This Wizards team is already doing something special. How could a team that is off to a 2-6 start, with one of the worst starting lineups in the NBA, be doing anything positive? Well, it’s simple – this 2019-20 Wizards team is providing hope to a fanbase desperate for something to cheer about, for the first time in a long time.
Most NBA teams around the league have begun to realize what it takes to win it all in this league. You either have Lebron James, or one of the other top 5 players in the league (Kawhi, KD, Steph, etc), or you build through the draft and stockpile young talent and draft assets. This means, however, there will be some years of rebuilding and growing pains. The worst thing a team can do is middle between playoff contender and fringe lottery team. For the longest time, the Wizards were EXACTLY that team.
Wall and Beal and co. provided a few years of excitement and were a win or two away from a deep playoff run. If it weren’t for Kelly Olynyk and IT in 2016 Game 7 the Wizards might be in a different position. But sometimes being that close can cloud expectations and create a false sense of progress. The Wizards went into “win-now mode” and made a few short-sighted decisions (see Ernie Grunfeld mistakes). In trying to win, the Wizards were unable to get a top draft pick and never really contending for a deep playoff run. Fans of the team recognized that this strategy was a mistake and it compounded with Wall’s injuries. Years of frustration ensued…
Enter the 2019-20 Wizards. Tommy “Our Savior” Sheppard takes the reigns, and Ted Leonsis gives him the space and resources to do his thing, for lack of a better phrase. Tommy and the front office made some tough offseason decisions. Namely, letting Tomas Satoranksy go along, with a few other fan favorites. But one thing was clear – The Wizards had a direction. The team got dramatically younger, and committed to young players who were hungry for their opportunity in the League. Tommy also drafted a young core of rookies, most notably Rui Hachimura. Rui and the other youngsters on the team are finally getting their chance to prove what they can do. Have there been some growing pains? Of course, but that’s just it – We are GROWING.
There is finally a direction for fans to get behind. So, the Wizards are 2-6? Not a problem. We have a young group of players who seem to enjoy playing together, and want to prove to their teammates and fans that they can produce at the highest level. Any glimmer of production from guys like Hachimura, Wagner, Bryant, Bertans, or Brown Jr. are positives for the future. Signs that these guys can be role players on a team that can contend. Long-term fans understand the value in just that – the long term.
Eventually, John Wall will be healthy, and he’s already shown signs of returning to his old form. Bradley Beal is an All-Pro caliber player. Thomas Bryant is a high-energy big with a lot of upside, expanding his range and improving his rim defense. Rui Hachimura looks like a strong draft pick with high upside. All signs point to the Wizards having a high draft pick this year. However, this core is providing fans with hope. The Wizards are no longer trying to put band-aids on long term fixes. It is hard not to get excited and look ahead to 2020. But a year with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and a young core with a year of experience and another top Tommy Sheppard draft-pick in a stacked draft is surely something to be excited about.