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Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: A difficult season for Scott brooks nets a positive grade

Wizards 2018-19 end of season grades: A difficult season for Scott brooks nets a positive grade

Now that the dust has settled for the 2018-19 Wizards season, it's time to review the roster and hand out individual grades...

Who: Scott Brooks, head coach

Year with team: 3rd

Grade: B

Season review: There is no question that from a basketball perspective, the 2018-19 season was among the most challenging of Scott Brooks' career. Even for a man who coached a 23-win team in 2008-09, and the mercurial Russell Westbrook, it would be hard to top all that went on for Washington this year.

Brooks had to navigate around a serious injury for John Wall for the second straight year. Dwight Howard missed all but nine games. The Wizards made five trades and suited up a franchise-record 25 players. 

They often played rotations mostly comprised of guys on expiring contracts. And there were in-practice spats between him and players that were made public.

Brooks, along with his players, were not able to keep the ship afloat. They sank to 32-50 by the end of the season and along the way it cost Ernie Grunfeld, the man who hired him, his job. That set the tone for what could be a tumultuous offseason, one that offers no certainty Brooks will be back with the Wizards for a fourth season.

There was some good and some bad with Brooks' job performance in Year 3. He oversaw the continued development of Bradley Beal, who has a chance to make All-NBA when the honors are announced next month. Thomas Bryant had a breakout season after Brooks promoted him to the starting lineup. 

Despite a revolving door of a roster and the absence of Wall, the Wizards continued to feature an above-average offense. They finished the season 10th in points and 14th in offensive rating.

But on the other end of the floor, the team continued to trend in the wrong direction, this year bottoming out as one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA and in franchise history. They were 29th in defensive rating and 28th in points allowed. They gave up about 11 more points per game than they did the year before, 116.9 compared to 106. 

And when it comes to the success of some players, it was fair to question if those leaps could have been made earlier. 

Troy Brown Jr., their 2019 first round pick, didn't earn consistent minutes until late February, when the season was essentially long lost. That was despite him showing flashes of promise in his first few months as a rookie. And at times, it appeared Brooks was choosing to play lesser players like Ron Baker or Gary Payton II over him.

All in all, though, it's hard not to grade Brooks on a forgiving scale due to all that went wrong that was out of his control. A head coach could have only done so much to overcome the obstacles the Wizards were presented by injury luck and the front office.

Now the question is whether Brooks will be back for another year and, if he is, whether there will be changes to his staff. Until the Wizards hire a new general manager, it is tough to predict.

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Isaiah Roby's journey from small town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal

Isaiah Roby's journey from small town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal

Watch I Am the Prospect: Isaiah Roby in full in the video player above. A five-part series, I Am the Prospect follows top basketball prospects in their journey to the 2019 NBA Draft.

One hundred miles west of Chicago sits Dixon, Illinois, a small city of around 15,000 not at all known for producing star basketball players. 

But for Nebraska forward and potential NBA Draft pick Isaiah Roby, it's home. 

"Small town kid, it's something that's always been a part of my identity," Roby told NBC Sports Washington for I Am the Prospect. "I have that underdog mentality and a chip on my shoulder of being from a small town. I have a lot of pride in that."

"I think I'm one of only two or three guys to play Division I basketball out of my town, and that's something I'm really proud of."

Roby's struggle against small town obscurity began at a young age, back when he was playing AAU ball. 

"It took a lot to get to this point for me, especially coming from a small town with not a lot of opportunities so it takes a lot of time and dedication, countless miles," he said. "I would drive 90 minutes roundtrip, or both ways, just for practice, AAU practice."

And in Roby's case, he wasn't the only one making those long trips and dedicating countless hours to furthering his basketball career. Roby credits his mother, Danielle, as a big reason why he's where he is now.

"She sacrificed a lot for me to be in the place I am today and she's my biggest motivator," he said. "She's the reason that I was able to play AAU basketball because those things aren't cheap. You know, traveling, paying for team fees, paying for hotel fees.

"My mom picked up multiple jobs at a time for me to be in those positions and in order for me to be where I am today."

Roby began to gain recognition in Dixon because of his skills on the basketball floor. So much so, his "stardom" affected his job. 

"Growing up, I worked at a restaurant in Dixon, 'world's tallest host' they were saying," Roby recalled. "First I was a host, and as I got better in basketball, people started to recognize me more. They had to move me to the back because it took too long for me to sit people at tables."

However, outside of his hometown, Roby was still relatively unknown. He only received one scholarship offer from a Divison I school, Nebraska, which like Dixon had little basketball history. 

But it was that chance to make some history which sold Roby on becoming a Cornhusker.

"Probably the biggest reason I ended up at Nebraska is because of the coaching staff and the facilities they have there," he said. "Coaches sold me on being a part of something new, trying to start something new at a university. Nebraska is not known for basketball, but they kind of sold me on being a special time in Nebraska basketball history, so that was something that I definitely wanted to be a part of."

During his sophomore and junior seasons in Lincoln, Roby helped the Cornhuskers earn back-to-back berths in the NIT, Nebraska's first postseason appearances since making the NCAA Tournament in 2014. 

In fact, Roby led Nebraska to its first postseason win since 2008, scoring a career-high 28 points in the Cornhuskers' 80-76 victory over Butler in the 2019 NIT first round. 

Now, he has his sights set on the NBA. Roby projects as a low first-round or second-round pick, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig ranking Roby No. 41 on his latest 2019 NBA Draft Big Board.

And after beating the odds to play for a Division I program, Roby believes he can do the same at the next level. 

"In every gym I go into I feel like I'm the best player, so I'm just trying to prove that to all these NBA teams," Roby said. "And at the end of the day, if I get a chance, I'm the type of player that's gonna work hard."

"I know I need to work on parts of my game and develop further, but I think down the line I'm going to be a starter in this league and a player that sticks around for multiple years."

Roby has aspirations to do good work off the court as well, remembering how others helped him and his family in times of need. 

"I grew up in a Habitat for Humanity home. My family did things like shop with a cop on Christmas. The local police department would come and give my family a turkey for Thanksgiving." 

"I've had all these opportunities for people to help me and my family out, so that's something I definitely want to be involved [with] in the NBA," he said. "Being a positive role model for kids in the community, these are all things I'm looking forward to doing for an NBA team."

And as potentially the first native of Dixon to make the NBA, Roby's journey can provide inspiration to anyone with dreams that may seem impossible. 

"I'm living proof that it's possible to come out of anywhere no matter what the situation," Roby said. "If you really, truly care about it enough, anything is possible."

I AM THE PROSPECT

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Ted Leonsis' patience in GM search is a calculated risk with potential to backfire

Ted Leonsis' patience in GM search is a calculated risk with potential to backfire

The decision for who will run the Wizards front office long-term is not imminent. In fact, it may not even be that close.

That's according to majority owner Ted Leonsis, who again displayed a surprising level of patience in his months-long process to replace Ernie Grunfeld, this time in an interview with the Washington Post. Leonsis says he does not expect to finalize the hire until after the start of free agency on June 30.

That effectively means that if they hire someone from outside the organization, that person will have little to no impact on the team this offseason. That may sound like hyperbole, but just look at the calendar.

The NBA Draft is on Thursday. The deadline on Jabari Parker's $20 million team option is June 29. Free agency will begin on June 30 and qualifying offers for restricted free agents are due that day as well.

By the second week of July, the Las Vegas Summer League will be in full swing. But the NBA offseason, at least the most important parts of it, will be pretty much over. 

The Wizards will have already made their draft pick(s) and held the press conference. They will have likely settled matters one way or another with restricted free agents Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis. And by then, the phone could be ringing off the hook with trade offers for Bradley Beal.

Leonsis, though, is continuing to take the longview, knowing no one will really care in a few years if he nails the hire and the franchise is quickly steered back onto the right course.

The drawn out timeline raises many questions and the most obvious one is what they are waiting for. The NBA Finals are over. If they were waiting to talk to someone involved in that series, they can do that now. 

Maybe he wants to see how interim president Tommy Sheppard fares in his first draft as the top executive. Maybe all of this, the draft and free agency process, is a test.

Maybe he plans to hire someone from outside the organization, but feels that installing them now wouldn't be good timing. Leonsis hasn't offered specifics in that regard.

At this point, it seems clear the best way to make this a productive offseason from a roster-building perspective is to promote Sheppard. He has been carrying out his vision and will do so through at least the start of free agency.

The Wizards won't have a ton of money to spend, but they will have some. Sheppard is going to be making the pitch and signing players to be part of the Wizards' future.

Someone else is just going to take it over after that? That doesn't make a ton of sense, unless Leonsis is okay with punting this offseason with his eyes on the bigger picture.

But also, consider the fact this isn't just a normal offseason. They aren't your typical team hitting the reset button. They have two All-Star players signed to large contracts, John Wall to a supermax deal and Bradley Beal to a max.

This offseason should be the start of laying the groundwork for life with Wall after his Achilles surgery. And if they have any hope of signing Beal to another contract, they need to show some signs of progress.

Late in the regular season, Beal was asked whether he would sign an extension with the Wizards and he said: "I wanna be able to know that we're going in the right direction in the future."

Beal said that in the context of a potential supermax contract worth approximately $194 million over four years. Now they can only offer him a smaller deal worth about $111 million over three years.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday the Wizards' intention to offer Beal the $111 million contract this summer. But if he wasn't a guarantee to accept the larger deal, then we know how he feels about the lesser one.

Beal has expressed his loyalty to the Wizards in numerous, sometimes-extreme ways. He has said everything from wanting to retire in a Wizards jersey to wanting to die in a Wizards jersey. He told NBC Sports Washington in February he wouldn't request a trade.

But he wasn't blowing smoke about wanting to see the team improve. Every indication from those familiar with his plans suggests he meant what he said. He is entering his eighth season and has already made plenty of money. He wants to win.

With that in mind, they can't really afford to botch this offseason. And if they have hopes of signing him long-term, they probably can't tear everything down around him for a rebuild. 

That makes the patience Leonsis is showing so interesting. There are still ways to ultimately get this process right. But the longer they wait, the more they will potentially sacrifice.

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