Karthik’s take: The Wizards need to start their rebuild

Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook, center, fights to keep possession as he is defended by San Antonio Spurs’ Keldon Johnson (3) and Dejounte Murray during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in San Antonio. Photo by Darren Abate/AP Photo.

The Washington Wizards need to dismantle their team and start from scratch. After starting the season 3-10 and ranking dead last in the Eastern Conference, it’s time to go in another direction as a franchise. The Wizards’ only hope is to acquire draft picks from their tradable assets in all-star guards Bradley Beal and Russel Westbrook. Beal is currently averaging an absurd 34.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game on 48.9% shooting while being the focal point of an offense that ranks No. 23 in production. Westbrook is averaging roughly a triple double with 18.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 10.6 assists – incredible by mere mortal standards, but low for a guy who averages 23.3 per game for his career. However, the production of these two has not done enough to keep the franchise’s playoff aspirations alive. Much of the Wizards’ woes have resulted from injuries, a lack of team cohesiveness to create spacing for open jump shots and a defense that is making pedestrian NBA offenses look like all-time greats.  

For a team expected to have one of the best backcourts in the league, why should it split up rather than attempt to add another key piece at the forward or center position? The problem is that the Wizards are cap strapped with no available space to sign any new players and no moveable assets aside from the two stars. How the Wizards play as a team has also deflated the NBA market value of promising players such as Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans, further limiting the franchise front office’s options. Trying to salvage a lost season only delays the development of these future franchise cornerstones as well.  

Unfortunately for the Wizards, the Westbrook-for-Wall trade only exacerbated issues that had already been plaguing the team, the most blatant being their putrid defense. While this trade has not been beneficial for the Wizards, given Westbrook’s recent injuries and slowly declining athleticism, it’s doubtful that a healthy Wall on the roster would really change the franchise’s fortunes. The Wizards, out of 30 teams,  have gone from the 27th ranked rebounding last season to 24th this season, rank 30th in points allowed on defense and 30th in offensive production as well. 

Embracing the rebuild should have been the decision when John Wall first got injured, but the front office delayed the process attempting to capitalize on Beal’s loyalty to the franchise. They need to find an identity as a franchise and build around their young prospects who can shoot but need a substantial amount of NBA coaching and polishing. Bertans and Hachimura are two players that can put up points in bunches, but who need the appropriate supporting cast and veteran leadership to guide them. Like their neighbors in the White House, the Washington Wizards have got to start planning for the future because there is no way in hell they are winning anything as presently constructed.  

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