The Washington Wizards, losers of 11 of 14 and 9-21 on the season overall, look set to claim another lottery pick in the 2020 draft to go along with Rui Hachimura, the ninth pick in 2019.
The Wizards are still a capped-out, injury-riddled nightmare, hence the 9-21 record, as Bradley Beal, once expected to be part of a Big Three with John Wall and Otto Porter, is now just a 26-year-old star without the supporting cast to help him claim his place on the national stage.
Speaking of Beal, his stats have fallen off a cliff without quality teammates. His career marks of 45.1 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from 3-point land have plummeted to 43.6 and 31.7, his 2-point shooting percentage down from 54.8 percent last year to just 50.7 in 2019-20.
Beal, after playing 82 games in each of the last two seasons, is also in danger of losing his ironman streak (he has played in all 30 Wizards games through Dec. 27) as he is suffering from lower leg soreness.
The rest of the Wizards’ roster is a grab bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but the pieces don’t seem to fit together.
Isaiah Thomas is shooting a career-best 42.6 percent on 3-pointers, but he has missed nine games with injury.
Thomas Bryant is out with “a stress reaction” in his right foot, and it will be weeks before he returns.
When he does, he will remain the bolted-to-the-floor limited range center he has always been, as he led the NBA in 2-point percentage (68.5) in 2018-19 but is a terrible outside shooter (30.6 percent from beyond the arc) best used in an interior role like the best years DeAndre Jordan put up on the Clippers.
Hachimura is out with a groin injury, and his career has gotten off to a “just another wannabe stretch 4 who can’t shoot” start, as he has hit just 20.8 percent of his 3-pointers and 53.3 percent of his twos.
From every range except “dunk”, Hachimura has been awful, and he has the negative advanced stats to prove it, all while he has been a legitimately horrific defender (minus-2.7 DBPM) and negative VORP guy (minus-0.3.)
Davis Bertans has missed time with injury, which has been a disaster since he’s one of the few Wizards who can consistently make shots from outside (43.4 percent on a hooray-for-2020 .766 3PAR.)
You see a pattern developing here, and it’s been the same pattern that has plagued Washington since Wall first got hurt. They have the talent to, at worst, hang around the fringes of the East’s top eight, but they can’t keep guys on the floor and have to scrape the barrel, all while being hamstrung by the salary cap (and Wall and Beal’s combined salaries totaling $64 million this year alone) in their effort to retool the roster.
Oh, and Ian Mahinmi‘s still making $15 million this year because 2016 truly was The Year the World Went Mad.
So is there any hope here?
Well, for one thing, as the Philadelphia 76ers taught us, any team that is sufficiently garbage for long enough will eventually luck into an NBA-quality playoff roster.
But beyond that, the Wizards only have one albatross of a contract (giving Beal the benefit of the doubt due a two-time All-Star having a terrible year because his team sucks). If they can find some sufficiently idiotic team willing to take Wall’s contract off their hands without having to trade away a bunch of future first-rounders, they could…
…nah, this isn’t going to be a team that plays in the free agent market, not since Kevin Durant rebuffed them so decisively in 2016.
The simple fact is that the Wizards are at the start, in true earnest, of their very own Process. Whether they want to fully lean into it and trade Beal for future assets or whether they try to rebuild the franchise on the fly around the 26-year-old is the real question (and, for Beal, the real deal) here.
And the biggest question of all is whether the Wizards, who finally fired Ernie Grunfeld, the “mastermind” (such as his feeble NBA front office brain can be called such) of this current dumpster fire of a roster, would be willing to sell their fans on that kind of a full Hinkie job.
A similar situation just happened in Charlotte, as Kemba Walker was finally liberated from his torment and ended up in Boston.
Bradley Beal deserves at least that.
Sorry, Wizards fans. Trust the process.