Let’s be clear: the Washington Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is not on the hot seat. In fact, all reporting indicates that his job is safe for the next 12 months. Josh Robbins of The Athletic has pointed out that the new front office under Michael Winger has high regard for Unseld Jr. Especially in a developmental year where the organization doesn’t have expectations of winning, Unseld Jr.’s job security is certainly not in danger.
However, his back-to-back seasons of 35 wins when the team was trying to make the playoffs have rung the alarm bells. It’s difficult to identify any specific area that the team particularly overachieved or impressed.
Player development has been less than stellar. Corey Kispert has become a better all-around player, but Johnny Davis and Deni Avdija have not shown the improvement the Wizards fans were hoping for. Rui Hachimura was underwhelming in a Wizards uniform before blossoming into a productive starter with the Los Angeles Lakers. Not getting the most out of the young players has been an issue under Unseld Jr.
The on-court performance has been underwhelming as well. The Wizards ranked 25th and 22nd respectively in defensive efficiency in the two seasons under Unseld Jr. Considering that the defensive scheme is one area a coach can have the most impact on a team, two straight seasons of bottom-ten defense is not ideal.
It’s not like the Wizards had horrendous defensive personnel in this period. Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija, and Delon Wright are above-average defenders, and Daniel Gafford and Kristaps Porzingis can thrive in the right defensive system. There is enough defensive talent there to create an average defense. Unseld Jr. has failed to do that in both of his seasons.
So, he may not be technically on the hot seat, but another disappointing season by Unseld Jr. could easily see him get replaced. Obviously, this season is going to be judged more by player development and the building of winning habits rather than the win total for the Washington Wizards. If Unseld Jr. fails on that front, there are plenty of excellent head coach candidates the Wizards can consider.