With the Washington Wizards’ season coming to an abrupt end Thursday night against the Indiana Pacers, it is now time to discuss what the coming offseason entails. The national media narrative is that such a young team to make it this far is a terrific accomplishment, and that they have plenty of time to build on this playoff experience. However, there’s a lot more nuance to the Wizards future than that, and many questions still remain.
First of all, the team actually is not all that young. While they have a dynamic young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, they have 8 players aged 26 or older. 5 of those players are over 30. Aside from the two guards, it is safe to say that the rest of this team has either hit their prime or is past it. This means that a lot of the future will depend on the improvement of Wall and Beal.
Even then, it is safe to question whether the regression of some of the declining players on the team will offset the progression of the guards. Nene is 32 and is visibly losing athleticism and showing age. Marcin Gortat is 30 and while he hasn’t played many minutes in the NBA, bigs typically decline after that age. Trevor Ariza is 28 coming off a career year that is very difficult to replicate for players his caliber.
Of course, this is all assuming Ariza and Gortat are brought back. Both of them are unrestricted free agents, adding even more questions to the Wizards’ future. Should the Wizards preach continuity and bring back the same team, hoping Wall and Beal’s natural progression offsets any kind of regression from the older players? Should the Wizards let both walk and hope they can swing the fences on a star like Chris Bosh or a young player like Greg Monroe? Should they willingly take a step back next year in order to keep flexibility to add a star in the future?
All of these questions make Washington’s future even more uncertain. This is why it is not so easy to say that the team will “build” on the playoff experience. This might not be the same team next year, and even if it is, there are many factors that could lead to stagnation or even regression next year. This is probably the most important summer Ernie Grunfeld has had as the Wizards manager, and no one option stands out as the best.
Here’s to a successful offseason.