The Washington Wizards are entering the 2023-24 NBA season with minimal expectations. For the first time in a while, the mandate for the franchise is not about winning the maximum number of games or chasing a playoff seed, but rather about development and culture. This is a positive sign for the future of the franchise.
However, this doesn’t mean that the Wizards will be tanking, intentionally not trying to win games. No NBA team begins a season trying to lose games, the 2023-24 Washington Wizards shouldn’t be any different. Instead, the Washington Wizards should follow the path of the Portland Trail Blazers of the last two seasons.
The Blazers began each of the last two seasons with a sound strategy. They wanted to see how good they were and whether they had a good, competitive playoff team around Damian Lillard. They tried to maximize wins in the first half of the season. And when it was clear in both seasons that the team wasn’t good enough, they quickly pivoted to increasing their lottery odds.
Midway through the 2021-22 season, Portland traded away CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington, shut down their veterans towards the end, and tanked their way into the 7th-overall pick and drafted Shaedon Sharpe.
In the 2022 offseason, they traded for Jerami Grant to see if they were good enough to compete for the 2022-23 season. When that didn’t work out either, they traded away Gary Payton II and Josh Hart, stopped playing their starters, and got the no. 3 overall pick in the lottery. That pick ended up being Scoot Henderson, a potential franchise-changing star prospect.
This strategy is a feasible one, especially now that the lottery odds have been flattened by the NBA. Now, teams with the worst three records in the league all have the same odds of winning the No. 1 overall pick. So, even if teams try to win as many games as possible in the first half of the season, pulling the plug midway still gives teams the opportunity to be one of the three worst teams in the league and maximize their chances of landing the next franchise cornerstone.
If the Wizards were to follow this path, they could play the likes of Delon Wright, Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, or even Kyle Kuzma as much as they want to begin the season. This would give them an opportunity to see how good this team can be. If they are surprisingly competitive, great, keep it rolling.
If not, trading away these veterans or shutting them down to play more of the younger players will give the Wizards a huge advantage in landing a top pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. And who knows, maybe the Wizards will end up finding their next franchise superstar thanks to this strategy. It is certainly worth a try.