In Loss to Spurs, Washington Wizards Could Learn From San Antonio’s Success

Bobby Portis Washington Wizards (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Bobby Portis Washington Wizards (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards lost their 48th game of the season last night to the San Antonio Spurs. In the midst of a franchise-altering change, the Wizards could learn a thing or two from San Antonio’s model of success.

It didn’t take long before the Washington Wizards were staring at a fifteen-point deficit at home to the San Antonio Spurs. Despite a few impressive Jeff Green highlights and some Thomas Bryant dunks, there wasn’t much for the fans to cheer about on Fan Appreciation Night.

Final score: Wizards 112. Spurs 129.

But as the Wizards search for an Ernie Grunfeld replacement, last night’s foe could be more than just a Western Conference bully (The Wizards are just 6-32 against the Spurs since 2000). They should also be a model of sustained success.

One year before Ernie Grunfeld became president of the Wizards, R.C. Buford became the Spurs’ newest GM in 2002. The Wizards’ guy is gone and Buford has since become a 2x NBA Executive of the Year.

While the Wizards struggled to stay relevant during Grunfeld’s reign, the Spurs were truly the class of the NBA during that time. Since Grunfeld joined the Wizards in 2002, the Spurs have not missed the playoffs and have only won less than 50 games twice (2017-18 and 2018-19). The Wizards last won 50 games in 1969-70 when they were still called the Baltimore Bullets.

Of course, it helps to have an all-time great coach in Gregg Popovich driving that success. And the Wizards certainly need to consider whether or not Scott Brooks really is the right guy for the job. Surely the new GM will have an opinion about that.

But Popovich aside, the Spurs have made the necessary personnel moves — whether it be via the draft, trade, or free agency — that have allowed them to thrive as a contender for well over a decade. It’s not easy to seamlessly transition from the Tim Duncan era to championships with Kawhi Leonard and now contention with the mid-range killers LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, but the Spurs have made it look effortless.

And they do it with much more than stars. They find the right role players to compliment the stars. Sometimes they find those pieces elsewhere (Pau Gasol, Patty Mills, Danny Green), and sometimes it’s through the draft (Tiago Splitter), but they’re almost always a perfect fit.

There’s no one single reason that the Spurs have been successful while the Wizards have struggled. But Popovich aside, there’s one thing the Spurs have that the Wizards have seemingly lacked: a cohesive, long-term vision. The Spurs have a plan, a goal, an identity. They know what they want to do and how they want to do it.

Next. 6 Replacements for Ernie Grunfeld. dark

The Wizards certainly know where they want to be. They want to be atop the Eastern Conference and the NBA. But too often it feels like they’re throwing things together as the season progresses. There’s often a goal with a haphazard way of getting there. And that won’t get you 22 playoff births in 22 years.