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June Mailbag Answers Part 2: The Wizards’ direction and whether the Mystics can win it all in 2021

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Here is the second part of our June mailbag.

2020 NBA Restart - All Access Practice
Is it time for Wes Unseld Jr. to ... come home?
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Here is Part 2 of our June mailbag. If you didn’t read Part 1, the questions are here.


What direction do you think the Wizards should go when choosing a coach. Should they focus on how they run the offense or improving the defense? And who do you think would be the best candidates for offense and defense or both? (jayscott)

Note that our responses came before Rick Carlisle was hired as the Indiana Pacers’ head coach on Thursday.

Ben Mehic: The Wizards have to find a coach who’s comfortable with a situation that could go from compete-to-rebuild quickly.

Remember - the team’s future depends on Bradley Beal. After “parting ways” with Scott Brooks, GM Tommy Sheppard said that Brooks was hired to coach a different team — a team full of established veterans (Wall, Beal, Porter, Bogdanovic, Gortat, etc), not a team dependent upon young players. The person they hire has to be ready to coach both versions. A team led by Russell Westbrook and Beal can compete in the East, but if Beal decides to leave, the Wizards will find themselves in a full-blown rebuild. How will the new coach handle that possible scenario?

That’s why I think Wes Unseld Jr. would be a safe choice. He’s credited for player development — good for a rebuilding team — but can also help immediately with his defensive philosophies and experience.

Yanir Rubinstein: I think they should hire Kevin Broom. And I hope Kevin then hires me as an assistant.

Albert: * Rec’s Yanir’s response *

Osman Baig: Sheppard indicated they don’t want one person running the entire thing so I don’t think it's as important to identify an offensive or defensive-minded coach.

Being transparent, I’d take a swing at a Carlisle or Jay Wright but think it’s unlikely. From there I’d go back Wes Unseld Jr. I think hiring him and pairing him with an offensive-minded assistant with head coaching experience would be a win.

John Heiser: I disagree that the Wizards have to sign this magical coach that’s good for every season, playoffs, rebuild and everything in between. They’re guaranteed next season with Beal and Russ. That’s it. That’s the timeframe to be concerned with. Don’t lose the best coach available for 2021 just because the team has to rebuild in year four of a four-year deal.

Obviously, a “no name coach” is more likely to take a one or two-year deal. They might wind up paying someone not to coach in a few years. So be it if that’s the cost of doing business. Tommy isn’t the only one that needs to take big swings. There are several ways ownership can too, including coaching salaries, including higher assistant salaries.

Tommy specifically mentioned defensive efficiency as an area of concern in his press conference. Expect the new coaching staff to bring bonafides where defense is concerned. Based on his work with the Nuggets, Wes Unseld Jr., their “defensive coordinator” deserves an interview.

The Mystics are 7-7, after Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks Have the opinions changed about Washington given their start? Is it still too early to say whether they’re really able to make a championship run? (Nathan Snell)

Greydy Diaz: At the start of the season, I believed the Mystics’ season was going to be a long one. I have been impressed with the way the team has come together despite missing Elena Delle Donne, Emma Meesseman and Alysha Clark. All the injuries that are plaguing the team right now, I did not anticipate and theyreally worry me. If the Mystics can’t stay healthy, I don’t foresee them competing for a championship this year.

Diamond Holton: I think most are understanding that 6-6 is pretty good considering that Washington had more new people on the roster than those who returned.

It took a few games, but they are beginning to mesh pretty well and get into their form.

Being as though the WNBA has the top 8 teams make the playoffs, Mystics currently are in fifth place. I won’t say it’s too early nor will I say the thought is out of this world.

As long as Tina Charles is healthy then Washington has a shot. And even though there’s no timetable on the return of Elena Delle Donne, it’s expected to see her play after the Olympic break. And if she does return…yikes to every opponent next up on the schedule! Same with Emma Meesseman.

Albert: The Mystics can only get back in the championship picture if they can get Meesseman back for the post-Olympic break, or if Delle Donne plays close to the way she did in 2019. They are doing well under the circumstances but I don’t see the current rotation beating the Storm or Aces in a best-of-five series.

There are several teams that have been bad at some point in the last decade: the Bucks, Hawks, Nets, Suns, 76ers. Now, look at them. They are all among the NBA’s best now. Why don’t we rebuild? Why can’t we get a championship-caliber squad? (Shuvo Barua)

Albert: You are preaching to the choir. For most of these teams, they had a deliberate plan to start anew (76ers, Hawks, Suns) and stuck with it. The Wizards did the same back in 2010 and they were able to turn into a second-round playoff team over time. I think your frustration is coming from them not making a deliberate plan to start fresh. The closest we have seen is Sheppard reiterating that Beal is the centerpiece of the franchise.

Who is the biggest surprise (in a good way), and who is the biggest disappointment so far for the Mystics? (Nathan Snell)

Albert: Biggest surprise? Tina Charles. She was always expected to be an All-Star caliber performer, but this is a career year for her where she’s the league-leading scorer and is now an MVP candidate. I wrote more about that here.

Biggest disappointment? Natasha Cloud. Her shooting is down to 33.3 percent this season, the lowest in her career since her rookie season in 2015 and her three-point shooting is also down to just 25.6 percent. She has played in all but two games this season and is averaging 30 minutes per game, yet her shooting remains poor. She is averaging 6.9 points per game, but those figures would be considerably higher if her shooting was better.

Cloud needs to get her shooting back up closer to 40 percent from the field and her three-point shooting closer to 35 percent, which were her rates during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. If she can do that, then Washington will be in much better shape.

Will the Wizards get rid of their ‘DC Above All’ slogan which is eerily similar to WWII Germany’s ‘Deutschland über alles’? Have the Wizards become a PR arm of the State Department? (Bruce Gagnon)

Albert: I reached out to the corresponding people at Monumental Sports & Entertainment regarding your question specifically but have not received a response in time.

From past seasons when teams decide to change their slogans, they do so before the start of a new regular season. So I assume that is what the Wizards will do as well.

For those of you not familiar with what Bruce is referring to in regard to “Deutschland über alles,” it literally means “Germany above all else.” It is part of the stanza from their national anthem as originally written, and it was regularly sung during the Nazi era and is associated as such. Germans today often avoid singing that verse due to the perception it has with Nazism and don’t appreciate hearing it, even when sung by accident by foreigners. Wikipedia has a better way of explaining this than I can so I’ll refer you there. I did read some criticism on the “DC Above All” slogan for that reason specifically as well.

Should the Wizards rebuild from scratch or build around Bradley Beal? I feel like Russ can be expendable. (Nathan Snell)

Albert: I think the Wizards should rebuild, but we also know they’re clearly not thinking about that. Barring a deep playoff run in the next two seasons, my guess is that the rebuild will start once Westbrook’s and Beal’s contracts are off the books.

With the draft and potential trades coming up will the Wiz go with more athletic players as top-priority or double-down on the international theme (building the mini-United Nations) which might be good for global marketing but not for putting together a team that can truly advance in the playoffs? (Bruce Gagnon)

Osman Baig: I really dislike these types of comments. They’re not shying away from international marketing but I really doubt the front office is ranking their draft and free agent targets by what country they are from. There’s a difference.

Albert: I agree with Osman that the Wizards aren’t going to simply look at what country players are from for global marketing purposes, especially when their team isn’t a championship contender when the NBA brand will sell itself.