The Washington Wizards haven’t produced a 50-win season since 1978-79. In the eyes of some prognosticators, 2017-18 was supposed to be the year for that artificial barrier to come down, especially after an encouraging, 49-win performance that featured a playoff series victory last year. Instead, Washington was a team that struggled with health, on-court performance, and off-court drama. They still made the postseason as the 8-seed, but so far, the Wizards have traveled to Canada and looked flat, dropping the first two games to the Toronto Raptors.
In a strange way, the effort we’ve seen out of Washington so far has cemented an already widespread feeling about the squad. It’s probably time for a change.
If anything, the 2016-17 Wizards likely overachieved, stretching to a 49-33 mark despite a point differential more indicative of a team with a mid-40’s win total. Still, Washington’s trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter looked like a formidable core and, with the expectation of a jump from Kelly Oubre Jr. and the reality that the team’s bench almost had to improve from its previous struggles, optimism reigned at the outset of this season.
Fast-forward to April, however, and not a lot has gone right for Scott Brooks’ team. Just months after signing a $200 million-plus contract extension, Wall battled injuries to the tune of only 41 games played. Whispers that the team played better without him didn’t please the All-Star point guard and behind-the-scenes chatter lent itself to something of a splintering of personalities in the locker room. Through Beal took a step forward and Porter performed both efficiently and admirably, it took the downturn of teams like the Pistons and Hornets for the Wizards, fresh off a 43-win campaign, to even reach the playoffs.
There was optimism, though, as the playoffs opened, with the always-enigmatic Raptors awaiting in round one. Through two games, an upset does not appear likely, as Washington floundered defensively in both contests (including a ghastly 126.5 defensive rating in Game 2) and just looks like a team that, generally, is flat. Of course, the Wizards could climb back and make this a series. They have a great deal of talent, especially on the perimeter in the 1-2 punch of Wall and Beal, to lead the way.
But if this keeps up and the Wizards bow out in the first round, the team’s front office might have to confront a rather serious issue: While Washington likely needs to shift its roster construction in the future, it would take some serious work.