This year’s Wizards season left fans with mixed emotions

Natalie Gordon

 This season has left Wizards fans with things to both smile and cry about. There’s the team’s terrible defense and Scott Brooks’s subbing methods that leave all Wizard fans perplexed. But who could forget the all-star caliber play of Bradley Beal or the promising future shown by rookie Deni Avdija.

Junior Matthew Tirajoh has been a Wizards fan since 6th grade. “I’m happy with the progress we made this year, but at the same time it’s a not-enough type thing,” he said. With Russell Westbrook and Beal as leaders, the Wizards finished this season with a record of 34-38, leading them to 8th place in the Eastern Conference and grabbing the final playoff spot—their first time in the playoffs since 2018.

This year’s Wizards team looks much different from the group that reached the playoffs in 2018. The 2018 team centered around the dynamic guard duo of John Wall and Beal, a tandem that holds a special place in the hearts of many fans.

Beal and Wall were high draft picks who grew with the team as the fans grew with them. It felt like the team was led by an unstoppable “House of Guards”, and there was a feeling of community and family among Wizards fans. 

However, as Wall missed nearly two years due to knee and foot problems, and was traded before the start of the 2020-21 season, the team reinvented themselves by changing nearly their entire roster and bringing in Westbrook, a former league MVP.

“Before he became a Wizard, I wasn’t the biggest believer in him,” said junior Mattias Rolett, a longtime Wizards fan. “But he started to grow on me, and now I think he is a very valuable contribution to the team.” 

Maybe we didn’t love Westbrook like we did Wall, but this year he made NBA history by becoming the all-time leader in career triple doubles (double-digit points, rebounds, and assists within a single game) and became the Wizards franchise leader after just one season. 

This year marked another legendary season for Beal, with him finishing second in the NBA for scoring for the second season in a row. Normally, having two players with highlight stats would lead us far, so why did we lose the first round of the playoffs?

“Their most prominent growth area would definitely need to be defense,” Tirajoh said. And he’s not alone, for years many Wizards fans have expressed their frustration with the team’s lackluster defense. 

The lack of communication, energy, and players that are actually strong defensively all contributed to this. All fans know the familiar progression of most Wizards games by now: we are ahead at the start, yet end up letting the other team outscore us in the 3rd and 4th quarter. This frustrating pattern is because of our inconsistent defense.

While poor defense is something all Wizards fans can agree on, many have mixed feelings about head coach, Scott Brooks. Brooks has been the Wizards coach since 2016, but his five-year contract expired at the conclusion of this season, making this campaign potentially his last.

Brooks has made it clear that he would like to stay with the Wizards, but many want him out due to his losing record. After winning a respectable 49 games in the 2016-17 season, the team has sadly gone downhill since. 

 “Scott Brooks needs to play more of the team. He keeps players on the bench that could actually contribute to the game or puts them in too late,” said freshman Samantha Gordon. On the other hand, Rolett said, “It’s very easy to hate on him, but I feel like people hate on him too much, I think he’s done okay.” 

So what’s next year going to look like? While Brooks’ future on the Wizards is still being decided, Beal is here to stay—for this year at least, as he is entering the last guaranteed year of his contract. Westbrook will also be back, as he still has two seasons left in his contract with the team. 

The Wizards will have the number 15 pick going into the draft, and that’s not their only area of flexibility. They will have an opportunity to change assistants, no matter if Brooks stays or not, and they have many free agents: Raul Neto, Ish Smith, Garrison Mathews and Robin Lopez, all of whom whose future needs deciding. 

Going into the summer will be difficult for the Wizards since they already have at least 8 of their 15 roster spots under contract, including their starting lineup, for a total cost of $180 million, leaving them very close to the salary cap tax line. 

The Wizards averted a sweep against the 76ers in the first playoff round, with a triumphant win at home in front of fans, hopefully, a preview for what’s to come next year. “I’m just waiting for the day we get a ring, when all the tough losses  will have been worth it,” Tirajoh said. But for now, Wizards fans will have to wait until opening day in the fall. •