Remember when the Washington Wizards had their best start to a season since 1975, going an expectation-shattering 10-3? This right here should explain everything you need to know about why they have gone a whopping 16-27 since, been forced to trade two key players, and are facing a hefty decision that might drench the already scorching flames with a bottle of gasoline.
Stepping on shoes
The man who Wizards fans loathed for signing a 5-year/$80 million contract left Washington with some swings out the door. Davis Bertans (who has once joined our luxurious podcast) opened up about the mayhem within the Wizards’ locker room.
"It’s tough to have team chemistry when every single day, the team is basically fighting with each other about ‘I want to get more minutes’ and ‘I want a bigger role.'” Bertans said. “That was probably the biggest part of struggles for most guys during the season. That kinda early on that doesn’t show up because everybody’s trying to figure out what’s going on. Once it starts going downhill, it’s really hard to turn around and start going up again.”
You mix this with reports that the Wizards wanted to move Dinwiddie because he looked like a shell of his former self leading to his teammates not wanting him there - makes the outside of those closed Wizards doors reek of something lethal.
I blame LeBron James!
The most entitled players you come across are the young ones coming off winning a title. If LeBron hadn’t constantly restricted their roles to trade them away to one of the younger, similarly hungry teams - then this would never be happening.
In all seriousness, the additions of Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezz Harell for Russell Westbrook should have been a good trade on Washington’s behalf. It was. Some of the ex-Lakers were even taking potshots at the once prestigious franchise. But the Wizards slowly retreated down to L.A’s level - both have 26 wins apiece - making those jokes age like newly acquired Kristaps Porzingis’ knees.
Because unbeknownst to the newcomers, trying to be the big fish in Washington’s small pond is not easier than being the big dog in L.A’s massive yard. It's always hard. Rui Hachimura was a lottery pick coming back from an unclear disappearance. Why would he lose out since he makes the most of his limited minutes? Thomas Bryant is an extreme talent returning from a nasty injury - it doesn’t seem fair he should be relegated to the bench. Daniel Gafford is making serious strides as the team’s key defensive anchor, and Kristaps is well… Kristaps. So, of course, Harell, who is an undersized interior scorer and limited defender, was traded for chump change because management knew he wouldn’t stay. But that doesn’t come close to their problem in the backcourt.
Real Deal Bradley Beal is due for a contract extension putting the Wizards at quite the crossroads. The 28-year old is out for the remainder of the season with surgery and has been vocal that he wants that max. But as every heartbroken Wizards fan knows, Beal struggled this season. Like really struggled.
His shooting percentage from every area plummeted, and he went from 31 points a game to 23. Add on top of that, he doesn’t do much else but score - has a lackluster playmaking and defensive game - and now we somehow have a bigger problem for the Wizards than them turning from contender to lottery team within a blink of an eye.
The scoring dip cannot be accounted for because of the new faces, making it clear what they should do with Beal. Move him. Sayonara. Adios.
Beal cannot provide anything more as a supporting piece than score the ball. That was a big reason the Wall/Beal dynamic could never reach a Conference Finals despite constantly having the record to compete for one. But let’s say if he comes back after surgery and can still average 25 plus (we're pushing here), the supporting cast does not even fit with his timeline or skillset. All in all, it means it's time for something different to rise from the flames.