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Outsiders: This was just an unlucky and very weird season for the Wizards

Outsiders: This was just an unlucky and very weird season for the Wizards

Looking back on the 2018-19 Wizards' season, it's clear good luck was not part of the equation. 

You can say "you make your own luck", or "good luck is when opportunity meets preparation", or Google whatever "quotes about luck" you want,  but sometimes things are just out of your control, and all the inspirational memes with nice sunsets and people holding their hands up in the air like Rocky still won't explain things in sports. 

As NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes pointed out in January, the Wizards were one of the most unlucky teams in the NBA this year. And it led to one weird season. 

No, they didn't have any public trade demands like the Timberwolves (Jimmy Butler) and Pelicans (Anthony Davis) had to deal with, or a complete meltdown after adding the best player in the game like the Lakers and LeBron James, but this year for the Wizards clearly had a lot working against them. 

Remove yourself for a second from the emotional roller coaster and just think back to October. Don't close your eyes though because, you know, the whole reading part of this won't work. 

Remember those expectations? A healthy John Wall. Bradley Beal was now an All-Star. A rim protecting center that's an all-time great rebounder in Dwight Howard signed in the offseason. 

Austin Rivers was supposed to bring versatility at both guard positions while Jeff Green brought the veteran leadership the bench desperately needed.  

The Wizards' expectations not just locally, but nationally, were bare-minimum Top-4 in the East. 

That seems like a decade ago at this point.

They had the talent, the playoff experience, and made the additions to their bench that we thought, had them in position to get back to at least the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

Then, almost as soon as it all came together, you realized no one had had a four leaf clover with them.

First, there was that brutal schedule that exposed this team's lack of early chemistry. Eight of their first 12 games on the road and nine of those games had them matched up against teams either in the playoffs now or fighting for a playoff spot down the final stretch. I mean, they had the Raptors, Blazers, and Warriors in three of their first four games.

Then, Howard had back/buttocks issues to start the year. It was obvious they needed him, and but it's what finally ended his season.


It's almost like the basketball gods just felt like punishing them the minute the goals rose again. 

Then there was Wall, who had a heel injury that required season-ending surgery as well, which was then coupled with another season-ending injury to his Achilles after falling at home.

Seriously, when do you ever hear of players having two  like that? Not to mention, he wasn't even safe in his own house apparently. 

Rivers couldn't find his shot or chemistry with the rest of the team and was eventually traded.

Otto Porter became a Bull in a surprise move at the trade deadline.

We had an old face return when Kelly Oubre was sent to Phoenix and Trevor Ariza came back east.

Ron Baker graced us with his shampoo commercial quality hair for four games, only to take four shots in those games before being cut and adding to a roster that had a total of 25 different players getting on the court.

We saw Gary Payton's son  in a Wizards uniform, Wesley Johnson waived with just two games left. Here is a complete list of everyone who played for the team this year. It's mind-bending.

The good news is there's still a lot of hope for the future.

Obviously, it starts with the plan the new GM puts in place, but you have Beal just entering his prime, rookie Troy Brown Jr. finding his confidence, and a likely high first-round pick that can bring in more youth to build for the future again. 

The offseason will without a doubt be impactful, but this was definitely a season Wizards fans will never forget. 





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Wizards Outsiders: The Wizards should follow the Nationals' blueprint

Wizards Outsiders: The Wizards should follow the Nationals' blueprint

Bryce Harper's return to D.C. with the Phillies has stirred up all kinds of emotions.

Whether it's nostalgia, anger, jealousy, or frustration, fans in the nation's capital hate to see him in the uniform of a division rival.

Couple that with the firing of Wizards' President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld, and D.C. sports fans are caught in a roller coaster of emotions.

That's the thing with sports. No matter how hard you try, it's incredibly difficult to keep emotion out of the picture. Sometimes it's warranted, but far too often it clouds your judgement. 

This doesn't just go for fans either. Organizations fall victim to the same misguided fate. 

That's why what the Nationals did this past winter is the blueprint for what the Wizards need to follow moving forward -- keep emotion out of your decision making. 

The Wiz will enter this offseason a former playoff team turned lottery-bound organization, which means they're at a crossroads, and all options should be on the table.

The overall success of the team should never come after sentimental feelings.

According to the Washington Post, the Nationals handed Harper a 10-year, $300 million offer during a rain delay in the team's final home game of last season. He wouldn't get all the money until 2052 . Harper thought that was the starting point, and instead, that was the biggest number the Nats would offer, lowering the money later to just $250 million, and deferments until 2072. 

When they didn't hear back, the Nationals moved forward, took their personal relationship with the former MVP out of the equation, and focused on building the rest of their team, with an eye squarely on a World Series. If you read tea leaves, it seems like they were over it far before the rest of DC was.

The Wizards will have to do the same if they want to get back to the postseason. It starts with the hiring of a new GM, and then the evaluation of everyone on the roster and coaching staff. 

They already made a huge commitment to John Wall, despite his injury history, and can't take that supermax decision back. The rest of the roster though should be available if it leads to long-term success. No matter how much you like a player, that feeling should never outweigh your bigger goals. 

I've brought this up for weeks on Wizards Outsiders (quick sidenote here: you can see me on that at 6 PM ET on NBC Sports Washington Wednesday night) with the "Bradley Beal All-NBA" conversation continuing to gain steam -- he could be due a supermax just like Wall, and that may not be in the Wizards' best interests. 

It has nothing to do with Beal as a player, and certainly not as a person. Every team in the NBA would be lucky to have someone like Beal, who's finishing up a career year and is just entering his prime. But handing out a second $200 million deal ties the Wizards up with even more money committed to just two players, and little room to grow. 

The Nationals looked past Harper's MVP year and realized, fairly or not, that they'd never won a playoff series with him in the lineup. They decided to focus on a more well-rounded roster instead of star power and marketability first.

Sometimes a group is just maxed out, and everyone needs a fresh start. 

This offseason, the Wizards' goals have to be about getting younger, allowing future flexibility, and filling in their weaknesses. If it means taking one step back to take two steps forward, do it. 

If losing a fan favorite now, means adding talented younger pieces in the process who can defend or shoot the three (or both), it's the right choice. 

The frustration from Wizards faithful will dissipate over time, as long as they have confidence in your plan. Nats fans realize Harper's price, even without a salary cap, would have made things harder in the long run for this team's construction and long-term viability (though that shouldn't take away their right to boo now that Harper is in a Phillies uniform).

D.C. sports fans are smart and understand how winners need to be built. Even when you love a player, loyalty should trend towards the team as a whole, before an individual. The team will always be around longer than any player, period. 

This is still a business, and the organizations that treat it that way tend to have the most success. 

That responsibility now rests on the shoulders next GM of the Wizards, and his approach moving forward. 

This is a very important offseason in Washington. 


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2018-19 NBA power rankings: Race for Zion Williamson is heating up

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2018-19 NBA power rankings: Race for Zion Williamson is heating up

The NBA changed their lottery rules to discourage tanking, but even so it's hard to overlook the stakes for the teams at the bottom of the league with Zion Williamson dominating college basketball.

Plus, with the offseason just weeks away, which teams will be surprise with big moves? Could the Timberwolves or Hornets swing big?

Here is a look around the NBA at all 30 teams...

1. Bucks (LW: 1) – The injuries are really starting to pile up for the Bucks between Brogdon, Mirotic, Gasol and others. Even Giannis is banged up with an ankle issue. They have to get healthy before the second round begins.

2. Warriors (LW: 2) – Jalen Rose said the other day that Kevin Durant should leave Golden State because he doesn't get the credit he deserves, to the point where no one mentions him when discussing MVP or even the best players in the game. Hard to disagree.

3. Raptors (LW: 3) – D'Angelo Russell has been great, but Pascal Siakam should get the league's most improved player award. He has improved his scoring average by nearly 10 points and is an integral piece of one of the NBA's best teams.

4. Nuggets (LW: 4) – Denver has done such an impressive job building their roster that teams will be lining up to poach their front office this summer. Will the contract extensions they doled out in February be enough to keep their talent?

5. Sixers (LW: 6) – Since Joel Embiid returned from injury nine games ago, he's averaged 29.3 points and 15 rebounds and Philly is 6-2. They look scary.

6. Rockets (LW: 5) – Austin Rivers's numbers with the Rockets aren't much better than they were with the Wizards, but he has really helped them defensively. Something tells me he has some moments in the playoffs that earn him some money this summer.

7. Jazz (LW: 10) – So much for Donovan Mitchell taking a step back this season. He finished the month of March averaging 25.3 points while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from three.

8. Blazers (LW: 9) – The Jusuf Nurkic injury is devastating. Not only will he miss this year's playoffs, but he could miss all of next season as well. 

9. Pacers (LW: 8) – Indiana has now lost six of seven with only six left in the regular season. Seems very likely they will be one-and-done in the playoffs. 

10. Thunder (LW: 7) – The slide continues for OKC, who have lost 11 of their last 17. Not long ago it looked like they were the biggest threat to the Warriors in the West.

11. Clippers (LW: 13) – The Clippers have the best win percentage in the NBA over the last month. They got even better after trading Tobias Harris.

12. Celtics (LW: 11) – The Celtics are set to have three first round picks. Right now they are all between 14 and 22, but that is still impressive. Danny Ainge, man.

13. Spurs (LW: 12) – Manu Ginobili had his No. 20 jersey retired by the Spurs this week. What a career. He would be in the Hall of Fame even if it weren't for his international exploits and he didn't debut until he was 25.

14. Pistons (LW: 14) – Wayne Ellington has proven a great pick-up so far. He's averaged 11.3 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three on 7.3 attempts in 21 games since signing with them in February.

15. Nets (LW: 16) – Only five teams have had a worse offensive rating in the last month. Brooklyn has lost six of eight. They need to pull it together and soon.

16. Heat (LW: 15) – Miami's leading scorer over the past month? Dwyane Wade with 14.7 points per game. Their defense has helped them go 10-4 along the way.

17. Magic (LW: 18) – Orlando is only one win away from 38, which amazingly would be their most since Dwight Howard left.

18. Kings (LW: 17) – They may not make a Nuggets-like leap, but the Kings seem likely to jump into the playoff mix next year. De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are only going to get better.

19. Hornets (LW: 20) – Charlotte is set to finish between 35 and 40 wins for the third straight year. That is a tough place to be consistent. They need to swing big this summer, one way or another.

20. Timberwolves (LW: 19) – The Timberwolves have sort of been forgotten about when it comes to trade destinations for big-name players, but they have been a sneaky aggressive team in recent years as they aim to find help for Karl-Anthony Towns.

21. Lakers (LW: 21) – I don't think it can be understated how the Lakers wasted the first year of LeBron James. They are only going to get so much time with him at his peak. Can't do that.

22. Pelicans (LW: 23) – New Orleans is beginning to set up interviews for their GM position. Though they are a total mess, it seems like a good spot for a young executive who can use an Anthony Davis trade to build from scratch.

23. Wizards (LW: 22) – Never before has the race for All-NBA carried so many ramifications for a franchise. Bradley Beal is probably going to be deserving, but can they then pay him a supermax?

24. Grizzlies (LW: 24) – Joakim Noah hasn't been half-bad with the Grizzlies. He's averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 16.5 minutes at 33 years old. That's good enough to get him another contract.

25. Hawks (LW: 26) – Atlanta as of now will have the fifth and the sixth spot in the draft lottery due to them owning the Mavs' first-round pick. They are some lottery luck away from being loaded with young potential stars. What if they get Zion?

26. Mavericks (LW: 25) – Last year's college player of the year Jalen Brunson is making the most of his opportunity. He's averaging 14.6 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 53.2 percent over the last month.

27. Bulls (LW: 27)  – Ryan Arcidiacano leads the Chicago Bulls in win shares this season. That is, uh, unexpected.

28. Suns (LW: 28) – Kelly Oubre Jr. has proven such a good fit on and off the court that it seems a lock he will stay in Phoenix. Maybe something similar to T.J. Warren's four-year, $47 million deal gets it done?

29. Cavaliers (LW: 29) – Collin Sexton is finishing his rookie season strong. He's averaging 22.5 points while shooting 46.3 percent from three (5.7 3PA) per game in March.

30. Knicks (LW: 30) – It is easy to forget that DeAndre Jordan is only 30. He may not have a future in New York with Mitchell Robinson developing and their quest for free agents, but he should have some years left to help someone else.