The Washington Wizards have played well over the last week or so and have shown a lot of promise towards the future. Of course, there are a lot of calls for this team to scale things back to give them a greater chance to get a higher lottery pick.
With the recent wins though, this option looks less feasible. The Wizards currently have eight teams ahead of them in the draft lottery odds. Each win would put their odds of getting a high pick, further and further away. With this year’s draft deemed by many pundits to be a very top-heavy draft with a drop off outside the top 5, the Wizards may have put themselves in a position to be at the point of no return.
So with that said, if that’s the decision this team has made, then there is no turning back.
There is no time to develop players, to exhibit patience with young pieces or to figure out if another player can fit a new role. Again, since the Wizards are likely on the outside looking in for a very high draft pick, they have to go for broke. Now is the time for Washington to go all in by putting their chips to the middle of the table.
How the Wizards should approach the rest of this season
Going forward, the Wizards need players who are going to produce and put the team in the best situation to win. Perhaps this is a matter of playing certain players for certain match-ups or riding a player who is playing well at the moment. Whatever that may be, now is the time for head coach Scott Brooks to tighten the rotations and put their best foot forward.
As much as the center by committee has worked, once Daniel Gafford is off of his minute restrictions, it is time to start him and see if he can be just as productive with starter minutes. It’s time to see if he can steal minutes away from Alex Len, especially with Len being hurt in the game on Saturday. If Gafford can remain productive while giving him more minutes, then the Wizards should keep him on the court more and maybe consider shrinking this committee to give Gafford the extra time.
The other item to figure out is how Washington will handle the guard rotation. The team has used Raul Neto a lot as an off-guard while playing with Westbrook. With Ish Smith back, the rotation of playing both Smith and Neto has eaten into the minutes that were being given to Garrison Mathews. Is that going to be the best rotation for this team going forward? It’s hard to say at this time, but if the Wizards keep winning, it’s hard to argue with the results of going to Neto and Smith at the expense of Mathews minutes.
Over the next couple of weeks, the answers to the rotation should become clear and that should put them in a position to tighten their rotations just in time for a final playoff push.
How the Wizards should approach the offseason
Next season, Bradley Beal will enter what could be the last year of his contract, with the year after having a player option that he will almost assuredly opt-out of. Russell Westbrook will also still have two years left on his massive supermax contract, while also getting ready to turn 33 at the beginning of next season. These point to something clear: Washington can’t slow down now. Again, they need to go all in.
That means there is no time to develop players whom Washington thinks can eventually be good players. They need players who can produce right away. With that said, and based on the point raised earlier about the draft this summer, I believe this team should strongly consider packaging their first-round pick with players to get another star/starter-level player on this team.
In the past, the idea of this team trading away a first round pick would almost always seem like a bad idea, especially considering the team was working towards building a team for the future, but it’s no longer about the future anymore, it’s about the team winning right now.
Why waste this opportunity of having two All-Star level guards ready to win? If Washington can package the pick with some combination of Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant, Deni Avdija or Rui Hachimura to get a solid wing player to go with Westbrook and Beal, they have to do it. The Wizards will lose some depth. But they could potentially add a third-star player that could improve the talent level, especially on defense.
Players like Jerami Grant or Harrison Barnes are just some that come to mind. They certainly are not superstar talents. But they are proven players who can play off of Westbrook and Beal, play on both ends of the floor and have been more productive than players currently in the Wizards rotation outside of Beal and Westbrook. This is a better option than adding a rookie outside the lottery in this draft who is not likely to be productive in the time frame that this team needs to win.
If Washington is able to trade for a quality wing player, then they should still have some financial space to use their exceptions to sign veteran players on cheaper deals, who would more than likely be willing to take a pay cut to have a chance to play with a team that gives them a chance to win.
If this team is about winning now, that is certainly a lot better than having Westbrook and Beal spend their possible last year together with unproven talent, while having the expectation of trying to be a contending team.
This is not the time for half-stepping. The Wizards have made it really clear that the time to win is now. Now it’s time to match those words with deeds.
So to General Manager Tommy Sheppard, put the best players on the court and build the best team you can. And then, let’s see where it goes.
Realistically, the Wizards will have to hit on a lot of their moves to move into contention. But it’s a lot better than continuing to be in the middle of building and contending. Now is the time to go full-throttle and move this team towards contention.