With the Golden State Warriors’ recent championship, former Wizards Otto Porter, Gary Payton II, and Chris Chiozza became World Champions for the first time in their career. If this sounds like a common refrain, it actually is.
Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II and Chris Chiozza are now NBA champions. This makes it 6 straight years the title team had at least one former Wizards player. The Wizards remain a championship role player factory. pic.twitter.com/l4kbcdlryC— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) June 17, 2022
With these three former players winning with the Warriors, it marks the sitth straight year that at least one former Wizards player has been a member of the championship roster. Is this a coincidence or is this a sign? My thinking is that this is an indicator of some trends about organization. Let’s dive in.
The Wizards are getting talent, but they aren’t utilizing it to its best in D.C.
If you are able to have former players play on six straight championship teams, then clearly there is talent there. Yes, you can argue that the Chris Chiozzas, Jodie Meeks and CJ Miles of the world were more or less in the right place at the right time, with little to nothing to do with the actual title run, but there are also players like Otto Porter who started during this year’s Finals and played a prominent role for the Warriors’ title run.
If anything, teams like the Warriors are finding value with players and finding appropriate roles. If we are really being honest, Otto Porter was always a solid player, but he was never the star player the Wizards signed him to be when they signed him to the max contract as a restricted free agent during the 2017 offseason. Allocating the amount of money that was allocated to pay Otto limited the team’s ability to add talent and placed Otto in a role that did not suit his abilities.
Interestingly enough, Otto’s signing by the Wizards wasn’t by the “new” front office that was led by Tommy Sheppard, the mistake of overvaluing and miscasting players, like Otto, was very reminiscent of the “previous” regime.
A lack of stars hurt production
One of the reasons why these players end up failing in their roles with the Wizards is because they are often asked to do things that are beyond their abilities. This speaks to the lack of true superstars on the team. When Gary Payton II joined the Warriors prior to the season, the team had a clear role for him, but it was under the understanding that he has some offensive limitations. The goal was to use his defensive prowess and anything he could provide on offense was a bonus.
What ended up happening was he thrived. When you look at how Payton has been deployed, particularly during the Finals, he was often on the court with other star players like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, so immediately there is little truly needed from him offensively because of who is playing with. When there is a team that has a star or multiple star players, Payton can play within himself and thrive in his role.
Without the Wizards having star players beyond Bradley Beal, the coaches have to ask players to play outside of their strengths and they often are not as effective. How players are deployed makes a difference on how productive they are. And how teams allocate roles is based on the foundation a team already has. The Wizards’ lack of foundational pieces over recent years have hurt their ability to help their role players thrive. We can look back during the John Wall era and see just how players like Martell Webster, Roger Mason, and Trevor Ariza benefited from having a player or players who allow them to thrive at roles that best fit their skill sets.
The Wizards have challenges with player development
Perhaps the bigger issue with this franchise overall is the team’s ability to develop talent. In my view, I believe this goes hand-in-hand with the team’s ability to identify appropriate roles. How can a franchise develop players if it can’t first identify appropriate roles and help that player to develop the skills to fulfill that role?
JaVale McGee is perhaps the best example of a former Wizard who was a victim of this. He had unlimited physical potential, but he did not have the acumen to fit the role the Wizards tried to box him into. He was asked to do too much offensively with his time in DC and ended up looking out of touch for a good portion of his time as a starter in DC.
Fast forward to his past few years where he was able to win titles with the Warriors and Lakers, while also playing a prominent role on this past regular season’s best team by record, the Phoenix Suns.
If anything we are learning that the common denominator is the Wizards’ failure to use these players more than these players not thriving. Perhaps these players did not put the work in while in DC or find ways to be better at their roles, but that still speaks to the culture of the franchise. Why aren’t more players finding ways to become better while being part of this team? Why aren’t more players overachieving or just meeting expectations with the Wizards? These are questions that this franchise needs to address.
So while some may argue it is coincidental that these former Wizards players are going on to winning championships on other teams, I believe it points to a team that simply has a long way to go before it is able to find success with these players while still being with the Wizards.