failed because either he was too stingy or too picky.
One way or another, the franchise lost a golden opportunity, since it is clear that Sheppard will stay for a good while. Since he and Scott Brooks are both represented by Warren LeGarie I think it will be hard for Sheppard to not renew Brooks unless there will be very strong push back from fans. If Sheppard does move on from Brooks then I think that will be a strong signal that this is a healthier organization not beholden to agents and personal interests and is genuine about a championship run.
If Brooks is extended beyond his present five-year contract I think the question of a rebuild or not becomes immaterial as change cannot come while keeping the same ideas/mentality/culture.
Ben Becker: It depends on what they can get for Beal, so they should listen to offers. I completely agree with Osman — If Brooklyn offers Levert, Allen and multiple firsts, the Wizards can probably “rebuild” while also getting no worse — and perhaps get better. If Denver puts Michael Porter, Jr and Bol Bol in a package with Gary Harris, the Wizards have to jump at that.
In absence of an offer that bowls the Wizards over, they should push some chips in and maximize the next two to three years with Wall and Beal. They won’t win a title, but neither will most teams. John and Brad have committed to the franchise and the City; they are amazing in the community. Give them some teammates that allow them and the fans to create some lasting memories.
As to Scott Brooks whom Yanir pointed out, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’s extended or back next season.
He’s in or near the top five in annual salary for NBA coaches. His record as Wizards coach is 149-169 (.469) with one playoff series win in four seasons. The Wizards made a very, very big deal last summer about how their new managerial structure is set up to give credence to a lot of different voices, and that it’s not a siloed one man show that it was under Ernie Grunfeld.
It only makes sense that some of those voices are going to look at the aforementioned set of facts — and that Brooks is a holdover from the old administration — and advocate for a new direction. If Brooks is brought back, I would expect him to be on an extremely short leash next season.
And regarding LeGarie specifically, I don’t think Brooks and Sheppard both being his clients affects things one way or the other. LeGarie doesn’t rep players — only coaches and execs. There’s no risk that firing Brooks keeps him from steering players away from DC. If the head coaching job in DC becomes vacant, you can bet LeGarie is going to try to get his clients into the job.
Yanir: There is plenty of evidence that it does, at least in terms of why Brooks hasn’t been fired yet. I wrote about it here.
Ben Becker: I’m not sure what these quotes are supposed to be evidence of. Stefanski didn’t get the Knicks job. According to Ben Falk, Canales is a truly unique personality that perhaps caused Olshey to be so effusive.
Whether or not Brooks stays through the season or beyond, there is bound to be some tension created by his high cost relative to his peers and the team’s performance. If Brooks does re-up, the Wizards are very likely to ask him to take a pay cut and probably a significant one at that. Facing that, I’d hardly be surprised if Brooks takes another sabbatical with his $35 million banked before heading back out into the market as a top assistant or HC again.
And with LeGarie repping Tommy, I’m sure the Wiz won’t have any trouble getting meetings with his clients.