The Washington Wizards season has officially ended. For the first time in the John Wall and Bradley Beal era, the Wizards were eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs. They lost to the Toronto Raptors in six games. Throughout the series it was clear that Washington’s star back court was just as talented as Toronto’s dynamic back court. The role players and coaching were what made the difference in the series. Who signs the role players, and picks the head coach? Ernie Grunfeld. It’s time for him to go.
Quite frankly, Grunfeld needs to be fired. Grunfeld has been making the Wizards personnel decisions for 15 years. Most of those years have been disappointing. That falls on Grunfeld. From Gilbert Arenas’ mega contract to giving Ian Mahinmi 17 million dollars a year, it all falls on Grunfeld. He drafted Jan Vesely. He’s the reason the team has hit it’s ceiling with absolutely no cap space. He gave Jodie Meeks and Jason Smith player options for the upcoming season. On the other hand, he did sign Mike Scott, but it was a one-year deal. The Wizards have almost no chance of keeping him. He hired Randy Wittman and then he hired Scott Brooks to replace him. All the head scratching Wizards blunders of the last 15 years are on him. He has to go. The Wizards need to hire a new innovative General Manager with fresh ideas.
Use the Draft as a Tool
Kelly Oubre is the only player on the Wizards roster on a rookie contract. Oubre was drafted in 2015. The Wizards haven’t had a draft pick since. Washington’s 2016 first round pick was traded for Markieff Morris. Their second round pick was traded as part of the deal for Oubre. That first round pick would become Georgios Papagiannis, which is no big deal. The issue is players like Caris Levert, Pascal Siakam , Dejounte Murray, Malcolm Brogdon, and Deyonta Davis were taken later in that draft. Any of those guys could be contributors for the Wizards right now. Siakam just helped Toronto beat the Wizards by having the ability to switch out on to Wall and Beal.
The Wizards 2017 first round pick was traded for Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough. After being billed to fans as the Wizards “draft pick”, McCullough has been glued to the bench. That trade was a short-sighted attempt to improve the Wizards bench before the playoffs. The issue is Bogdanovic didn’t show up in the playoffs, and then left in free agency just months later.
That pick would end up being Jarrett Allen. He had a decent rookie year for the Brooklyn Nets, and plays a position of need for the Wizards. Washington also traded their second round pick for Tim Frazier who spent most of the playoffs sitting with McCullough. That’s two years in a row that the Wizards didn’t participate in the NBA draft at all. That can’t happen with a team that has no cap space. Without the ability to sign players, the draft is the Wizards biggest tool. Scouts should be working around the clock to find players in this draft class that can contribute. The draft is important, and the fact that Wall, Beal, and Otto Porter are the only picks Grunfeld has gotten right is evidence that he shouldn’t be making the decisions.
Retool, Not Rebuild
Rebuild is a word that no fan bases really want to hear. It’s much better when teams can rebuild on the fly without falling too low. It’s more retooling than rebuilding. The Wizards have a great core of Wall, Beal, and Porter. Everyone else is a question mark. Marcin Gortat has aged out. Morris is a good player to have, but if the right deal comes a long, he can go. In 2015, after being swept by the Wizards, the Raptors were in a similar predicament. The talking heads on television were saying it wasn’t working and that they needed to rebuild. That’s exactly what they’re saying about the Wizards currently.
The talking heads are usually wrong. Luckily for the Raptors, Masai Ujiri ignored them and continued to build around his core of Demar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas. In fact they’re the only players remaining from that season besides Lucas Nogueira. The Raptors now have seven players that are 25 or younger that regularly contribute as part of Dwayne Casey’s 11-man rotation. That’s what the Wizards need. They need a smart general manager like Ujiri who can make low-key moves that provide results. They won’t have lottery picks, but other teams, like Toronto have built through the draft without lottery picks.
What could have and can be
The Wizards have to look everywhere for talent. The Memphis Grizzlies found MarShon Brooks in China. They gave him a shot and ended up signing him to a multi-year deal. He could’ve been instant offense for the Wizards off the bench, but Grunfeld wasn’t creative enough to find him. Instead, he filled the Wizards remaining roster spots with point guards. It’s no reason for a team with Wall to have five point guards on the roster. Meanwhile, there was no true backup shooting guard for Beal on the playoff roster. By the way, Brooks would’ve been the perfect backup guard for Beal.
It’s unrealistic but Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins could be available to the Wizards this summer. Maybe Porter and Oubre for Leonard. Maybe Beal and a pick for Cousins. Those deals are unlikely, but it’s worth testing the waters. Just don’t let Grunfeld make the phone calls.