Now that the Washington Wizards season has come to an end, it is time to write the obituary for the 2020-2021 seasons that was. Looking back on each team that made the playoffs will give a chance to look at what went right and what went wrong. It will also allow us to look ahead to what’s to come during the offseason to come.
The Washington Wizards battled back from the brinks of elimination and the top of the lottery to make it through the play-in. Was it worth it?
The Wizards showed the value of the play-in at the fullest. They were derailed early on by injuries and COVID-19 and appeared to be on track for one of the worst records in the league. Then Russell Westbrook got healthy, the Wizards made a smart trade at the deadline and the rest took off.
At one point the Washington Wizards were 9-17 and flailing around the bottom of the standings. The trade for Russell Westbrook looked worse by the day and foretelling what the future held brought on mostly morbid headshaking.
Then the switch flipped. The Wizards went 25-21 from that point on. After the deadline, they had the sixth-best record in the league. Washington was an average 15th in offensive rating and a stunning sixth in defensive rating. Daniel Gafford and a healthy Westbrook made a difference in that regard.
Westbrook ended up being the story of the season for the Wizards. He again averaged a triple-double and broke the record for all-time triple-doubles. Bradley Beal finished second in the league in scoring (31.3 points per game) for the second year in a row. Despite what some fans (and blogs) may say, Rui Hachimura looked noticeably better this season. If this is what it took to make Beal feel like they were headed in the right direction it was all worthwhile.
What Comes Next
Ideally, for many Wizards fans, the first thing to happen will be the dismissal of Scott Brooks. Despite the turnaround in the midst of the season, it is time for a new voice to lead the way. Beyond that, building around their two star guards remains the top priority.
Robin Lopez, Ish Smith, Raul Neto, Alex Len, Isaac Bonga, Garrison Matthews and Cassius Winston are all free agents. Thomas Bryant and Deni Avdija should be back on the court to help improve whatever depth issues the Wizards will face when any of the aforementioned names depart.
The Wizards have the 15th pick in the draft, giving them a chance to pick a potentially elite prospect who would slide out of the lottery. Current projections would result in them landing someone like Josh Giddey, Usman Garuba or Isaiah Jackson. There is potential for the Wizards to compete for a fourth seed next season, as they would have if they held the pace, they did post-trade deadline. With the right coach and internal development, the decision by Beal to commit to the Wizards long term will be an easy one.