The Washington Wizards finished the season with a 34-38 record, which landed them the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. The Wizards struggled for most of the season, as the team could not stay healthy. The team would go on a five-game losing streak, followed by more losing streaks to start the season. The team this past offseason made a splash to acquire Russell Westbrook from the Houston Rockets. Washington had to decide whether John Wall was to be the point guard going forward for the franchise. Wall dealt with a severe knee injury that sidelined him for nearly two full years. The team took advantage of a disgruntled Westbrook in Houston and traded for the triple-double machine.
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Westbrook’s first half of the season was not as smooth sailing as many had hoped, as his shooting percentages and efficiency were terrible. The poor start with Westbrook and the Wizards led franchise player Bradley Beal in a very unsatisfied situation. Early in the season, photos of an unhappy Beal surfaced while on the bench and the court. Although Beal mentioned earlier in the season that he wants to stay in Washington, it only took a month later to see these visible signs of displeasure.
However, the team would finish the season very hot, as the team had an eight-game winning streak that led them into the play-in game tournament. They would finish the season with a 15-5 record over their final 20 games, leading them to the eighth seed. The Wizards would lose to the Boston Celtics in the play-in tournament fighting for the seventh seed spot. Westbrook would lead the way in the bounce-back game against the Indiana Pacers, to secure their place in the NBA playoffs as the eighth seed.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Bradley Beal
Beal finished second in points per game in the NBA. The shooting guard only lost to Stephen Curry during the last game of the season. The superstar had 30 or more points in 41 games this season, six of which were 40 or more points, and two games of 50 or more. The guard was very efficient throughout the year, as he shot 48 percent from the field. The guard led his team in scoring, and when Westbrook was struggling, helped the team compete in games. Beal averaged 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. An incredible season throughout, Beal was able to lead his Wizards team from what seemed as a busted season to the playoffs.
Defensive Player of the Year – Daniel Gafford
Gafford was acquired by Washington during the NBA’s trade deadline. Gafford was sent over through a three-team trade that included the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics. The center only played 23 games for the team, but his impact helped the team during their second-half outburst. Gafford is a great rim protector and can dominate the boards. Gafford had a defensive rating of 106 and averaged 1.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per game. When on the court, the team’s overall defensive rating improves.
Sixth Man of the Year – Robin Lopez
The journeyman center found his role early on with the Washington Wizards. The veteran center averaged nine points, and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 63 percent from the field. Lopez is not a flashy or prototypical sixth man, but his presence on the court is unmatched by others. His leadership alone, coming off the bench as the veteran was enough to help rally the players on the court. His experience helped the young core in Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija develop throughout the season.
Biggest Surprise – Russell Westbrook
This really should not come as a surprise, but Westbrook had a miraculous second half of the season. Westbrook started the season off terribly, his efficiency was below the league average. As the point guard shot 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. In his first 20 games with the Wizards, the newly acquired guard averaged nine assists. However, he also averaged nearly five turnovers.
It was not until the second half of the season, more precisely right after the all-star break, where Westbrook started to make improvements. In the final 20 games of the season, Westbrook was arguable the league’s best player. The point guard averaged a triple-double during this stretch. Averages of 23.6 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 13.9 assists per game. With the help of Beal, Westbrook brought a team that was on the brink of being eliminated from playoffs to contending in the playoffs. His switch from the first half of the season to the second half of the season allows him to win the biggest surprised award for the team.
Biggest Disappointment – Deni Avdija
As the ninth overall pick in the recent NBA draft, Avdija had high expectations going into this NBA season. Although the at-the-time 19-year-old forward was deemed a project before turning into a superstar in the league, his performances did not shine bright. Going into the season nobody projected the Israelian forward to average big numbers, but the rookie’s best game was only 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. The forward only reached double-digit points in 20 games outside of that lone game. Most of which were during garbage time.
The forward struggled shooting the ball as he shot 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from three. As a prospect, Avdjia was considered a highly efficient scorer, and that his game should translate into the NBA scene. However, the rookie posted a 103 offensive rating while the league average is 112.3. Avdjia was disappointing during his rookie year, and although it is very early to label him as a bust, the first year was far from good.
The Wizards have a lot to think about this offseason. Beal throughout the season has been giving the team mixed signals as to whether or not he wants to stay in Washington. Over the past two seasons, Beal has been linked to every competing team in the NBA. The guard has mentioned previously that he wants to win in Washington, but the team is not built to win or even compete in the playoffs. The Westbrook experiment failed, due to the lack of depth on the roster. Acquiring Westbrook helped Beal, but the team will not find success without a complete roster.
The Wizards should seek another trade. The team could go in multiple directions, as they could start over and trade away Beal for multiple young players and first-round picks. This trade would start the rebuild and allow the team to see if Hachimura and Avdjia are pieces they can build around. The team could trade for another star, as Karl-Anthony Towns and Damian Lillard have been rumored to be unhappy. This trade would give the team a big three, and a chance to bring in veteran bench pieces that are looking to win a title.
The team could trade Westbrook to fill out the rotation. With the guard performing well late in the season, his trade value will be high. Trading away his contract for a better starting cast would benefit the team in the long run. Although Westbrook was great for Washington, the team lacked depth. Trading away a star player for players that can contribute to the starting rotation would benefit Beal. This is because Beal, outside of Westbrook, had no other player that could consistently contribute to the game.
The Wizards have a big grey area to address in the Beal situation. The team has very little to work with and can not sit idle, or their superstar will walk away from the team. Washington may have had a Cinderella season-ending, but it will not be enough to keep Beal unless something major is done.
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