What should we make of the Washington Wizards season?

As the Golden State Warriors made quick work of the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night winning the championship in five games, we can officially put a bow on the 2016-2017 season. Yes, the Wizards’ season ended weeks ago but rather spitting out a bunch of hot takes after their Game 7 loss to Boston, I decided to let the tide settle to take a clearer, more holistic approach.

Was the Wizards’ season a success?

The short answer to this question is no. Now before you line up at my apartment with pitchforks, let me explain. The entire offseason, Wizards’ players, mainly Wall, kept stating that the goal of this season was to make the Eastern Conference Finals. However, for the third time in four years, Washington was bounced by the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. So based solely off of Wall’s statements, I wouldn’t call this a failure but rather the Wizards did come up short of their goal of appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals.

With that being said, although the season wasn’t a success by the team’s standards, there were many improvements that they can tip their cap on. Some of these improvements include a career-high 52-point scoring outburst by John Wall against the Magic on December 6th, Bradley Beal turning into a borderline All-Star AND staying healthy for an entire season, a 17-game winning streak at home, Otto Porter ranking in the top-5 of three-point shooting for the season, capped off by the team winning 49 games, the most since 1979.

What do we make of the current roster?

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the cornerstones of this franchise as they’ve proven that they can lead and carry a team. But what about everyone else? It took a while but patience paid off as Otto Porter made the fourth season of his young career the best and is now likely looking at a max deal this summer (more on that later). Markieff Morris showed that he can be a very nice role player when motivated and engaged the issue is, keeping his motor turned on. And lastly for the starters, Marcin Gortat’s production dropped this season but the numbers indicate that it was more so due to his lack of touches and offensive opportunities rather than his sheer production.

And that brings us to the bench. The bench unit wasn’t just bad this year, they were historically bad. In what looked like a move to finally find that ever coveted backup point guard that the Wizards have been missing for years, that flopped as Trey Burke quickly found himself out of the rotation before the new year. After whiffing on Al Horford and Kevin Durant this offseason, the front office overpaid Ian Mahinmi in hopes that he could be a rim protector for the second unit. Unfortunately for Mahinmi, he was riddled with injury and played in just 31 regular season games and five of 13 playoff games without having much of an impact.

Jason Smith had a very slow start to the season but had his moments midway through the year where he was nearly automatic from the midrange only to go AWOL in the playoffs. While Kelly Oubre showed signs of improvements but clearly has a long ways to go still in his development. After overpaying for the last guy on in the bench in Andrew Nicholson, the Wizards were able to unload his deal but had to give up their first round pick in the process. Lastly, Bojan Bogdanovic, who was the other player in the Nicholson trade, showed that he can score in bursts but isn’t the most consistent player nor does he enjoy playing defense all too much.

What should the Wizards do this offseason?

The Wizards enter one of the most important offseasons in the franchise’s history with very little cap space to maneuver many deals. It’s possible that we might look back at the 2017 summer and say to ourselves “that was the offseason which kept the core players intact” or “that was the offseason which ultimately led to John Wall’s departure”.

With the cap expected to jump again to $102 Million, the Wizards already have $89 Million tied up in roster salaries. Assuming the Wizards cut Trey Burke, the Wizards would have roughly $85 Million tied up in roster salaries with Otto Porter and Bojan Bogdanovic set to hit the restricted free agent market.

Washington needs to re-sign Porter and do so before another suitor offers him a max deal (which the Wizards can match) but will likely be much higher than the Wizards original deal (remember Brooklyn’s offer to Allen Crabbe in 2016?). Porter has proven to be a knockdown shooter as he connected on 43 percent of shots from distance this season, the fourth-best in the league. And ultimately, he’s proven to be the ultimate glue guy who doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t need plays called for him, makes all of the hustle plays, and still manages to stuff the stat sheet.

It isn’t ideal that the Wizards give him a max deal as he doesn’t fit the mold of a typical max player, however, if the Wizards don’t re-sign him, they’ll have a huge hole to fill.

What’s the biggest question mark going into next season?

The bench, and more specifically, how do the Wizards upgrade their reserves without spending a ton of money? If Porter receives a contract for say $20 Million per year, that would put the Wizards roster at $98 Million, just 4 million under the cap. They’d still have to figure out what to do with Bogdanovic as well as what to do at the backup point guard position, as that position has been vacant for years.

Rather than throwing a ton of money at Bogdanovic, the Wizards would be best suited in trying to sign a veteran point guard to back up John Wall. In Game 7 of the Boston series, Scott Brooks clearly didn’t trust Brandon Jennings enough to play him at all in the second half forcing Wall to play the entire second half. Wall looked gassed and we all know how that ended.

Therefore, outside of Porter, the Wizards main offseason agenda item needs to be getting a productive backup behind Wall so he’s not forced to play an exhausting amount of minutes.

Where do the Wizards rank in the Eastern Conference?

The Wizards have solidified their spot as the third or fourth best team in the Eastern Conference behind just Cleveland and Boston. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Boston holds the number 1 pick in this year’s draft and also has the cap space to sign a max player like Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin. The Cavs on the other hand, will do whatever they need to, to try and compete with the Warriors. It’s likely that these two teams will get better this offseason while the Wizards will essentially stand pat at where they are.

If the Wizards can manage to re-sign Porter at a reasonable price and get a durable and productive backup point guard, that will solidify the Wizards as the third best team in the Eastern Conference heading into next season.

Wizards at Celtics Game 7 Final: Beal’s 38 isn’t enough as Washington falls to Boston, 115-105

Bradley Beal scores a game-high 38 points but it wouldn’t be enough as the Celtics beat the Wizards 115-105 with a balanced team effort. Otto Porter scored 20 while Markieff Morris and John Wall chipped in with 18 points a piece but the Wizards got no help from their bench and ran out of gas late.

The Wizards looked jittery from the get-go and it showed. Washington started the game just 1-7 from the field which allowed the Celtics to get out to an early 10-2 lead and forced Scott Brooks to call a timeout. The timeout settled the Wizards in as they then countered with an 8-0 run of their own to get back in this one. Washington thrived in transition early and scored 10 first quarter points in the fast break but trailed 27-23 after one quarter.

With the bench unit it, the Celtics stretched the lead out to six behind Boston’s nice bench play. Kelly Olynyk had several back door cuts for easy layups while Crowder was also able to get open for easy baskets forcing Brooks to put the starters back in early. After starting just 1-5 from the field, Bradley Beal started to come alive on the offensive end as he scored 14 points in the half and the Wizards led 55-53 at halftime.

Washington’s offense was rolling the start the third quarter. Everyone was sharing the wealth as the Wizards led by as many as six, 70-64 midway through the third quarter. Marcus Smart, who’s struggled mightily in this series, knocked down two three-pointers to tie the game for the Celtics. But playoff Bradley Beal would have none of it. Beal got hot in the quarter including a streak where he connected on six straight field goals and was the Wizards only offense at times. However, the energy plays and 50/50 balls were won by the Celtics and as a result, that propelled them to a 85-79 lead entering the fourth quarter.

The Celtics went on an 18-2 run to stretch the lead to 13, 94-81 and it looked like this game might be over. But after a timeout, the Wizards answered with a quick 7-0 run of their own. The fourth quarter had a ton of pace to it, something that was absent during the rest of the game. The Wizards and Celtics went back and forth exchanging jumpers but it was Boston and Kelly Olynyk who hit the big threes down the stretch whereas Washington ran out of gas.

There’d be no comeback this time as the Wizards fall short, 115-105. No Eastern Conference Finals this year and that’s how the season ends.

Wizards vs. Celtics Game 6 final score: Wizards win 92-91 thanks to John Wall’s late three

John Wall buried a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left as the Wizards beat the Celtics 92-91 to force a Game 7 on Monday night.

After laying an egg in Game 5, the Wizards came out with much more intensity and was the team making all of the hustle plays. However, that didn’t translate on the other end as the Wizards struggled to score at times in the first half. Fortunately, Bradley Beal connected on three of his first four shots to give the Wizards an early lead.

The Celtics’ shooting in the first quarter was even worse. Boston connected on just 4 of their 17 shots in the first quarter but only trailed by five, 22-17 as the Wizards missed a golden opportunity to stretch the lead out but couldn’t due to missed layups and free throws.

With the lead stretched to seven, Washington’s bench came in and blew the lead. The Wizards regained control with a 12-2 run midway through the second quarter to take a 40-30 lead but once again, missed opportunities plagued Washington. John Wall was getting rejected at the rim, Markieff Morris missed a dunk, and the Wizards missed seven free throws in the first half.

Avery Bradley dunked home an alley-oop with just seconds remaining as the Wizards lead quickly disappeared with the Celtics leading, 42-41 at halftime.

Even after starting the game just 1-12 from the field, Wall continued to stay aggressive. Wall went on a personal 7-0 run to get the Wizards back in this one and tie the game at 50. Like games past, Washington felt like they weren’t getting the calls and at times in the third quarter, it got into their heads. Forced shots on the offensive end led to easy dunks or layups for the Celtics on the other end.

The Wizards continued to hang around though. With under a minute remaining, Wall drove and spun past Kelly Olynyk for 2 of his 13 points in the quarter as the Wizards trimmed the deficit to three, 69-66 entering the fourth quarter.

Beal was the Wizards’ only offense to start the fourth quarter. His shot wasn’t falling from three-point range but continued to attack the hole and pull up for mid-range jumpers. With the lead seesawing back and forth, Isaiah Thomas hit a step-back jumper over Markieff Morris to give the Celtics the lead with under three minutes left. Thomas then hit a three over Wall to give the Celtics a 87-82 lead with under two minutes remaining and the Wizards looked dead in the water.

Beal, who started the game 0-7 from three-point range knocked down his first of the game late in the fourth to cut into the lead. After two Wall free-throws to tie the game, the Celtics executed a perfect out of bounds play resulting in a Bradley jumper. Beal would answer on the other end. But once again, the Celtics would execute another out of bounds play, this time with Horford knocking down the jump shot with 7.1 seconds remaining to put the Celtics up by 2.

With the ball in the frontcourt, Porter struggled to inbound it on a play designed for Beal. Wall ended up with the ball in his hands and hit a three over Bradley to give the Wizards a 92-91 lead.

The Celtics would miss a desperation shot at the buzzer to ensure this series will go a full seven games. The winner will be decided in Boston on Monday evening.

Wall, Beal, and Morris get no help

Wall, Beal, and Morris scored all 51 points in the second half for the Wizards. The bench had its moments in the first half, but never amounted to much in the second. Bradley Beal took over in the fourth quarter as he stayed in attack mode throughout the quarter. Morris and Wall helped bring it home with some big shots late.

Wizards sneak out with a win

If were going to be frank, the Wizards probably should not have won this game. They didn’t play like the desperate team for long stretches of this game and were losing the hustle plays in the second and third quarters. The team was too worried about getting calls rather than playing the game at times. However, Wall and Beal carried them late with clutch baskets. Sometimes that’s enough. Now they’ll have a chance to make the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night.

Wizards at Celtics Game 5 Final: Wizards no-show in Boston, get blown out 123-101

Avery Bradley scores a playoff career-high 29 points as the Celtics blowout the Wizards, 123-101. The Wizards didn’t treat this game like the most important contest in nearly 40 years as they pulled a complete no-show. John Wall led the way with 21 points while Bradley Beal chipped in with 16 and outside of those two, there wasn’t much to talk about.

Things looked good as the Wizards connected on their first two shots of the game to take an early 4-0 lead. But that would be the only lead the Wizards experienced tonight as the Celtics countered with a 13-0 run en route to blowing the doors off of Washington. The Celtics were on fire in the first quarter led by Bradley who scored 14 points on 6-8 shooting as the Celtics led 33-21.

Things didn’t get any better for Washington in the second quarter when the bench came in as Boston’s lead ballooned to 20. The Wizards were able to get the lead down to 15 but the Celtics countered with easy baskets whenever that happened. Boston shot 58 percent in the half with Bradley and Jae Crowder combining for 39 points as the Wizards trailed 67-51.

The Wizards showed a bit of fight in the third as they were able to cut the lead to 14 at one point. But Boston quickly answered with three-pointers from Thomas and Smart to end all hope. Washington cleared the bench early in the fourth quarter as the reserves would ride this one out to a 123-101 loss.

Washington no-shows in biggest game of the year

You would think that a pivotal Game 5 on the road would be enough for Washington to bring their A-game? But clearly, it wasn’t. Washington no-showed in the most important game of the year. They were lazy on defense, had zero flow to their offense, and would watch as Boston made all of the hustle plays. Outside of Wall and Beal, who also looked disinterested at times, the only player who came to play tonight was Kelly Oubre.

Wizards have no answer for Avery Bradley

Bradley struggled mightily in the two games in Washington, but not tonight. Bradley came out on fire connecting on 10 of his first 13 shots of the ball game. He was knocking down threes, getting dunks in transition, and pretty much just getting any shot he wanted. Bradley set the tone and the Wizards were so consumed with containing Thomas that they let Bradley get loose. As mentioned, Bradley scored a playoff career-high 29 points on 12-19 shooting including 4-7 from three-point range.

Celtics vs. Wizards Game 4: Washington uses 26-0 run to blowout Boston, 121-102

After missing his first nine shots, John Wall connects on 8-16 the rest of the way en route to 27 points as the Wizards blow out the Celtics 121-102. Bradley Beal led the team with 29 points and Otto Porter added 18 as the Wizards use a 26-0 run in the third quarter to run away from Boston.

Boston looked locked in from the beginning, specifically, Thomas. After scoring just 13 points in Game 3, Thomas connected on his four three-point field goals to give the Celtics an early lead. Porter scored 10 in the quarter but Boston went 5-8 from three-point range and led for the first time after the first quarter in this series, 24-20.

After starting 0-9 from the field, John Wall connected on a long three-point field goal. That sparked an 11-2 run at a pivotal time as Washington found themselves down by as many as 12, 40-28 in the second quarter. Wall would score 14 points in the second period after a scoreless first quarter as we’d be tied at 48 at halftime.

Amir Johnson scored the first five points of the third quarter and that’s when everything changed for Washington. After two free throws, Morris would gobble an offensive rebound and kick it to Bradley Beal for three to spark a 26-0 run for the Wizards. During this run, Washington turned Boston over nine times resulting in 21 points. The Wizards clamped down on defense, specifically Otto Porter who got his hands in passing lanes that resulted in easy layups in transition. Wall had no issues getting to the hole as he easily beat Thomas off the dribble for layups and mean mugs to the crowd. The Wizards flipped the five point deficit into a 74-53 lead.

Washington connected on 13-17 field goals to start the quarter as they would enjoy a 90-68 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Scott Brooks opted to go with the starters for a tad longer than usual but probably for insurance purposes as the Celtics never cut the lead to closer than 17 after the 26-0 run. Jason Smith added a cherry on top to this one as the Wizards tie the series at two games a piece.

26-0 run sparks Wizards

Amir Johnson scored five quick points in the third quarter. It was all over for Boston after that. Washington amped up their defense turning the Celtics over nine times during the 26-0 run which was the deciding factor. Porter shot gaps for steals and easy layups on the other end.

Bradley Beal was knocking down three-pointers, and John Wall was doing Wallstar things as the Wizards turned this game upside down over a five minute stretch in the third period.

John Wall was an All-Star tonight

After starting 0-9 from the field, Wall connected on 8-15 field goals the rest of the way as he’d score 27 points to go along with 12 assists. Like Porter, Wall was also very active on the defensive end as he led the team with five steals and was able to get the team rolling in transition. Once Wall settled into the game, he really controlled the pace of this one and was able to knock down shots and find his teammates for easy baskets.

Bradley Beal turns in his best performance of the series

After a couple of underwhelming performances, Beal led the team in scoring tonight with 29 points including going 3-6 from three-point range in the most important game of the year. Thomas was matched on Beal to start this one and once again, Washington went straight to him in the post. Later, they ran Beal off of screens for wide open jumpers as the 5’9” Thomas had no chance of blocking him. Beal shot an impressive 69 percent (11-16) on a night when the Wizard needed him.

Celtics vs. Wizards Game 3: Washington blows out Boston 116-89 for first series win

Six Washington players score in double figures led by John Wall with 24 and 19 from Bojan Bogdanovic off the bench as the Wizards blow out the Celtics, 116-89. After giving up big first quarter leads in the first two games, this game was never in doubt after the midway point of the first quarter.

With the game tied at 12 early, Washington did what they’ve done best in this series and got out to a big lead. Washington used an unthinkable 22-0 run which included jumpers from John Wall and three three-pointers from Bojan Bogdanovic to get the reserves going. Washington shot 59 percent in the period and never looked back as they led, 39-17.

Things were brewing between Kelly Oubre and Kelly Olynyk early in the second quarter. Olynyk set a hard screen on Oubre early on. Just a couple of possessions later, Olynyk set another hard screen on Oubre which he wasn’t too fond of and Oubre retaliated by running over Olynyk.

Oubre would get ejected from the game.

Unlike the first two games, the Wizards did not give Isaiah Thomas a pass on defense. On almost every possession, the Wizards threw the ball into the post for whichever player was matched up on Thomas and they’d go to work in the post. Otto Porter was one of those guys who knocked down two post up shots over Thomas and knocked down his first seven field goals of the game as well.

Porter scored 15 in the half as the Wizards led 63-40 at the break.

After stretching the lead out to 26, Boston made an inevitable run to cut the lead to 18. But Washington had an answer for every Boston run. John Wall took over and attacked the hoop resulting in 10 free throw attempts tonight. Washington stretched the lead back out to 27 as Wall found Morris for their patented alley-oop.

Two players in Brandon Jennings and Terry Rozier who’ve also had history in this series got into it as well. The two were jawing at each other which ended up in both players being ejected.

Fortunately for Washington, Wall and Beal were able to rest for the entire fourth quarter as the bench would close this one out, 116-89.

Washington ended this game in the first quarter

The game was tied at 12 early on. Then the Wizards went on a 22-0 lead to blow this one open and never looked back. After struggling mightily in Game 2, Bradley Beal got cooking early as he scored the first seven points for Washington. Wall was able to get out and attack in transition to either finish at the rim or find open shooters. Washington connected on 5-6 three-pointers in the first quarter as they led 39-17 and never looked back.

This game was very chippy

It all actually started when Ian Mahinmi and Jonas Jerebko got tied up underneath the hoop. The two went face to face but nothing happened as both players received technical fouls. As mentioned, Kelly Oubre had two hard screens set on him and took exception to the second one in decking Olynyk. It’ll be interesting to see if Oubre gets suspended for a game as a result.

Last but not least, the pesky Jennings got under Rozier’s skin as the two chirped back and forth with both players getting ejected. Ironically enough, Morris and Horford never got into it tonight.

The Wizards went right at Thomas

In the first two games, the Wizards didn’t attack Thomas all too much. In this one, they found out where he was on the floor defensively and immediately posted him up. Thomas got no passes on defense and the Wizards exploited his height.

Wizards vs. Celtics Game 2 final score: Wall’s 40 not enough to lift Wizards in 129-119 overtime loss

Isaiah Thomas scored 53 points in an overtime thriller as the Celtics beat the Wizards 129-119 to take a 2-0 series lead on Tuesday night. John Wall did his best to keep Washington in this one with 40 points and 13 assists but it wouldn’t be enough as the Wizards ran out of gas late, getting outscored 25-9 over the final 7:43 of the game.

Just like in Game 1, the Wizards were hot early. Washington started 6-9 from the field including 3-4 from three-point range as the Wizards enjoyed the early lead. There were question marks going into the game about Markieff Morris’ health and his productivity if he did play, but Morris put those question marks to bed with 10 points in the period. He even added a little shove to Al Horford as he fell out of bounds to remind that he wasn’t too fond of his Bruce Bowen-like closeout in Game 1.

There was a scary moment for Wizards fans as John Wall went up to block a shot from Kelly Olynyk only to land on the wrist that he broke back in the 2015 playoffs. But Wall shook it off as he ended the quarter with 19 points and 6 assists as the Wizards scored a season-high 42 points in the period.

The bench also mimicked their Game 1 performance, allowing the Celtics to go on a quick run to start the second period. Understanding the importance of this game, Brooks didn’t play his bench for long as the starters checked back in at the 8:29 mark.

The second quarter had an up and down pace where defense was optional as the team traded three-point baskets and transition opportunities. Al Horford got free for a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 59-58 lead late in the period but the Wizards finished out the half strong and led, 67-64 at halftime.

The Wizards started the second half hot connecting on six of their first seven field goals and went on a 14-0 run to take a 81-67 lead. However, the momentum was short lived as Otto Porter got hit in the nose and started bleeding while Morris picked up his fourth foul on the same play as both players exited the game. With Porter and Morris out of the game, the Celtics cut the lead to three, 87-84 entering the fourth quarter.

It took nearly the entire game, but Bradley Beal got going with eight points to start the fourth quarter, but the final period would belong to Isaiah Thomas. Whenever it looked like the Wizards might stretch the lead, Thomas answered with big shot after big shot. He scored 24 in the fourth quarter including two free throws to tie the game at 114. The Wizards had a final possession to win the game but Wall missed his shot and Beal missed the follow-up on the rebound.

Thomas continued his takeover in overtime. With the Celtics up 120-117, he knifed down the lane for a layup to give the Celtics a five-point lead. Then, after a Kelly Oubre dunk, Thomas crossed up Morris and got fouled to give the Celtics a 125-119 lead and effectively sealed the win.

Wizards can’t capitalize on a terrific first quarter

The Wizards could do no wrong in the first period. Wall scored 19 points while Morris chipped in with 10, bummed ankle and all as the Wizards shot 62.5 percent from the field in the first period. Washington’s game plan was to go at Isaiah Thomas early and it worked. Every player who Thomas was guarding immediately went into the post to back down the smaller player. Wall was the most effective as he was able to score and pass out of double teams when they came which led to easy baskets for Washington.

Washington knocked down five three-pointers in the opening period en route to a 42-29 lead.

Washington didn’t match Boston’s physicality 

This was a very physical game right from the get-go. Morris threw Al Horford out of bounds early on as he wasn’t too fond of him landing under his foot in Game 1 and that set the tone. Boston left the Wizards with bumps and bruises as Porter got a bloody nose, Oubre dinged in the chin, and the entire team getting outmuscled on the glass.

The Wizards will need to be the more physical team in Game 3 if they have any shot to win that one.

Every possession counts in the playoffs 

John Wall was terrific tonight but one late turnover gave the Celtics an easy basket which the Wizards never recovered from. Washington committed 18 turnovers tonight with many of them coming on lazy passes. The Wizards did everything they needed to walk away with the victory but made too many mental errors to overcome and couldn’t execute down the stretch.