Bucher: Wiz handled Beal right
For the fifth year in a row, the Wizards won’t be in the postseason. But the outlook isn't totally bleak.
In fact, it's not bleak at all.
Their three best players, John Wall, Bradley Beal and Nene were on the court together only 22 times this season.
With Beal's season-ending stress injury to his right fibula –- brought on because he played through a right right ankle sprain before he sprained the left one, too –- they won’t take the floor together again.
Wall missed 33 games at the start because of his knee, Nene 19 because of his foot and knee and Beal will have missed 26 by season’s end because of ankle, wrist and back injuries.
When the trio plays, the Wizards are 15-7. Washington is 21-17 at Verizon Center, where it hosts the Indiana Pacers on Sunday (CSN+, 7 p.m. ET).
“You've got to establish something and it’s not all going to get established at one time,” said Randy Wittman, in his first full season as coach. “What we've done here coming down this second half of the season, we established home court.”
Of course, after Wednesday’s letdown at the Toronto Raptors, 88-78, the Wizards (28-47) are just 7-30 on the road.
Being healthier would've made that record better, but here’s why the glass is half-full looking to 2013-14:
- Wall wants in: Whether the point guard is worthy of being a max or designated player can be debated, but there's no question he has proven that he makes everyone around him better and he doesn't want to go anywhere else. Retaining their best player appears to be a foregone conclusion for the Wizards, which helps their ability to lure and keep key players.
- Locker room calm: Winning their most games since 2007-08, the Wizards don't have a locker room that is used to success outside of Trevor Ariza, who was a role player with the Los Angeles Lakers when he won a championship in 2008-09, and Nene. He appeared in the postseason eight consecutive seasons with the Denver Nuggets, but they only got past the first round once. Getting rid of Jordan Crawford by the trade deadline settled a locker room that has its best chemistry in years. Couple that with the shared experiences of this season, it should help everyone on the roster. The right addition of another veteran free agent could put Washington over the top.
- Easier road: It's not like playing in the West, where the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Add the Minnesota TImberwolves to that mix because they'd be contending if it weren't for their best player, Kevin Love, being injured for most of the season. The Wizards have to contend with the Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
Aside from retaining key free agents such as A.J. Price, who has expressed his desire to return to the Wizards, they'll have to make good use of the draft and find a forward who can score and handle the ball.
There's also a logjam of Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely, all forwards with a similar skill-set. Booker is Wittman's first option among the three, but all are under contract next season.
GM Ernie Grunfeld has decisions to make, and if he makes the right ones, the Wizards should be on their way.