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September Mailbag Part 2: Wes Unseld Jr.’s honeymoon period and whether the Wizards should rebuild

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Here is the second part of the questions from our mailbag.

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers - Game One
Wes Unseld Jr. will have a long leash to implement his system this season. The question is how long will it last?
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Hi all,

Here is the second part of our mailbag. If you missed the first part from this morning, click on the link below!


How long of a honeymoon period will the Wizards have with Wes Unseld Jr. this season? (jaffejoe)

Matt Modderno: The Wizards have a pretty fickle fanbase so might not be long if things start off poorly. Hopefully, we are all realistic about expectations with this group and give Unseld a chance to run things the way he wants them run. That doesn’t happen overnight.

John Heiser: First time head coach. A completely remade roster. It’s going to take some time for all these pieces to gel. He’s got all the time from me. Doesn’t mean we aren’t going to question rotations and other decisions.

Ben Mehic: Prior to his hiring, I talked with some folks in Denver about Wes Unseld Jr. - and let me tell you: every single person said the same thing. He’s patient. He’s calm. His attention to detail stands out amongst other high-level coaches. I understand that being a head coach is much different from that of an “associate head coach” as Wes Jr. was in Denver, but he really has the ingredients to be a fantastic coach.

I think, if all goes according to plan, the Wizards might make other teams look silly for passing on Wes Jr. - and the honeymoon phase could last for years.

Yanir Rubinstein: Wes has a four-year contract. That more or less means, given the Wizards’ track record, his honeymoon will last somewhere between two and four years... the honeymoon that matters more is the one Unseld has with Leonsis and Tommy Sheppard, not necessarily the one with the fans.

Marcus Atkinson: There are a lot of unknowns at this point. Do we know if Beal is staying long-term? If the team offers him an extension in a few weeks and he doesn’t sign it, that opens up a lot of problems, including determining if the team will trade their best player and if they do who will they then build around? I feel like this situation could play out similar to how Rockets coach Stephen Silas experienced last season when he had multiple stars who pushed their way out before he had a chance to work with them.

The other potential scenario is if this team stays intact, but injuries come forward. We are talking about Dinwiddie coming off ACL surgery, Thomas Bryant still on the road to recovery and any potential injuries that could come. How much can you expect if those things become factors?

As long as this team stays healthy, we should expect some marginal improvement this year. That means improved efficiency on offense and a more effective defensive scheme. If either or both of these things happen, in a scenario with a healthy team, this team should improve. If we don’t see improvement after this year under this scenario, I would think Unseld’s leash won’t be much longer than another year because there is pressure to win with Beal while he is in his prime. This is not a rebuilding situation, Unseld has to move this team forward and it starts this year.

Do you think it’s worth it to trade Beal and other vets for the small chance of initiating a multiyear rebuild to a roster that can legitimately contend for a championship down the line?

Note that “rebuild” probably means years of losing records and missing the playoffs. Is it worth it? I’d appreciate the perspective of long-term Wizards/Bullets fans as well. Is it worth it to sacrifice watching one of the greatest franchise players in recent history for a relatively small chance of really getting better with other assets in return?

If your answer is no rebuild now, what route would you take? Paying Beal whatever it takes? Who’s on the trade block and why? How proactive would you be with upcoming free agencies and player options for Wizards players? Lock up Gafford, Bryant, Hachimura? For how much and how long? What to do with Harrell? Many intertwined questions and one more that’s connected:

What kind of player type (or specific player) would you target in a potential trade during the season? (WhyNotTyler)

John Morrow: I think it would’ve been worth it to trade Beal at his max value with either two years left on his deal, or possibly at the trade deadline last season when the Wizards would have returned a Brandon Ingram or Jaylen Brown-type player with significant draft capital as well.

At this moment, no I don’t think it is quite worth it, inferring from the rumors which teams are in on Beal and what their offers likely are. Now, I think it’s worth it to begin the season with Beal and see how it progresses with all of the new players and coaching staff. The Wizards have chosen the path of going for it with Beal, they should see it through at least for a few months. Regarding the other vets, I don’t see fair trades coming back at this time so I think it’s better to keep them.

As for the route and your other questions:

Yes, they have to pay Beal whatever it takes. It’s how the league works now and there’s not a negotiation to be had there. Pay him the max, or watch him leave.

For proactiveness with the frontcourt, I think they would be wise to wait. Too many questions with Hachimura’s development, and Gafford should need to show progress too. Neither needs to be decided on right now. The Wizards will have Bird rights for Bryant and (I believe) early-Bird for Harrell, which means to me that they can wait until the offseason to decide who earned another contract. I don’t think an extension for Caldwell-Pope would be a bad idea, it could increase his value in a trade.

I wouldn’t term it as players being on the block, but everyone should be available for the right trade. The type of player who’s needed with a presumed backcourt of Dinwiddie and Beal for the foreseeable future is a two-way player with quality size that can balance out a perimeter-heavy attack with skill and power in the paint, with enough ability to be comfortable outside of the paint on both ends too.

Ben Simmons (mostly) and Pascal Siakam both fit the bill, them being under contract is a positive in my eyes. That’s who I’d be targeting but there will be teams that are delusional about how good they’ll be and then will inevitably struggle, causing them to consider trading players they aren’t even thinking about moving now. Teams I could see this happening with, in addition to Philadelphia and Toronto, are:

  • Denver - if they struggle sans Murray will they be content to pay both Porter and Gordon? If not, could Porter then be available?
  • Memphis - similar question with Jaren Jackson
  • New Orleans - more questions than answers with the fit between Brandon Ingram and Zion
  • Phoenix - what happens if Chris Paul plays like a 37 year old and the team drops back to a lower playoff seed? Will Robert Sarver be willing to pay both Bridges and Ayton thus committing to a large luxury tax bill?

Our October mailbag will be in late October, since mid October will be right around the start of the regular season. Thanks again everyone!