Wizards Have to Be ‘Willing to Tank’ This Year, Says Rival Executive

John Wall Wizards

Getty John Wall, Wizards

John Wall last saw the floor for the Washington Wizards on the day after Christmas last season, which means he is already nine months into his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

It can be a devastating injury, one that has ended or truncated dozens of NBA careers. Typical recovery time goes from nine months to a full year. But on Monday, Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters that Wall would miss most of this season, maybe more.

“We’re going to be patient,” Brooks said. “He’s not going to play until he’s ready 100 percent and he understands that, but what I love about John is he’s going to fight us over it.”

If Wall does not play at all this season, it will mean he will have missed nearly two years—22 months—by the time he finally does play again. That’s probably medically prudent but it will give Wall the odd experience of having been injured at age 28 and returning at age 30.

The Wizards’ approach has raised some eyebrows around the league. It could be time for the T-word in Washington.

“If you’re in charge of that team, you have to be willing to tank this year,” one rival executive told Heavy.com. “Can’t blame them for doing that. I would doubt that Wall is going to help you win any games this year anyway as he comes back. But keeping him out, trying to see if you can find a diamond in the rough by playing a bunch of non-guaranteed (contract) guys, that’s the way they have to go. It’s tanking, but you can’t blame them.”

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Bradley Beal Issue Looms Over Wizards

The Wizards were built around the backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal, with Otto Porter on the wing. But the group was never a real contender in the East and proved unsustainable financially. The team moved Porter at last year’s trade deadline, getting two players—Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis—who left in free agency.

While trade talk has swirled around Beal, the team has made no moves to put him on the block, according to league sources. Beal will be a free agent in 2021 and has not informed the team of a desire to be traded. Beal may, however, lose patience with the rebuilding process.

He could sign an extension with the Wizards before October 21. Owner Ted Leonsis and team president Tommy Sheppard made Beal a three-year max offer. But Beal shrugged it off when asked on Monday.

“Honestly, and this might sound funny, but I haven’t really thought about it,” Beal said. “Honestly, I thought about it but I have my (sons) and my family is what’s most important to me. I’ve been thinking about that. Honestly, I’ve been letting my agent and Ted and Tommy kinda work through those details. The deal’s on the table but I’m definitely taking my time and evaluating what’s best for my family. I still have two years on my deal so I’m not in no type of rush.”

Beal is not expected to sign the deal. If he does, he and Wall will be locked on the Wizards’ books at least until 2022-23. Wall is in the first year of a four-year, $170 million “supermax” extension he signed in 2017.

Wizards Primed to Play Youngsters

In the short term, it makes sense for the Wizards to accept losing this year and to maximize their lottery position, even with the protections the league has put into place to limit the effectiveness of tanking. Washington will spend this season testing young assets like Moritz Wagner, who was a first-round pick in 2018, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones, acquired from the Lakers in June.

Washington does not owe any of its first-round draft picks to other teams, but it does owe its second-rounders from 2020 through the 2023 draft. It has incoming second-rounders in 2020 (from Chicago or Memphis), 2022 (from Chicago, Detroit or the Lakers) and 2023 (from Chicago).

The Wizards used the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft to select 21-year-old forward Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga. Last year’s top pick, Troy Brown Jr., is injured but should return early in the season. He played only 14.0 minutes per game in 52 games last year.

Brooks said on Monday that only Beal and center Thomas Bryant were sure to be in his starting five. That leaves a crew of inexperienced players—throw second-round pick Admiral Schofield into that mix—vying for playing time.

There won’t be many wins. But tanking might be just what the Wizards need.

READ NEXT: John Wall Trade: Wizards Star ‘Walks All Over’ Scott Brooks?

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