A little over a week ago, I broke down the Wizards’ chances of making the playoffs once the league restarts. With multiple key players on the Brooklyn Nets, a team just ahead of the Wizards in the standings, considering skipping the restart, the door appeared to be open for the Wizards to jump ahead.
However with sharpshooting forward Dāvis Bertāns already sitting out, and star guard Bradley Beal just announcing his absence today, the defensively troubled Wizards will be without their top two scorers when NBA action resumes.
The odds of making the playoffs with Beal were slim, but take him out of the equation, and any chance goes out the window. The team would really only be playing for a first-round matchup with the league-best Milwaukee Bucks and presumptive MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, so it’s not as if there was much at stake, but it’s still disappointing that the biggest star on the team won’t make a return.
As is the case with every player opting out, you can’t blame him. Beal has two young children at home, and with the Wizards far out of contention, he likely wouldn’t want to risk injury or sickness. He did travel to Orlando with the team, but cited a shoulder injury as the reason for not playing.
With Beal gone, 2018 lottery pick Troy Brown Jr. will likely elevate to the starting two-guard spot. Beal was averaging 30.5 points and 6.1 assists per game; Brown was putting up 9.7 points and 2.3 assists. Beal and Bertāns combined for 45.9 points per game, and now neither will take part in the restart.
Perhaps Beal’s exit will lead to others on the team sitting out as well. On the other hand, players who generally receive less playing time may use the restart as an opportunity to showcase their skills, but at this point, there’s really no real intrigue from a franchise standpoint. Perhaps we could get more looks at young up-and-comers like Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner, but how much will eight games after a lengthy layoff really show us?
Now, focus will be squarely on the draft lottery. This year’s prospect pool contains a lot of question marks and practically no prized target. Last year, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were both obvious game-changing prospects any team could build around, and both have shown early signs of greatness in their rookie seasons.
There are no such players this year, but so much uncertainty could result in a future star slipping to the Wizards, much like 2013, where the Cleveland Cavaliers took UNLV’s Anthony Bennett first overall — a confusing choice even at the time — while the relatively unknown Antetokounmpo slipped to Milwaukee at 15th.
More draft talk will come as specifics become clearer, and the Wizards could really use help anywhere, but for now, the team will likely slog through eight games in Orlando before packing things in and focusing on 2020-21, where the results of John Wall’s return could determine whether the team will be ready to compete for a playoff spot again.
Cover Photo Credit: Tim Fuller/USA Today Sports