Big changes can be in store for the Washington Wizards, as they should be. The US capital’s team made headlines this past week after team president and general manager, Ernie Grunfeld was relieved of his duties.
The Wizards have quite a situation on their hands — they’re slated to miss this year’s playoffs, one half of their star backcourt, John Wall, could miss all of next season due to injury and is owed a boatload of money, and the other half is an All-NBA-caliber player in Bradley Beal.
Where do the Wizards go from here?
Do they fully embrace the tank? Put faith in another general manager to piece together a respectable roster around Wall and Beal again? Trade one or both of Wall and Beal?
Along with beating the Warriors in the Finals and stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, trading John Wall is one of the hardest things to do in the NBA. The 2010 first overall pick is signed a behemoth $203-million contract extension in 2017, including a $46.8 million player option in 2023.
That’s a lot of money for someone on the basketball court, but to make matters worse, Wall will be off of it for a while. The five-time All-Star is sidelined due to heel surgery and a ruptured achilles after slipping and falling in his home. Wall’s contract extension hasn’t even kicked in yet, but it’s already looking to be one of the worst in NBA history.
Washington may have to end up giving Beal the farm (or whatever’s left of it) if he’s selected to an All-NBA team this year, making him eligible for a supermax contract. The Wizards seem to have one financial arm tied behind their back with Wall’s contract, and giving Beal a supermax could be tying the other.
Trading Beal for younger assets shouldn’t be out of the question, as franchise success seems to be limited as long as Wall is on the books. If the Lakers swing and miss on Anthony Davis again this summer, could the Wizards offer Beal for some of the Lakers’ young players?
Beal is averaging career-high per-game stats in points (25.9) assists (5.5) and rebounds (5.1), thriving in Wall’s absence. If the Wizards can’t get rid of Wall, the next best option may be to tank it out and get what you can for a player who just had their best career year.
To say that Wall’s NBA career is over is a bit extreme, but the Wizards have never won 50 games since 1979 when they were the Washington Bullets — Washington can only go so far with an aging and injured Wall at the helm. When healthy, Wall is an elite player, but paying him nearly $47 million at 33 years old in 2023 is laughable.
It seems the Wizards’ best option is to trade Beal, live with the consequences of Wall’s contract, and increase the chances of getting another franchise star in the draft by tanking. The Wall and Beal backcourt was fun while it lasted, but their detonation is long overdue.
Trading Otto Porter was a step in the right direction, but trading Kelly Oubre for Trevor Ariza was a step back. Washington should have a clear direction now: bottom out so that the only way to go is up. It’s only worth keeping Beal around if they somehow get another team to take Wall’s contract.
Washington’s new GM, whoever it may be, has the opportunity to turn a mediocre franchise around in the long run. Having Wall on the roster doesn’t allow much wiggle room, and paying Beal would decrease it even more.
The Wizards have been a solid, entertaining playoff team, but unless that’s all they want to be, they need a serious shift in direction.