The Washington Wizards are off to the franchise‘s second 5-1 start in the last 30 seasons.
Shrewd front office moves have set them up for success.
Washington win in 2 OT. Wizards are 5-1 for only the third time in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/86AFMxHi2m
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) October 31, 2021
When the Wizards traded John Wall to the Rockets for Russell Westbrook last October it was thought that RW would be in D.C for awhile..
Westbrook was ghost to L.A. after one season and a coaching change that brought Wes Unseld Jr. in as the new head coach, replacing Scott Brooks.
The hiring of Unseld Jr. also brought in a change in philosophy where he demands playing both ends of the floor and more than one guy constantly having the basketball in his hands. These are two philosophies that don’t sit well with Westbrook.
Westbrook Wanted Out
Per reports, Westbrook had been meeting privately with LeBron James and Anthony Davis about forming a big three, after both the Lakers and Wizards suffered first-round exits in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
Although the idea of moving Russ to the Lakers didn’t really sit well with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, Westbrook wasn’t a good fit long term.
With his departure, the Wizards got three really good players in return. A package of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was too much to pass up while also alleviating themselves of RW’s big contract.
Team Owner Wasn’t Happy About Timing
Leonsis let his feelings be known a few days after the trade was completed, as he was preoccupied with getting his hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin re-signed while the Westbrook deal was being completed.
“We had a superstar player with the Wizards, he had an opportunity and wanted to be traded to the Lakers, Leonsis told ESPN. “And I was dealing with that as we were announcing Alex. I couldn’t help but self-reflect on what a difference it is. Here’s a great player in Russell Westbrook, played in OKC, went to Houston, wanted to traded, wanted to be traded, came to D.C., wanted to be traded, now he’s in L.A. He’s an unbelievably great person and unbelievably great player. But that’s the difference between the NBA and NHL, I suppose.”
Team Looks Much Better Under Unseld Jr
With the Wizards currently sitting at 5-1 and playing some really good basketball, it looks like the move has benefitted the Wizards.
Unloading Westbrook also opened up money to bring in reserves Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday.
For the first time in years, the Wizards now have a complete complement of pieces as far as starters and reserves go.
Gone are the days of Bradley Beal having to score 30 to 40 points a night and the team still losing. This team now has an identity, and under Unseld Jr, they’re actually giving great effort on the defensive end.
Migrating Through The Eastern Conference
The Eastern Conference has some good teams in Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Miami, Atlanta, Philly and Chicago. But the Wizards have a real shot at one of those eight playoff spots if they can stay healthy and continue to become more cohesive on both ends of the floor.
Harrell brings toughness and interior play, Kuzma brings scoring punch, KCP adds toughness and grit on the perimeter. Dinwiddie adds scoring, distributing and closer ability from the combo-guard spot, which also takes some pressure off of Beal.