The Washington Wizards finally found a direction: to the bottom of the league.
The long-awaited pivot to a rebuild is now here in Washington and the roster tear-down is continuing. After trading Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis in the past week, the Wizards are projected to have a roster dearth of high-end talent in the 2023-24 season, but that is something that should be celebrated.
The Wizards have finished four of the last five seasons with between 30 and 35 wins, not good enough to make noise in the playoffs, but not bad enough to have a top draft pick. This purgatory of mediocrity is the worst place to be in the NBA, and that is finally changing for the Wizards.
The Wizards can’t risk winning too many games next season
Under new leadership, the Wizards finally woke up to the fact that they needed to tear everything down and start from scratch. And tear it down, they did.
The team’s two best players, Beal and Porzingis, were both traded for relatively underwhelming packages. The priority for the Wizards’ front office was clearly to start the season fresh with no big contracts going forward.
Washington didn’t receive any blue-chip prospects in either deal, mostly acquiring players on expiring contracts that they can flip later or let go next offseason.
This suggests that the Wizards don’t really have any intention of being competitive next season. They don’t really have an incentive to do so either. The Wizards owe their first-round pick to the New York Knicks in 2024 unless it is in the top 12 of the draft. Washington can’t risk being too competitive and potentially losing their pick.
This strategy of bottoming out would ideally net the Wizards a pick at the very top of the draft, obviously the higher the better.
The Wizards roster is lacking in high-end talent
This could be relatively easy for Washington as the roster doesn’t look ready to be competitive anyways. They drafted Bilal Coulibaly with the 8th-pick, a young and raw player who may not be ready to contribute immediately despite being a highly intriguing prospect with incredible upside.
After all the moves are made, there is a very good chance that the two best players on the team are going to be Tyus Jones and Jordan Poole. Jones is a valuable player, but he is ideally a backup point guard on a good team. Poole has shown explosive scoring ability with the Warriors, but unless he improves immensely on the defensive end, he is more likely a sixth man on a good team.
Without too many established starter-level talents, the Wizards are almost certainly going to struggle next season.
Could some of the young players get there? Of course, Coulibaly, Deni Avdija, Johnny Davis, Corey Kispert, or Patrick Baldwin Jr could get there. And this is what the next season is going to be about; seeing which young pieces can show more with ample opportunity and on-ball reps.
The 2023-24 Wizards are almost certainly going to be one of the worst teams in the league. Yet, it will also be the most exciting team Washington has had in a long time. There may be fewer wins in the short term but for the first time in a while, there is hope.