In three of the last four years, the Wizards have exited the playoffs in the conference semifinals. What have they lacked to get over the hump to make the conference finals?
In 2014, it was another creator off the dribble. All they had was Bradley Beal, who was in his second season and not nearly as diverse as he is now, and a limited catch-and-shoot three-point specialist in Trevor Ariza. The Indiana Pacers realized this and exploited the weakness, clogged the paint to keep out John Wall and their series was over in six games.
The following season it was Paul Pierce in place of Ariza and at a more salary-cap friendly pricetag. He had the three-point range but also the mid-range game that Ariza lacked to pull up. That six-game series loss to the Atlanta Hawks could be directly attributed, however, to Wall's broken left hand and wrist that cost him three games.
This past May, in a seven-game series loss to the Boston Celtics, the Wizards faced a team that had multiple strong defenders in Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder. To have the best chance, Wall and Beal couldn't have any let up and had to be on every game.
Short of having a Big 3, and with their salary cap constraints, they'll have to compensate by strengthening other spots on the roster:
Corrective action: Backcourt backups.
The fallout: Wall and Beal had their best seasons as professionals, though both were on fumes the last time out. Wall shot 8-for-23 in a Game 7 loss to Boston after playing 44 of 48 minutes. In the previous game, he logged 42. Beal played 43 and 46 minutes in the last two games.
The departed: Trey Burke; Brandon Jennings
The fixes: Tim Frazier and TBA.
The first move president Ernie Grunfeld made with the roster after a 49-win season was trade their No. 52 pick in last week’s draft for a proven backup to Wall.
This is where Frazier enters. Because of salary-cap constraints, there’s was only so much that could be done. His contract is just $2 million and he should be a much more reliable backup than Burke or Jennings.
Even in the first regular-season game, the Wizards complained that they couldn’t hear or understand Burke’s play calls. It either was because his voice wasn’t loud enough at Phillips Arena vs. the Atlanta Hawks or he was unsure of himself.
When you’re a point guard and the coach determines you’re better off not running the offense, that’s problematic. Jennings played with more pace and confidence but the shooting was absent. He also couldn’t defend the position.