Forgotten during the decades-long mediocrity of the Washington Wizards, is the size of the market in Washington and the potential of it as a free-agent destination. Perhaps more disappointing than the lack of playoff success for the Wizards is the fact that Washington has lost its allure to the players and the league as a whole.
The last meaningful free-agent addition for the Wizards was the signing of Paul Pierce in 2014, and he was 36 at the time. Before then, one would have to go all the way back to 2003 to the signing of Gilbert Arenas.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Not only is the Washington, DC metro area a huge market, but it’s also an attractive place to live for NBA players.
The lack of playoff success has made the Wizards an irrelevant franchise
The reason the Washington Wizards haven’t been considered an attractive option around the league has nothing to do with the city or the market, and everything to do with the mediocrity of the organization. The team has neither won 50 games in the regular season nor made a conference finals appearance in the last 44 seasons.
This is almost hard to do especially considering the mandate to be competitive and chase the playoffs every year under the ownership of Ted Leonsis since 2010.
This incompetence naturally results in a lack of media coverage and attention, as well as poor attendance numbers. The Wizards had the lowest attendance percentage in their home games in the last two seasons. They also ranked near the bottom of the league last year with only five nationally televised games.
The Wizards have a lot of untapped potential as a market and an organization
Despite all this, Forbes magazine still ranked the Washington Wizards the 14th-most-valuable franchise in the NBA last season, demonstrating the untapped potential of the club. With more success and better organization, there is no reason for the Wizards not to be one of the most attractive and valuable teams in the NBA.
Under the new management of team president Michael Winger and general manager Will Dawkins, this should be the goal. In the press conference introducing the two decision-makers, Leonsis pointed out their desire to be “a destination”. This seems like an achievable objective. Give Winger and Dawkins the authority to execute their vision, create much-needed basketball hope in the city, and then reap the benefits later.
The Washington Wizards have a clean slate going forward with no large contracts or unmovable pieces on their books. They currently have one of the more flexible salary cap situations in the entire league. If they manage the next few years well, it will help improve the franchise’s reputation and the Washington Wizards will surely be a relevant team again.
The sleeping giants of the NBA are about to wake up.