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Roundtable: More grades on the Wizards’ offseason and whether we think they are better positioned to contend, Part 2

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Our roundtable continues as more of our writers give their thoughts on the Wizards’ active offseason.

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards
Though the Washington Wizards may have made some good moves in the offseason, they aren’t necessarily on the path toward contention.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Here is the second part of our roundtable on the Washington Wizards’ offseason so far. If you missed the first part, please click on the link below:


Yanir Rubinstein: I don’t see a path for the Wizards to contend. At least not yet.

No questions asked, I would give Tommy Sheppard an A+ for the Westbrook trade. Yet, I find giving Sheppard an overall grade a bit out of my league. After all, there are so many things going into his job aside from the ones we can see.

For instance, I think Sheppard cannot be graded in isolation from the goals set by Ted Leonsis.

At any rate, I am a bit surprised they traded down the 22nd pick to get Todd with the 31st pick (forget about Holiday for a moment). From what I heard, Isaiah Todd would have been a borderline late 2nd round pick or an undrafted project player. With the 22nd pick the team could have actually went for someone better.

But again, I’m not going to judge Sheppard here, since selecting in the first round would have meant some guaranteed salary and possibly some tax consequences for Leonsis, and maybe the latter wasn’t willing to pay.

Ben Becker: Shep deserves credit for restocking the second round pick cupboard so that he had the necessary currency to facilitate the lumping of the Dinwiddie signing into the Westbrook trade.

But sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Because if we are being honest, Westbrook wanting to go to the Lakers — and the Lakers actually wanting him — are the main reasons that Sheppard was able to pull this deal off in the first place. If the Lakers had said “no thanks,” the Wizards would likely have been out of luck in terms of moving off of Russ.

The Wizards are much better off with the six guys they got than they are with Westbrook, but as others have said, I don’t think that means the Wizards will make a huge leap in competitiveness in the short term. But with their newfound depth, it will be very hard for them to be bad, and they should have further opportunities to build their asset base by moving some of these veterans to contenders down the line.

Marcus Atkinson: I was waiting for more conversation about this, but I thought more would be mentioned about his hiring of Wes Unseld Jr.

I understand that we are talking about free agency, but what would your view of Sheppard’s moves be if Brooks was still the coach?

Let’s set the Westbrook trade aside for a moment. If the roster stayed virtually the same as it did last year, and you put Unseld on the bench instead of Brooks, then aren’t we a little more confident in this team?

Sure, Unseld is an unknown, but we know Brooks was not making this team better and was not maximizing the talent, so there is at least hope that you may have a better coach. Regardless of where you sit on the whole “did they really try to bring Brooks back” or “did the team try to give the appearance of such to not turn off their star players” conversation, the fact, the Unseld hire could be the most important evaluation we have of Sheppard as a GM.

WIthout a good coach, the depth of this team does not matter. The roles of players like Kuzma, Harrell or KCP are less clearer with Brooks.

To me, Sheppard is at least a B+ but potentially better if Unseld can find a way to maximize this roster. The roster is now better than it was last year, but how it gets used and how Unseld maximizes the talent is more important than any acquisition that Sheppard made.

Are the Wizards contenders? No, but with a better roster, more financial flexibility and a better coach, the path becomes a little clearer.

Ron Oakes-Cunningham: I give the moves an A… for antsy anticipation. With the recent additions, we’ve increased the amount of DOGs on the team. Similar to last season’s mob, the new additions are gritty, punch above their weight, and work hard. And they’re more skilled!

But the newest Wizards are also more ambitious. Dinwiddie was candid in press availability, saying that he hasn’t reached superstar level. But I’m sure Spencer is going for it. It’s in his nature. Same story for Montrezl. From 6th Man of the Year to out of the rotation, he too has something to prove with a payday looming. Kuzma? He believes he can become a 25 point per game score and an All-Star?.

How does this mesh with Rui’s ambitions? Brad’s? Bertans’? (lol, jk on Bertans)

If it slaps together, I’m anticipating a hella fun season! We just need A+ chemistry.

PS: Tommy is my pick for next season’s GM of the year.

John Heiser: B+. On the one hand, the Wizards gave up the single best player in the trade involving Westbrook. Russ was ALL NBA level last year whether he was voted there or not. Led the league in assists. He finished 6th in rebounds per game despite being a a sub 6’6 player. Yet Washington didn’t receive an All Star in return.

This is a star’s game and we lost one. That and we had to send out extra assets to rope the Spurs into taking Chandler Hutchison when he should have just been sent back to Indy in that original deal of draft disappointments.

Since there wasn’t more of a headline player coming back its tougher to LOVE-LOVE the personnel of the trade. I like it plenty, we got quality and quantity. It may have been intricate but wrapping all of these moves into one deal makes it pretty efficient too.

Teams should win sign and trades. The Wizards checked that box with the contract that Dinwiddie agreed to (unlike the Bulls, holy moly DeRozan!). Spencer can do some real damage with his downhill style.

The team will be as deep or deeper than I can remember in my decades of watching (mid 80’s). Comparing the 20-21 opening day roster to the current one is downright jarring. Lets look at the full cycle here. The Front Office under Sheppard said “no treadmill vets”. They sold off the mid level+ types so we could play and develop Thomas Bryant, Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga (the original 3 ex-Lakers!), Jerome Robinson, Anžejs Pasečņiks, and Troy Brown Jr while John Wall rehabbed.

One for six looks better when two were flipped for a difference maker in Daniel Gafford.

Three years of draft picks later, Rui Hachimura, Admiral Schofield, Deni Avdija, Cassius Winston, Corey Kispert and Isaiah Todd are the youth to which the team adds 5 core vets. Those vet salaries are pretty similar in price range, albeit with much more recent experience winning a title by being stars in their roles. And none are over 28 years old! Love that.

It’s a helluva reset but I can’t help feel like we’re not not done. Sure the roster is imbalanced a bit but in the bigger picture I believe Tommy and Co-GM Beal want to create further flexibility so that the Wizards can recruit a bigger costar next offseason. Thats a conversation for another day.

For now, Brad can look around the locker room and see shooters, scrappers, friends, an enforcer, recent former champs... legit reinforcements. The only guy happier is probably Coach Unseld.