The Washington Wizards have reached a critical decision point in their franchise’s history. Washington has changed its front office and may be heading in a new path.
For years, the Wizards have tried to stay competitive but have lacked the pieces to be a contender. Bradley Beal has been the focal point for these teams on the verge of making the playoffs. Washington ended the 2022-23 season with a 35-47 record, good for 12th place in the Eastern Conference.
Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma are both pending free agents for the Wizards. Both Porzingis and Kuzma have player options, which they are likely to refuse and enter the free agent market. Bring them back with Beal and the Wizards would have three high-paid players with little depth around them. Another concern is whether the new front team will look into a Beal trade. The previous front office was devoted to Beal and refused to move him.
The organization cannot afford to sign older role players who are past their prime. Whether they aim to construct a playoff-caliber squad or rebuild, the rotation cannot rely on role players nearing the twilight of their careers.
The Los Angeles Lakers fell into this trap during the 2021-22 season. They surrounded LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook with a slew of veterans on low-paying contracts. While that team had many issues, depth and production from their rotation played a significant role. The team was dubbed a “playoff-type team” due to their seasoned experience.
That club never made the playoffs, as everyone who follows the Purple and Gold knows, with the veterans suffering during the regular season.
This free agency period will show the direction the front office will pursue. That being stated, here are two free agents the Wizards must avoid in the 2023 NBA free agency period.
1. Russell Westbrook
Is Russell Westbrook a future Hall of Famer and former MVP? Yes. Did he perform well during his prior stint with the Wizards? Yes. Should Washington reintroduce him? No.
Westbrook is no stranger to being scrutinized. After a failed experiment with the Lakers, he has had to deal with a lot of stuff during the last two seasons. Westbrook was traded at the trade deadline, then bought out, and then signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Westbrook revitalized his season with the Clippers, performing admirably in the playoffs. While Westbrook demonstrated that he is still a good player, Washington should not re-sign him. Russ did well with the team throughout his time there, however he was eliminated in the first round.
The Wizards should not settle for a team that is only good enough to make the playoffs and then be eliminated. To become a contender, they must either make significant changes or rebuild.
This summer, the new front management will have to make some difficult decisions. What moves they make could decide the franchise’s direction.
2. Jae Crowder
The Wizards cannot afford to make the same error as the Lakers, which is why they should not pursue a forward such as Jae Crowder. While Crowder may still play a role, Washington should prioritize adding youthful depth or dependable role players.
This season, Crowder sat out with the Phoenix Suns until the trade deadline, when he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Crowder averaged 6.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in 18 games, shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from three.
The 32-year-old was uneven in the Bucks’ first-round series against the Heat, which Miami won in five games. In the series, he also received DNPs.
Crowder would be a better fit for a contender in need of a role player than the Wizards.