Drowned in Mediocrity: is this the year the Washington Wizards stay afloat?


Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal(left) celebrates his contract extension with Ted Leonois(Left) and Wes Unseld Jr(Right).

by JP Lyons, Editor

On November 15, 2021, the Washington Wizards were in sole possession of the Eastern Conference with a blazing 10-3 start.

With a brand-new defensive minded coach, Wes Unsled Jr., everything was looking up for this franchise consistently stricken with mediocrity. Of course that was until it wasn’t. The Wizards ended the season and missed the playoffs, with a record of 35-47. They finished 12th in the Eastern Conference. 

The Wizards last 5 seasons have resulted in seasons ending with 43, 32 , 25, 34, and 35 wins, all records below the 500 mark. Last season was no exception to a typical messy Wizards season.

Factors including injuries, players not meshing well together, a 1st year head coach, and a brand new team are ultimately what led to their demise.

Despite the disappointing end to last year’s season, there is still a buzz of excitement as a new chapter begins for the 2022-2023 season. There are some brand new faces in Washington this year, including: point guard Monte Morris; small 

Kristaps Porzingis rocks a Wizards throwback jersey at 2022 media day. (Washington Wizards)

forward Will Barton; point guard Delon Wright; veteran center Taj Gibson; and lastly, the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, Johnny Davis. 

The Wizards desperately needed a starting point guard, and luckily, they went out and got one after shipping out Ish Smith and Kentavious Caldwell Pope for Morris and Will Barton.

Last season, the Wizards cycled between plenty of starting point guards, even trading Spencer Dinwiddie at the deadline. The wizards are looking for more of a game-controlling point guard alongside ball dominant Bradley Beal. They hope they got their missing piece after trading for Morris.

Last season, Morris averaged a respectable 12.6 points per game along with 4.4 assists per game.

The Wizards had a somewhat quiet offseason, mainly signing and trading for veteran bench pieces. However, the team and fans are most excited for a full season of 7’3 Kristaps Porziņģis. During the trade deadline last season, the Wizards acquired the one time all star in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks.

Porzingis has always had the talent to be an all star caliber player, but its his ability to stay healthy that limits him. He has only played over 70 games once in his seven-year career. However, he wont let this fact bother him.

In response to the media, Porzingis said, “I like being doubted.”

The Wizards packaged Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans to Dallas for Porzingis, along with a 2022 second round pick. In his limited 17 games with the team last season, Porzingis averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Most importantly, none of these games were played with superstar teammate Bradley Beal. 

This offseason, stars such as Nikola Jokic, Karl Anthony Towns, Zach Lavine, Devin Booker and Washington’s very own Bradley Beal all got paid big time money.

Three-time all star Bradley Beal signed the largest contract extension in the history of the NBA at the time. The Wizards officially put their full trust in Beal as he was signed to a 5-year $251 million dollar contract.

The Wizards selected Bradley Beal in 2012 with the third overall pick. Since then, he has become the franchise’s second leading scorer and has made the playoffs 5 times.

This enormous contract brings lofty expectations for not only him but the success of a team which has been deprived of relevancy.

Beal received many critiques this offseason, despite staying loyal to the team that drafted him. Sports Illustrated claimed that “Beal’s five-year max is this anticlimactic mark of hopelessness.” Others believe that that the Wizards are stuck in a cycle of not being good enough, yet not being bad enough to land a franchise caliber superstar.

The Washington Wizards have started the season with a 3-1 record. The Wizards are currently 5th in the league in defensive rating after finishing last season with the 25th ranked defense. So far, this season the team has played lockdown defense as well as playing for each other, something that could not have been said last season.

This may be due to the Wizards increased team chemistry and a newfound sense of togetherness as a result of their five-day getaway to Japan during the preseason.

Japan was not only the home of the Wizards-Warriors exhibition but also the home of Wizards forward Rui Hacimaria.

The 14-hour plane ride served as a time of bonding for the Wizards. This also gave the team the ability to celebrate Hauchimaria who is adored in Japan as the only active Japanese born player.

Japan Native Rui Hachimara(right) and NBA Finals MVP Steph Curry(left) speak to the crowd in Japan (Stephen Gosling)

The defense has also steadily improved due to the continued progress of third year forward Deni Avdija. The Israeli born Advdija is known for his lockdown defense which he earns with his lengthy 6’9 body type and ability to guard every position. 

Also, backup point guard Delon Wright, the former Atlanta Hawk, was signed this offseason and has immediately made an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

In the Wizards first four games, Wright has already accumulated 11 steals. His role on the team may be backup point guard, but this backup brings an art of peskiness that goes beyond the stat sheet.

The Wizards have primarily ran a starting lineup of:

PG: Monte Morris

SG: Bradley Beal

SF: Deni Avdija

PF: Kyle Kuzma

C: Kristaps Porzingis 

Through the first four games, starting Power Forward Kyle Kuzma has carried his dominant play from last year into the new year and leads the team with a scoring average of 21 points per game. This includes a dominating 25-point performance in a twenty-one point win against Detroit. 

Most importantly, Kuzmas breakout has allowed Bradley Beal to relax more on the offensive end and contribute more as a playmaker.

Beal is currently averaging 5.8 apg. However, this different role does not mean that Beal is not still dominating the offensive end as he iced the game against Chicago with a beautiful off-the-glass floater with 8 seconds to play

However, the Eastern Confrence is also greatly improved this year after the Cavaliers added all star Donovan Mitchell and the Hawks added all star guard Dejounte Murray. After making the NBA finals last season, the Celtics added Malcom Brogdon as the missing puzzle piece at the point guard position.

The Eastern Confrence has turned into a gaunlet, as it remains home to superstars Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving and even DeMar Derozan.

The Wizards have raised some eyebrows so far this season. However, after last season, one may wonder is this just deja vu?

Is this Wizards team really different from the last 43 that failed to win the Larry O Brian Trophy? Only time will tell, as the Bradley Beal led wizards aim to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2020-2021 season.

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