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March Mailbag questions: Beal’s future, defensive stoppers and where are the Wizards headed long term?

Here are our questions to our March mailbag.

Utah Jazz v Washington Wizards
We take your questions on all things right as March Madness gets underway!
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Thank you for your questions for March’s mailbag. Answers to selected questions are below. We will have our next mailbag in mid-April. Thanks again!

In the spirit of last year’s Rockets, Any chance we run a small ball starting 5 any time soon? (raekwon231)

Yanir Rubinstein: Isn’t the Beal-Russ-Mathews-Bertans-Wagner small?

Albert: Noted. They’re already playing a three-guard lineup in many rotations. That said, it wouldn’t shock me to see a Beal-Westbrook-Mathews-Bertans-Hachimura lineup for longer stretches since I’d think that Hachimura would be the center in such a lineup.

Why do we need to go through this [mediocrity-as-goal style of play] year after year? What have we done wrong as fans? (season ticket holder 417)

Ben Mehic: I don’t think the team “needs” to go through this, but this season (and the seasons prior) is a result of a team unwilling to accept its fate. The Wizards are trying to remain competitive, but haven’t accepted the fact that they’ve mismanaged the cap, botched draft picks, and didn’t develop players as they hoped. Other teams would have engaged in a full-blown rebuild, but the Wizards are doing this weird dance — toeing the line between rebuilding and competing. Enter, purgatory.

Albert: To add to Ben’s point, the Wizards are fighting to get on the treadmill of mediocrity at this point. The record says all we need at this point, and I was hopeful that they would have bucked that this season. Unfortunately, I (and many of us) was/were wrong.

If Scott Brooks does not get his contract renewed, are there any coaches out there that you think the Wizards should pursue? Or, even more generally, are there any coaching archetypes the team should focus on getting? Should they, for example, look for the Thibs model of letting young players just get tons of minutes (at the potential risk of health issues), like he’s currently doing with the Knicks? Should they look for a veteran coach with experience and free agency pull, or maybe a young one who could bring in some fresh, modern ideas? (Jack McWilliams, email)

Albert: To be honest, Tommy Sheppard should have asked Mike Thibault to do him a favor by walking across the hall when the Wizards raced off to an 0-5 start. Washington’s lack of good results early this season was inexcusable because every NBA team had shortened training camps, etc.

Anyway, at best perhaps Sheppard’s lack of confidence in any bench coach is also a reason why Brooks still has a job right now. Or at worst, he is overconfident in Brooks...

As for who the next head coach ends up being, I think it needs to be a coach who is not afraid to utilize younger players more often. Hopefully, he or she also has experience from a perennial winning organization, like the San Antonio Spurs for example (even though they are retooling themselves). .... Becky Hammon anyone?

Yanir: Whoever it may be, Tommy please don’t bring Luke Walton here after he gets fired from Sacramento. I personally think Chris Fleming or Kenny Atkinson would be decent choices.

Do you think Beal will get a supermax contract? Is it worth it after seeing that he’s not working out well with Russell Westbrook? (GreatWallOfWizards)

Albert: If there is a silver lining for the 2020-21 NBA season it’s that Beal was named an All-Star starter and still has a good shot at being named an All-NBA player. Since the Wizards haven’t shown us otherwise, it’s realistic to believe that Beal will sign a supermax extension with Washington if and when he is named an All-NBA player.

As for whether it’s worth it, the Wizards think Beal is worth a supermax if that guarantees his services. But I can’t disagree with you that Russell Westbrook hasn’t helped things for Washington in the standings this season.

If the Wizards miss the playoffs/play-in, what is the plan going forward for the offseason/next season? Do they make some actual “win now” moves, trade Beal and/or Russ and lean into an actual rebuild, or just run it back and pray to the basketball gods for better results? (DunkDriving86)

Albert: I think the Wizards will “run it back” and pray for better results with their personnel. But I think Scott Brooks won’t be the head coach after this season comes to an end.

Can this “what if?” happen in the year 2030?

“Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, now 38, never imagined he would be back in the NBA playoffs again. ‘It’s been over a decade since I played in a postseason game. I don’t know why I played with this franchise for so long. Maybe there is something wrong with me. You know, in my head,’ Beal lamented.”


Albert: I don’t see this happening because Beal has indicated that he is open to leaving the Wizards if they continue to languish in the standings — which is exactly what they are doing right now. He can be a free agent as early as 2022 if he opts out, and given how poor the team is performing, I don’t see him in a Wizards season for the 2022-23 season to be honest.

The Wiz desperately need more defense. They are the worst shot-blocking team in the NBA and are rated in the lower third defensively, in the league. Who could be the best defensive stopper long term? (Skulldog)

Albert: I’d say that among their current players, it may end up being Rui Hachimura, even though I wouldn’t call him a “defensive stopper” per se, since as ... Scott Brooks recently said, his off-ball defense has improved and he has also taken a variety of defensive assignments this season against wings and other power forwards.

Is Ted Leonsis this tone-deaf? Everything was all bout the “Ten point rebuilding plan” in 2010. Here we are in 2021 and the Wizards are once again one of the worst teams in the league and stuck in neutral. The team is bad and uninteresting. Many teams have rebuilt and passed us by multiple times in the last 11 years. Will Ted do anything? — TruWizFan42

Albert: Ted will do something, sooner rather than later.

He wasn’t tone-deaf with the Capitals obviously given his tenure with them, and he certainly wasn’t with the Mystics after a lot of fan criticism during their darkest days from 2011-12. He’s still one of the NBA team owners that people around the league want to work for. So Washington is still an attractive destination even if their cap situation is complicated at the moment.

Will the Mystics make a move for the draft this year? The Dallas Wings have four first round picks this year, all in the Top-7. (Multiple questions)

Albert: Highly unlikely. The Mystics have indicated this will be a weak class and their roster looked rather set before the draft. Since the Mystics are one of the championship contenders this season, this is not a bad thing.

And regarding the Wings specifically, there isnt’ anyone on their roster who would be traded to Washington without trading away Alysha Clark, Natasha Cloud, Ariel Atkins, Myisha Hines-Allen or Tina Charles away.

I’m not sure when the current CBA expires, but isn’t it time for some radical rethinking about the salary structure and draft system? (djt411)

Albert: This topic is worth its own post! So let’s revisit this in the next week or two.

If the Wizards do not trade Beal, what is the path forward supposed to be? (Bruce Umbaugh, email)

Yanir: If Beal wants to stay in DC that means the team is around .500, as he himself said he’d like to be in a winning situation (that’s my interpretation of “winning” in its weakest form). However, the brightest statistical predictions give the Wiz ~ 30 wins this season (the not-so-bright ones ~ 25 wins), which is just below .420.

So either Beal is traded now, or he demands a trade in the off-season, or else he rides out his final year in the contract and then either walks or signs a super-max extension (and possibly gets traded? I don’t know if supermax allows S&T) which would significantly reduce his trade value. The path forward looks bleaker the longer the Wiz wait with the inevitable trade.

Of course, scrap all the above if the Wiz win a very high lottery pick this year and Bryant comes back better than ever, and Russ suddenly stops being a turnover machine, and Deni develops into a legit starter, and Rui transforms into a legit screener and 3-point shooter, and Garrison Mathews becomes Tyler Herro 2.0, etc.