Entering last season, there was a “playoffs or bust” mindset among the Washington Wizards’ management. The new-look squad, built around Bradley Beal, had their sights set on a top-6 seed.
Then-General Manager Tommy Sheppard gave Beal a supermax contract, elected not to trade Kyle Kuzma, and signed veteran pieces to round out the group.
Everything the Wizards had done over the previous two seasons prepared them to make a deep playoff run:
- Held on to Beal at the 2021 and 2022 trade deadlines
- Traded for Kristaps Porzingis at the 2022 trade deadline
- Traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for Monte Morris to fill an immediate need for a starting PG
- Signed veterans Delon Wright and Taj Gibson
Instead of cleaning house and stockpiling picks, they loaded up with veteran talent to make a run at the title.
Unfortunately, Sheppard’s bold plan flopped. Again, the Wizards finished 35-47. And again, the team failed to meet expectations.
With Sheppard out, Will Dawkins overtakes the task of reviving the Wizards. His first move: picking a direction. Not even a week into the job, Dawkins met with Beal and decided it was best to move on. Instead of peddling mediocrity, Dawkins chose to chart a path towards the future.
Now that Beal and Porzingis are gone, so are the lofty expectations. Instead of allocating minutes to proven veterans, younger players like Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert should enjoy bigger roles
Full-rebuild on hold?
As Josh Robbins mentioned in his article entitled, “What’s the Washington Wizards’ Plan,” the Wizards could be two years away from a full rebuild.
Many expect Will Dawkins and Michael Winger to take some time to rebuild the culture. Washington has been the laughing stock of the league for years now, and a turnaround won’t happen overnight.
That sounds great, but what does it really mean?
On one hand, not tearing it down and not solely playing your young talent could be seen as a negative. It signals that the Wizards will, yet again, not be good enough to compete for a playoff spot, and not bad enough to earn a top-5 pick.
This team may not be that talented, but they do have some stars that will win them games.
That being said, here’s how I’m preparing for this season playing out:
Splitting this season into two parts has helped me visualize how it could play out.
The first half will be for analyzing our young talent, as well as building up our veterans’ trade value. Let’s call it “preparation.” The team will be preparing to not only dump expiring deals at the deadline, but also scout internal talent. Which guys are worth keeping around for the duration of this rebuild? Which players are expendable?
All these things will be deliberated from October to February.
Once the trade deadline passes, it’ll be a youth movement in D.C. Guys who start the season behind more talented veterans will see increased playing time. Specifically, Bilal Coulibaly and Johnny Davis, who are currently 3rd on the depth chart at their respective positions.
This will be a time to evaluate what our young guys have, and see what they need to work on next offseason.
Veterans like Landry Shamet, Danilo Gallinari, Delon Wright, and Mike Muscala can all contribute on contending teams. I envision them playing big roles during the first half of the season. Then, come the trade deadline, they’ll be moved for picks and expiring salaries.
This will open a path for the younger guys to step in and have increased roles in the second half of the season.
Win Total: 30.5
Vegas has the Wizards win total at 25.5, which i think is straight up disrespectful. Look, nobody is saying the Wizards are going to win the title. But I think 30 wins is attainable, especially considering the talent we have in Poole and Kuzma. Those two can win you some games on their own.
The only dilemma is that a fall-off might ensue after the trade deadline, when most of our vets are probably gone.
Think the last two years. When the Wizards were eliminated late in the season, the starters were sidelined, and the younger players got increased minutes. That lead to more losses, and eventually a higher draft pick.
I envision a similar close to this season, which makes me weary to go well beyond the 30-win mark. However, I do think they surpass the Vegas line.
What Success Looks Like
The playoffs would be great. I’d even take a play-in spot. But those seem unrealistic in a talented Eastern Conference.
Success is taking strides towards the future. Here’s a few examples of what that looks like:
- Poole and Kuzma average 20+ ppg on efficient shooting splits
- Corey breaks out - averages 15+ on 40%+ 3pt
- Johnny Davis finds his role
- Bilal Coulibaly plays 20+ minutes per game
- Deni Avdija develops a respectable outside jumper
- Tyus Jones emerges as a true starting PG
- Wiz are a competitive team - not just some pushover / easy win
- 30+ wins
Drop your Wizards record predictions in the comments below!