Direction is something the Washington Wizards organization has lacked since 2017. John Wall went down with injury, Bradley Beal developed into a 30 ppg scorer, and the front office didn’t know what to do. After wasting two solid years of Beal’s career, they made the decision to trade Wall. The problem was that it wasn’t for picks or young talent. It was for a short-term answer to a bigger problem.
After one mediocre season with Russell Westbrook as the 8th seed, he left, leaving yet another void at the point guard position. Since then, this organization has done everything possible to salvage a Beal-lead team, and since then, they are 70-94 with zero playoff appearances.
It’s unbelievably clear that this team lacks direction. That’s why fans are optimistic about the hiring of Michael Winger. His first and most important task will be deciding the path he takes the Wizards on this offseason. In my mind, he has two options:
- Run it back
It’s up to Winger to make that judgment. Below, I will take you through both options, and examine the pros and cons. I’ll lay the blueprint for what each direction would look like, as well as highlight key decisions throughout.
Running it back
Winger can choose to stay put and not do anything drastic in his rookie season. Let things play out, allow Wes Unseld, Jr. to continue coaching, and use it as a tryout of sorts for everyone involved. Hold off on trading young players and see how it all plays out.
Re-sign Kristaps Porzingis: 4 years / $130 million
This is the deal I envision for KP. Less annual salary, but a longer duration for an injury-prone player. Last season, Porzingis played like a $35-$40 million center. The issue for him is that no team wants to pay that. His market being small allows the Wizards to keep him on a team-friendly deal.
Re-sign Kuzma: 4 years / $120 million
Is Kuzma worth $30 million per year? That’s up for debate. But Tommy Sheppard openly picking him over Rui and holding onto him at the deadline really handcuffs the Wiz here. He knows they want to keep him, thus limiting the Wizards’ negotiating ability. If Kuzma wants to be here, we’ll make it happen.
(NOTE: This is assuming both players decline their player options)
It’s hard to say what will happen on June 22nd because we just don’t know. The draft could fall any which way. The point here is that we would stay put at pick 8 and select a PG or SF. Someone that fills a void on our current roster instead of going best player available.
Some prospects that fit our current roster and could be available at our pick include:
- F Cam Whitmore
- PG Anthony Black
- PG Cason Wallace
- F Taylor Hendricks
The roster would be the same as it left off last season, with a few minor changes:
- Nunn and Gibson are gone
- Three new draft picks at positions of need
- Kuzma and Porzingis signed to long-term deals
Option 2: Embrace a rebuild
This fan base has been screaming “REBUILD!” from the rooftops for years now. The only problem is that owner Ted Leonsis has been reluctant to blow things up, mainly due to loss of revenue and relevancy for a few years.
With Tommy Sheppard at the helm, restarting was never a possibility. Now, with Winger in charge, it’s more alive than ever. The Wizards have star pieces with immense trade value and own all of their future picks (minus protections). They are in a prime spot if they do decide to start over. Here’s how it could go:
Besides Wall, Beal has been this franchise’s best player since Gilbert Arenas in the 2000’s. He earned himself one of the richest paydays in NBA history, which has since been criticized for being a massive overpay. Included in that contract is a no trade clause, meaning that Beal must okay a trade before it goes through.
So, step one to a rebuild would be working towards a trade with Beal at the negotiating table. Some teams that could show interest (that Beal would okay):
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Miami Heat
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Dallas Mavericks
The return for Beal would include multiple first rounders, pick swaps, and talented young players. Enough to get the Wizards rebuild started. Some may think his value is down, but if Rudy Gobert commanded four first rounders and young players, we can definitely get something similar for Beal. He’s still just 29 years old and is coming off his most efficient shooting season.
Decisions with Kuzma and Porzingis
What’s interesting is that we could let both players walk if we get enough return for Beal. However, losing both for nothing wouldn’t be ideal. The value of these guys in a sign & trade is higher than you might think. Contending teams with inflated contracts would jump at the chance to swap salaries with us. And as a rebuilding team, we wouldn’t mind taking on bad contracts, as long as they are:
- Expiring deals
- Included with picks and young talent
A prime example is Philadelphia. They have to pay Tobias Harris $39 million next season. Their championship window is closing, and they need to act fast. With his contract expiring next year, taking on his salary is fine if they entice us enough with picks. That’s how you rebuild in this league. Take on bad, expiring contracts, and in return, stockpile future picks and young prospects to develop.
Rebuilding this roster starts with the draft. By trading their stars and taking on inflated salaries, the Wizards can stock up on picks. Some lottery teams reportedly willing to part with draft capital to acquire star-level talent include:
- Portland (pick #3)
- Houston (pick #4)
- Indiana (pick #7)
Washington could potentially trade some guys to acquire these picks, and still keep their own lottery selection, giving them two top-8 players in a very deep draft. That’s one way to begin this restart. They can shop their veterans to depth-needy teams and gain additional picks towards the end of the first round and into the second round.
If this is the direction Winger decides to take, he’ll have a lot to work with.
Let me know which direction you would prefer the Wizards go:
- Run it back with the 8th pick and resign Porzingis and Kuzma
- Commit to a full rebuild