Washington Remains in Peculiar Position
Despite a talented roster, the Washington Wizards again missed the playoffs this season. However, because of that talent, the team is consistently between being competitive for NBA picks or trying to get better draft lottery odds.
The Wizards finished the season with a 35-47 record, tied for the fourth worst in the Eastern Conference. When Bradley Beal was on the court, Washington’s NBA playoff odds were decent, but they qualify for the play-in tournament.
Along with Beal, the Wizards had three 20-point-per-game players in Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porziņģis. On the other hand, both those players could opt out of the final year of their contract, making NBA predictions complicated and reliant on if those two players want to stay in Washington.
The basketball odds of the Wizards moving up the draft are slim, so they will need to rely on free agency if the team is going to improve. They have to hope that Kuzma and Porziņģis will stay, so at least there is some backbone of a roster to pitch free agents.
2022-23 Season Record: 35-47
Status of Coach: Wes Unseld. He will be returning, but the seat is getting a little hotter.
Positions of Need for the Wizards
- Star Player to Pair With Beal
- Starting Point Guard
- Wing Depth
- Young Talent
Possible Free Agency Plan
Headed into the 2023 offseason, there are a lot of questions that the Wizards have to answer. For one, all signs point to Kuzma opting out of his contract of $13 million, knowing he will get paid a lot more with another team. There is less certainty around Porziņģis, who set to make $36 million in the 2023-24 season and probably won’t make more on the open market. Whenever these two decisions are made, it will be significant NBA news, and direct the Wizards to where this offseason might go.
Top wings on the FA market (22/23 3P%)
▫️ Jerami Grant | UFA | 40.1%
▫️ Kyle Kuzma | UFA (PO, likely to opt out) | 33.3%
▫️ Cam Johnson | RFA | 40.4%
▫️ Dillon Brooks | UFA | 32.6%
▫️ Harrison Barnes | UFA | 37.4%
— Jack Kelly (@jack_kelly_313) April 11, 2023
With the likelihood of Kuzma leaving, the Wizards will need to replace him and add depth around the edges. However, Washington does not have the cap flexibility like other lottery teams. Because the Wizards have tried to stay relevant, despite missing the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, they have paid players that have underperformed. If Kuzma does leave, it opens up some money, but not enough to bring in another star player.
The Wizards will likely have to sign players for depth and ensure they fit. This does not leave a lot of options for a team that has a lot of holes to fill. Hopefully, the draft can fall their way to get an impact player there.
Someone like Lonnie Walker IV could be interesting. He will be unrestricted and has spent most of his time with the Los Angeles Lakers out of the lineup. Walker could become an impact player for the Wizards almost right away.
First-Round Lottery Odds
- Odds For First Overall Pick – 6.7%
- Odds For A Top Four Pick – 29%
Possible Draft Plan
The Wizards have a chance at their highest draft pick since 2013 and a potential impact player, something this team desperately needs. However, the last three drafts have not been the best for Washington. Deni Avdija is a solid role player at the moment, but Corey Kispert and Johnny Davis have struggled to get competitive minutes.
Sportsbooks all have Victor Wembanyama being the outright favorite to go first overall and the most likely to elevate whatever team drafts him. The only problem is the chances of the Wizards picking that high are slim. That included breaking into the top four picks and getting Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller, the likely other possible franchise-changing players.
Still, that may not be the worst thing for the Wizards. One of their team’s biggest needs is a legit playmaking guard, with three elite options close to the top of the draft. The Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, are freaky athletes who can also handle the ball and pass. While they are not pure point guards, each can create for others, which the Wizards need. The most significant question mark is how legit the talent is, given that they come from the newly created Overtime Elite league.
One prospect that could be a little more reliable is Anthony Black from Arkansas. He has similar skills to the Thompson twins but is possibly a better passer, having shown it through the college season. His perimeter shooting is questionable, but he has the rest of the tools.
With all the holes the Wizards need to fill, their draft strategy might need to be to get the best available player. While having a legit starting point guard could be important, they also need wing depth and shooting. Depending on where they select, that could also change the Wizards’ draft-day plans.