The Future Could Be Brighter for the Washington Wizards

Despite various reasons for optimism, things are not looking up for the Washington Wizards.

Optimism abounds for several reasons in certain Washington circles.

Randy Wittman is out, being replaced by Scott Brooks, a coach with an enviable track record. Bradley Beal is back on a new four-year contract. And of course, trusted point guard John Wall is still very much in the picture. After missing the postseason by just three games last season, the Wizards’ sights are getting set higher.

Unfortunately, those getting excited for this team will probably find themselves disappointed.

While Brooks’ track record speaks for itself, he remains one of the most divisive coaches in the league. There are many critics of his style in Oklahoma City, where many think he should have had even more success, given the immense talent on the roster year after year.

Given the cynicism around his success with the Thunder, there is even more skepticism regarding what he will be able to accomplish with the Wizards. Nobody expects a championship for Washington next season, but the current roster will again struggle to even make the playoffs.

In the table below, the combined VORP’s of the top five rosters in the league last season are compared, and then Washington’s. Also included is the combined VORP of all of the players expected to play for Washington next season.

Warriors Spurs Cavaliers Raptors Thunder Wizards 16-17 Wizards
Wins 73 67 57 56 55 41 ?
Expected Wins 68 70 60 56 62 39 ?
VORP 22.8 23.3 17.8 15.2 18.6 9.6 8.8

Expected Wins is a statistic taken from, derived from the Pythagorean method of projecting wins. While there are a few reasons to expect Washington’s record to improve (namely, the continued improvement of young players), there isn’t much reason to think a combined VORP of more than about 12 is realistic. Even that seems like an optimistic estimate.

As stated earlier, nobody is expecting a championship this season. The problem is that there is not much room for the team to add talent in the coming seasons.

Current contracts guarantee over $93 million to players during each of the next three seasons. That number should go up significantly if the team decides to re-sign restricted free agents Trey Burke and Otto Porter. Even after the 2018-19 season concludes and the Wizards have a bit of cap room to work with, it will be time to re-sign John Wall. That alone could put the team right back into the limited position it is currently in.

The main way to avoid this predicament would be to make a few trades in an effort to dump salary in exchange for draft picks, but a rebuild would not make fans (nor, probably, executives) happy. However, Washington owns all of its own future first round draft picks, making a do-over a viable option.

The Wizards are likely to continue their time in the NBA purgatory of “not good enough to contend, too good to effectively rebuild”. It will be interesting to see if the team is content to accept this, or if the band is about to get broken up in favor of a chance at contending in the future.

Whatever the fate of the roster, one thing seems certain: fans in Washington should prepare for a few more years of disappointment.

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