The Washington Wizards, NBA, and the entire world are trying to adapt to a world that looks much different than it did four months ago. Even if Washington plays another game in the 2019-20 season, they will not be in contention. So what will the franchise look like in 2020-21 when John Wall re-joins Bradley Beal in Tommy Sheppard’s second season at the top of Monumental Basketball.
The biggest change in 2020-21 relative to the previous two seasons is that the Wizards will likely gain a healthy five-time All-Star point guard. Wall, 30 in September, is working his way back from a nearly completely ruptured Achilles as well as bone spurs in his knee and heel. Even when he has played in 73 games over the past three seasons, Wall was not healthy. He still somehow averaged 20 points and 9 assists per game.
Whether Wall has a drop off in his play or not (and he will tell you that there will not be), that will be a significant boost to the organization. Coupling a veteran point guard with a budding superstar in Beal will mean the Wizards will have an exceptional backcourt. The pieces Sheppard gets around them will be pivotal to the trajectory of the team.
Sheppard is not naive to the fact that he inherited a terrible salary cap situation. Wall and Beal will make $70 million next season and who knows if the latest projection of $115 million salary cap will plummet due to COVID-19 losses. You can bet that Ted Leonsis would like to stay under the luxury tax, which is at least currently projected to be $139 million. Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith, Rui Hachimura, Jerome Robinson, Troy Brown Jr., and Moe Wagner will make a total of $28 million, while Isaac Bonga, Admiral Schofield, and Anzejs Pasecniks may also be back on smaller deals less than $2 million each.
After signing a 2020 lottery pick, there will not be a lot of money to spend for Sheppard during free agency. Davis Bertans is going to be priority number one. Can Washington sweet talk the sharpshooter into a deal that is possibly lower than market value? Bertans probably understands that if he signs a shorter-term deal, his value could continue to rise playing with a point guard like Wall who will constantly get him open looks.
Wall, Beal, and Hachimura will form the core of Washington’s starting lineup next season. Some combination of Bryant, Brown, Bertans, and/or the 2020 lottery pick could join them with the others coming off of the bench with Smith, Robinson, and Wagner. That is not a bad rotation in the weak Eastern Conference. At the same time, Tommy Sheppard is always looking for ways to improve his roster so a trade is not out of the question. The Wizards expect to make the playoffs in 2021 and from there anything can happen because that has been where Wall and Beal play their best basketball.
Scott Brooks is entering the final year of his five-year, $35 million contract. It is unclear whether the former scrappy point guard will enter the 2020-21 season as a lame-duck coach, but he is viewed in the organization more positively than fans’ perspective.
After 16 years of Ernie Grunfeld and making the second round of the playoffs multiple times, it will be fun to see the Washington Wizards getting back to competitive basketball next season after their attempt at a quick re-tool.