Washington Wizards Must Figure Out If They’re Going To Be Mediocre or a Contender


Washington Wizards must figure out which type of team they’re going to be before it’s too late. As a .500 team, their time is running out.

The Washington Wizards are a .500 team, standing at 19-19 after their eventful loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday evening.

They are a team of extremes with a 15-6 home record and a 4-13 record away from Verizon Center.

After starting the season 6-12, they are 13-7 over their past 20 games. Mix that all up in a pot and what you have is a .500 team 38 games into the season.

Coming off a .500 season last year, Washington is now 60-60 over their past 120 games.

As I mentioned, they are playing better as of late having won 13 of their past 20 games, but .500 teams do that. They have streaks where they play well and they have streaks that make you shake your head and ask why you torture yourself.

In the end, they are their record and a 38-game sample size this year which supports the 82-game sample of last season should have the Wizards front office realistic in their self-assessment.

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This is a .500 team and thinking otherwise at this point constitutes hope more-so than reality.

The Washington Wizards have a decision to make: Are they in or are they out?

Are the Washington Wizards going to stand pat on the steps of the pool with their feet in the water, unsure if they want to dive all the way in?

Or will they decide the water is too cold, go take a seat at the bar, and have a virgin Pina Colada.

There is a third option – the path of least resistance, which is standing pat.

There’s nothing worse than sitting in place in obscurity without a clear direction or path.

A .500 is not a direction – it’s a destination. It’s a reality for where this team stands based on the talent in place and the decisions made to get the team here.

I’m not trying to paint a bleak picture. There is some good news.

Scott Brooks has done an excellent job getting more out of the nucleus of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.

Each player is in the midst of a career season, which in Wall’s case is especially impressive given this is his 7th season in the NBA and he was coming off double-knee surgery.

Marcin Gortat’s role has changed a bit as his shot attempts are down, but he’s often the only player offering resistance at the basket and battling on the glass on a nightly basis where he’s currently 8th in the NBA at 11.8 rebounds per game.

This team is ultimately limited, though.

Markieff Morris can look like a dynamic player when matched up against the likes Blake Griffin, Paul Milisap or Kristaps Porzingis – all of whom have brought out the best in Markieff.

His physicality, defense and shot making can change a game when he’s engaged on making good decisions on the floor.

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Unfortunately, more often than not, the Washington Wizards get an inconsistent, maddening Morris who takes ill-advised shots, isn’t aggressive on the glass, or is on the bench with foul trouble.

The bench, to be kind, is not good.

Washington’s bench is 28th in the NBA in +/- differential, 29th in points per game, 30th in rebounds and 29th in minutes.

They are a group that, to put it simply, cannot be relied upon on a nightly basis to contribute and rarely can lift the team when the starters are not on their game.

This bench does not have a scorer or lockdown defensive presence that can alter a game on a consistent basis.

There is no Eric Gordon or Lou Williams on this team nor are any of the players on the roster capable of the level of play at this point in their careers.

Ian Mahinmi might be able to provide a defensive presence at some point but has played only 14 minutes this season due to health-related issues and there is no timetable for his return.

This team is largely limited by the inconsistencies of Morris, the ineptitude of the bench Ernie Grunfeld has built and Mahinmi’s health. Those are key factors driving this team’s .500 record.

So now that we know where we are, what’s next?

We’re back looking at the Wizards with their feet in the water, unsure if they’re going to dive in, take or seat or stay in-place. Washington needs to act decisively.

The Wizards’ salary obligations, Otto Porter’s upcoming contract and cap hold leave little in terms of cap space as a means of improving the roster next summer.

Additionally, the roster lacks in terms of tradable assets without moving one of their quality players or draft pick.

Porter or Gortat likely have trade value and can net Washington a quality return, but if either is traded you are replacing what you traded out and not adding to the roster.

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The Wizards need to figure out if they are going to invest in what they have and cash in what they can, including tradable contracts and draft picks (Washington has their 1st and 2nd round selection in the ‘17 draft), to improve the situation around the current core in an attempt to make a meaningful postseason run in the Eastern Conference.

They currently are 8th in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the 9th place Chicago Bulls and six games behind the Toronto Raptors – a team that they swept in the ’15 playoffs, which is currently seeded second in the East..

If they are not willing to do so, then it might be time to consider moving some of the vets they have to create cap flexibility in an effort to re-tool this summer around their core of Wall, Beal, Porter and potentially Kelly Oubre.

If this core can continue to show growth and develop under the tutelage of Brooks, they may be more appealing to veteran free agents than they were last season coming off their disappointing injury-marred season.

Washington would also have their first round pick in what is being called a strong draft class as a tool to improve over the summer.

Either of these routes is more attractive than the current indistinctness that comes along with playing .500 basketball and walking that balance beam between a late lottery pick and low playoff seed.

Next: Diagnosing the Wizards' Road Woes

It’s likely a contributing factor to why this team is rarely on national television or in the media spotlight.  Whatever the path is – jumping in or getting out – that path is needed to fully trust the process and have a sense for the direction this team is heading.