For the first time in the John Wall–Bradley Beal era, the Washington Wizards were eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs, losing to the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors in six games in the 2018 postseason.
It was yet another dysfunctional season for the Wizards, as they continued their recent trend of playing well against the elite teams in the league and then playing down to the level of their competition and losing to a handful of putrid teams.
Wall missed close to two months after undergoing knee surgery in January, a big reason why the Wizards were the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference and not a higher seed.
There always seems to be chemistry issues which plague this club. In February, Wall and center Marcin Gortat met privately to air their grievances after Gortat supposedly called out Wall in a tweet. In the past, it was Wall and Beal fighting for who was the alpha of the team. The two stars seem to have moved past that, though.
The Wizards traded Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer, mainly because the organization wanted a more athletic center and didn’t see Wall and Gortat getting along in the future. Washington signed former All-NBA big man Dwight Howard to a two-year free agent deal as Gortat’s replacement.
But back in 2014, the Washington Wizards had a good amount of cap space and the opportunity to sign some free agents to bolster their roster. They re-signed Gortat to a five-year, $60 million deal instead.
The same opportunity presented itself in the summer of 2015. Guys like Al Horford, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap and Khris Middleton were on the open market, but the Wizards didn’t pursue any of them and brought back a similar team.
So why didn’t Washington try to get any of these big names? Well, that’s because management was banking on a certain Maryland native to come home during the 2016 free agency period.
That would be Kevin Durant.
The Wizards reportedly didn’t want to use any of their cap space because they were confident Durant would leave the Thunder to go play in D.C. In 2015, the Wizards hired David Adkins as their new player development assistant. They did this in part because Adkins was an assistant coach at Montrose Christian, the high school Durant attended. Adkins and Durant had a very close relationship and many in the Wizards’ brass thought that would help lure Durant.
The Wizards then hired Durant’s former coach in OKC, Scott Brooks, in 2016, another transparent preparation to recruit Durant. All of these moves were for nothing, though, as little did the Wizards know Durant had zero aspirations of coming home.
Durant didn’t even take a free agent meeting with Washington, a blow from which the Wizards still haven’t recovered from. Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors.
The Washington Wizards are hoping Wall, Beal and Howard can lead the franchise to new heights in 2018-19 now that LeBron James is out West. But not going after any free agents from 2014-16, all because they had a good feeling Durant was coming home, has cost the Wizards big time.