The Wizards made a noticeable improvement in 2020-21, using a stellar second half of the season to earn their first playoff berth in three years. With a 34-38 record, Washington made a nine-win jump from the year before.
The franchise has seen several year-over-year jumps like that since its first NBA season in 1961-62. Some saw the team make a leap from the middle of the pack to a playoff threat, while other improvements happened simply because it was difficult for things to get any worse.
Here’s a look at how the Wizards have improved on prior disappointments, as well as the biggest year-to-year comebacks in franchise history.
What was the worst season in Wizards history?
The first season was the worst season for the Wizards organization.
The team entered the NBA in 1961 as the Chicago Packers and finished dead last in the standings with an 18-62 record. The 18 wins and .225 winning percentage remain the lowest marks in the 60-year history of the franchise.
As far as the team’s worst seasons in Washington, the 2000-01 and 2008-09 squads posted 19-63 records. Those two campaigns, along with the 1961-62 inaugural season and lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, mark the only times the team has failed to eclipse 20 wins.
Both results led to a bright spot in the offseason, however, as Washington received the No. 1 pick in the 2001 and 2009 NBA Drafts. The Wizards took Kwame Brown with the first pick in 2001, and while the pick didn’t pan out, the 2001-02 team won 18 more games than it did the previous season. The Wizards later selected John Wall No. 1 overall in 2009. While the year-to-year jump was only seven wins in his first season, he helped lead the franchise to four playoff appearances over a five-year stretch during his prime.
What was the Wizards’ best one-year turnaround in history?
The franchise’s biggest improvement came in the Baltimore Bullets era. The team went from 20 wins in 1966-67 to 36 wins in 1967-68 all the way to 57 wins in 1968-69. The 21-win, year-to-year jump propelled the Bullets to the top of the NBA standings before the team got swept in the first round of the 1969 playoffs. It was the first of 12 straight playoff appearances for the franchise.
The Wizards’ biggest turnaround happened between the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. Washington went from a 25-57 team to a 45-37 team in one year behind star point guard Gilbert Arenas.