Last night, the Washington Wizards suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season. A 100-119 blowout against the lowly Dallas Mavericks. Dallas did not play well by any means either. They were careless with the ball, including 9 turnovers in the third quarter alone. In fact, this was the only thing that kept Washington remotely close. Their 23 points off the Mavericks turnovers allowed them to stage a comeback before crumbling again.
At the end of the day, changes need to happen for the Wizards to become competitive again. Coming into the season I projected them to be a top 4 team in the East. Now, they look like a bottom 4 despite having the 6th highest payroll in the NBA. Important bench pieces such as Tomas Satoransky and Austin Rivers have played terribly, but this is no excuse for their awful start. Currently, this team ranks 27th in field goals attempted and made, 29th in rebounding and 28th in assists. They also rank 24th and 28th, respectively, in offensive and defensive rating. Something has to change, the only question is what?
Option 1: Fire Scott Brooks and Pray
This is the easiest option, but also the least likely to work. Brooks’ offensive schemes are unimaginative and usually result in lots of standing by off-ball players. This is nothing new. Brooks relied heavily on the isolation ability of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to find success in OKC. The problem is John Wall isn’t as good as Westbrook and Bradley Beal isn’t as good as KD. The Wizards still have plenty of offensive talent (Otto Porter Jr, Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr), but it appears Brooks has no clue how to use it.
The other issue with Brooks is the lack of energy in his players. This isn’t entirely his fault, but it’s still not good. The culture Brooks has instilled in the Wizards is one of complacency. The team doesn’t come out with energy or any desire to win. When John Wall is leading a fast break nobody else is hustling down the court. Players will stand and watch while an opponent drives past them or when another player is outhustling them for a rebound. But, even though Brooks isn’t a great coach there aren’t a ton of better options right now. This offseason multiple talented coaches changed teams, yet the Wizards stuck with Brooks. Maybe a new coach would fire up the team, but this is highly unlikely.
Option 2: Trade John Wall and Tank
This option, although difficult to work out, may be the best choice. The reason trading Wall is nearly impossible is because of his massive contract. After this season Wall is set to make $37 million and over $40 million for the next three years after that. Even if they could find somebody to take him the insane salary would significantly decrease his value.
Theoretically, let’s say another team trades for Wall. Assuming they targeted youth and/or draft picks to go along with short or expiring deals to match the salaries the Wizards would be in great shape. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr are each only 25 and their promising rookie, Troy Brown Jr, is just 19. This young trio paired with their own lottery pick and whatever young assets they received from trading Wall would allow for a speedy rebuild. Additionally, the Wizards would no longer be in salary cap hell if they offloaded Wall’s contract. In fact, they would only have about $80 million in guaranteed salary next season. This is assuming they didn’t take back a hefty contract while trading him.
There is no doubt this is the best option for the Wizards. The only problem is convincing another team to agree to take on John Wall and his contract. No doubt he is an extremely talented player, but his play style is becoming outdated and he is not worth $40 million a season.
Option 3: Move Bradley Beal or Otto Porter
It is highly likely Scott Brooks will be the first piece to depart from the Washington Wizards. If that doesn’t cure their struggles more moves will have to come. I already explained why it’s unlikely they move Wall. This leaves two other prime candidates. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter. Both of these players are young, and although they are on large contracts, their deals aren’t as bad as Wall’s contract. Both are set to make about $25 million this year, ~$27 million the next, and ~$28 million in the 2021-2022 season.
If they decided to move one of these players it could be for a last-ditch win now move. For example, it’s possible they could trade Beal for Jimmy Butler. This would be similar to the DeMar DeRozan – Kawhi Leonard trade. Leonard wanted out and the Raptors were underachieving with DeRozan so they made the deal. In this case, Butler wants out and the Wizards are underachieving with Beal. Adding another strong locker room personality could either destroy or revitalize the Wizards. I believe Butler would hold guys accountable for their actions and breathe new life to this wilting franchise. Also, a backcourt of Butler and Wall would no doubt improve their defensive rating.
Due to their age and smaller contract, it’s much more likely that the Wizards could trade Beal or Porter than Wall. If the Washington Wizards hope to stay competitive I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them moved for another talented player. Although the 2-8 start for the Wizards is disappointing, there’s still plenty of time in the season to make changes. Hopefully, they are willing to try something new and are able to bounce back before the season is over.