Will This Season Be Magical? The Wizards Franchise Optimism Index, Take 4 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Will This Season Be Magical? The Wizards Franchise Optimism Index, Take 4

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Updated: November 5, 2014

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Playoffs. Pierce. And maybe even a certain superstar from PG County.

When it comes to the Wizards, for once, it’s realistic to be optimistic—at least, according to TAI’s grizzled writers.

That hopefulness comes across in our sort-of-annual Optimism Index. Seven TAI writers (and two of our buddies) took a look at the Wizards by using five factors, weighted to reflect the relative importance of those factors to the state of the franchise:

  • Current Players (out of 40);
  • Future Players via draft picks and free agents/cap space (out of 25);
  • Coaching/Player Development (out of 20);
  • Ownership/Team Management (out of 10); and
  • Arena/Atmosphere/Fan Support/Etc. (a catch-all area rated out of 5).

You’ll see our responses further down in the post. Note: All responses were received last week, before the season tipped. Double-note: In a sign of the times, some of the most pessimistic TAI writers when we first did this in 2012 have since become among the most hopeful.

And where do you stand on the Wizards, with a brand-new season underway? Give us your own rating by voting in the poll following the post.

CURRENT PLAYERS 

DAN DIAMOND (@ddiamond): The core group—which carried the Wizards to the Eastern Conference semi-finals last year—is essentially back, minus Ariza. OK, Gortat may never play as well again, Nene is starting to slide, and Beal seems persistently fragile. But if last season’s breakthrough announced the Wizards’ arrival, the team has enough young pieces to stick around. Score: 32 out of 40.

CONOR DIRKS (@ConorDDirks)On Draft Night 2012, I prayed that the then-Bobcats would pass on Beal to draft MKG, and that the Cavs would not trade up and steal the stud shooting guard with the perfect form before the Wizards could draft him. He’s the perfect complement to Wall; combined with good play from Nene and Gortat, and an ambulatory Paul Pierce, this is a good team. Score: 32 out of 40.

ADAM RUBIN (@LedellsPlace)Washington has what it takes to return to the second round but likely would not be favored against Cleveland or Chicago. So, this might be the best Bullets/Wizards team of my lifetime, but I cannot give them maximum optimism. Score: 32 out of 40.

JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND (@JohnCTownsend)These guys still have “WASHINGTON” stitched to their shirts, but a strong starting five plus a better bench should add up to another solid season. Score: 32 out of 40.

KYLE WEIDIE (@Truth_About_It)The Wizards are deeper than ever, and especially up front, where it counts in the playoffs—Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and Drew Gooden estimate to be significantly more valuable than role bigs like Etan Thomas during the “Big 3” years. There are a couple issues, however, that keep the slightly-more-than-half-full ‘3’ from being an optimistic ‘4’: time this crew has had to gel together, and wing/guard/3-point shooting depth. These issues can certainly resolve themselves during the season, but perhaps not until we do another Optimism Index. Score: 24 out of 40.

SEAN FAGAN (@McCarrick): It all depends on the health of Beal. If the crack medical staff gets another shot at him this season, a 7-seed is more likely than the predicted third. Score: 32 out of 40.

RASHAD MOBLEY (@rashad20): [No comment.] Score: 24 out of 40.

>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 29.3 out of 4073% optimism

Special guests
AMIN VAFA, Bullets Forever and Hardwood Paroxysm (@AminNBA): Injuries aside, I really like the starting five and think the bench is the strongest it has been in many years. I’m a little worried about how this team would function if something were to happen to John Wall for a stretch, but Andre Miller’s the best backup point guard this team has had in the Wall era. All in all, I’m pretty pleased. Score: 32 out of 40.

KEVIN DRAPER, Deadspin and TheDiss.com (@kevinmdraper): The Wizards are clearly a good team with good players, but do they have great players on the roster? John Wall and Bradley Beal may well be the best backcourt in the league for the next five years, but I still want to see more evidence. Score: 24 out of 40.

FUTURE PLAYERS: CAP SPACE & DRAFT PICKS 

DAN DIAMOND (@ddiamond): They’re putting a lot of eggs in the Kevin Durant basket, but if the Wizards keep winning, the team’s salary cap space in two years should allow them to get someone. (Paul Pierce’s offseason signing bodes well, in this regard.) But the franchise hasn’t been creative, historically, about stockpiling draft picks or pursuing team-friendly contracts. Score: 15 out of 25.

CONOR DIRKS (@ConorDDirks)I’m hedging a bit, here; this could swing in either direction, or with less or more force towards unbridled optimism depending on what the Wizards do with their cap space in 2016. Durant, Al Horford, and others will be available. Wall and Beal will be in their prime, and combining those two with an external All-Star would be franchise-altering. Score: 20 out of 25.

ADAM RUBIN  (@LedellsPlace)Given the team’s well-chronicled failure to develop young talent, it’s tough to be optimistic about future players. But the prospect of max cap space and a recruiting visit with Kevin Durant in 2016 is enough to make the glass half full. Score: 15 out of 25.

JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND (@JohnCTownsend)Ernie Grunfeld has been an executive for a long, long time—decades—and yet he’s only drafted two All-Stars: John Wall, obviously, and Milwaukee’s Michael Redd, who was named an All-Star in 2004, one year after Grunfeld became President of Basketball Operations in D.C. As long as he’s in charge, I can’t expect the team brass to hit the high notes. Very curious to see what he does with all the cap space available in 2016-17. Score: 15 out of 25.

KYLE WEIDIE (@Truth_About_It)Both Otto Porter and Glen Rice give the Wizards a better youthful core past Wall and Beal than most realize … even if the cupboard of young bigs is bare (sorry, #KSlife), and who knows if combo-guard/Czech Tomas Satoransky will ever come over at this point. The good news, and why I’m 80 percent optimistic here, is that the only future draft pick owed to another team is a 2015 second-rounder to Boston, and that Grunfeld & Co. have strategically prepared to have ample cap space in the summer of 2016 when you-know-who might return home to the DMV. Score: 20 out of 25.

SEAN FAGAN (@McCarrick)It may be roses and shout-outs and mainstream media coverage, but you can’t help but look at a team like Chicago who successfully stashed a very good Euro and have cheap depth in McDermott. Trading for Marcin Gortat saved Grunfeld’s head, but at a huge opportunity cost. Score: 5 out of 25.

RASHAD MOBLEY (@rashad20): Kevin F. Durant. Score: 25 out of 25.

>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 16.4 out of 25 – 66% optimism

Special guests
AMIN VAFA, Bullets Forever and Hardwood Paroxysm (@AminNBA)Thanks to the new TV deal, the Wizards’ cap situation will likely be OK in the next few years. If the team stays this vet-heavy, draft picks likely won’t be a big part of the equation, especially if the team’s drafting late in the first round. Score: 15 out of 25.

KEVIN DRAPER, Deadspin and TheDiss.com (@kevinmdraper)The Wizards stand roughly par for the course, owning their future first-round draft picks but no extras, and having an acceptable salary cap situation. The optimism level is really based on how confident I am in the general manager to manipulate an OK situation into a great one. Score: 15 out of 25.

COACHING/PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

DAN DIAMOND: I doubted that this team could ever turn a top prospect into a star, but Wall’s consistent development and Beal’s breakthrough have me hoping. Coach Wittman acquitted himself OK in the playoffs … but is one of the NBA’s worst all-time coaches by career won/loss record the long-term answer? I still don’t know. Score: 12 out of 20.

CONOR DIRKS (@ConorDDirks)Signing Randy Wittman to a three-year deal this offseason was the worst move the Wizards made in one of their best summers in years. Wittman’s players are plenty ready to go to war for him, but Wittman sometimes seems more like Nick Nolte from “The Thin Red Line” than a noted strategist like Hannibal Barca or Cyrus the Great. Score: 8 out of 20.

ADAM RUBIN (@LedellsPlace)The best predictor of the future is the past. Score: 4 out of 20.

JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND (@JohnCTownsend)I’m no fan of Randy Wittman’s midrange love story, or his tendency to draw-up John Wall ISOs at the end of every quarter. But he is able to motivate his guys and get them to play defense, which is more than some coaches are able to do. As for player development … well, the team’s track record is abysmal, but they do have a reputable staff on hand. Show me something. Score: 12 out of 20.

KYLE WEIDIE (@Truth_About_It)The sore thumbs in terms of player development are Seraphin, Vesely, and a slew of other misspent youths, although the Wizards player development staff has turned over a bit in recent times. A chance for Wizards brass to turn over a new leaf? Perhaps. The real barometer here might be how enduring a self-proclaimed olde-tymey coach like Randy Wittman proves to be as teams ever search for ways to keep up with the times in a continually advancing state of the sport. Score: 12 out of 20.

SEAN FAGAN (@McCarrick)When the Wizards demonstrate the ability to draft and develop a player outside a top 3 pick, wake me up because hell must have frozen over. Jan Vesely sends his regards. Score: 8 out of 20.

RASHAD MOBLEY (@rashad20): [No comment.] Score: 8 out of 20.

>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 9.1 out of 20 – 46% optimism

Special guests
AMIN VAFA, Bullets Forever and Hardwood Paroxysm (@AminNBA)I’ve never been high on the team’s drafting and developing; Beal and Wall (and maybe Porter) are the draft outliers for Washington. As for coaching: I like that the players like Wittman and that he motivates them, but man his plays are all really unimaginative and predictable. Score: 8 out of 20.

KEVIN DRAPER, Deadspin and TheDiss.com (@kevinmdraper)To be honest, I can’t really tell. Is Jan Vesely a front office failure, who never should’ve drafted him, or a coaching failure, who couldn’t help him harness his considerable physical gifts? I will say that Randy Wittman is not one of the 15 best head coaches in the league. Score: 8 out of 20.

OWNERSHIP/FRONT OFFICE

DAN DIAMOND: Credit where due—seems like there was a plan, and it’s finally paying off. Score: 8 out of 10.

CONOR DIRKS: Grunfeld has kept his job through a glut of obeisance to Leonsis’ shifting plan since Ted became the majority owner of the team. Ernie has excelled in making Sunny D from flat orange soda, but this tandem could be frontrunners to overspend this coming summer if the Wizards (long shot) make the Conference Finals. Score: 6 out of 10.

ADAM RUBIN (@LedellsPlace)The summer of Grunfeld helps but Leonsis is no Mark Cuban. You have to wonder if ownership is willing to commit the money necessary to become a true title contender (like hiring a high-profile coach). Score: 4 out of 10.

JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND (@JohnCTownsend)WE’RE NOT DETROIT! Score: 6 out of 10.

KYLE WEIDIE (@Truth_About_It)I’ll say it again: Everyone likes a good comeback story, but does everyone like a good Ernie Grunfeld comeback story? The likelihood is that no one will care much about Grunfeld’s redemption song if the Wizards win. Confidence can be found in the ability of the Wizards brass to be nimble, and inking Paul Pierce was a significant step, but a boost in perception won’t truly happen until Washington either lands Kevin Durant or makes an All-Star out of a non-lottery pick. Score: 6 out of 10.

SEAN FAGAN (@McCarrick)The Wizards are relevant. That’s all that matters, especially when the plan is “Kevin Durant or bust.” Score: 6 out of 10.

RASHAD MOBLEY (@rashad20): [No comment.] Score: 6 out of 10.

>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 6 out of 10 – 60% optimism

Special guests
AMIN VAFA, Bullets Forever and Hardwood Paroxysm (@AminNBA)As long as Tommy Sheppard is around, they’ll be great. Score: 8 out of 10.

KEVIN DRAPER, Deadspin and TheDiss.com (@kevinmdraper)All things considered Leonsis is willing to spend what it takes to win, without getting unnecessarily involved on a day-to-day basis. I still don’t understand how Ernie Grunfeld has a job, especially with an incredibly bright and well-respected guy in Tommy Sheppard ready to take over the gig. Score: 6 out of 10.

ARENA/ATMOSPHERE/FAN SUPPORT/ETC. 

DAN DIAMOND: Verizon isn’t the best home court, and may never be. But for the first time in years, it’s trending the right way. Score: 3 out of 5.

CONOR DIRKS: Monumental made more money than the entire blogosphere has in its entire lifetime during each Wizards playoff home game, but real concerns remain. The Wizards lost money last year. Embarrassments like the Chik-fil-A promotion and the halftime showcase competition hold the product back. Score: 3 out of 5.

ADAM RUBIN (@LedellsPlace)It is still far too rare an occurrence to meet a fellow Bullets fan in the Washington metro area. And the Verizon Center gets twice as loud for the possibility of free Chick-fil-A than anything basketball-related. Score: 1 out of 5.

JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND (@JohnCTownsend)I scored this section a 1 out of 5 last season and refuse to go higher until Phil Chenier and Steve Buckhantz get their courtside seats back, or Ted Leonsis kills the Monumental Network Talent Showcase—it’s the worst. Score: 1 out of 5.

KYLE WEIDIE (@Truth_About_It)Big market potential, small market-minded reality—that’s Wizards fans for you. The transient city of D.C., the dominance of football below the Mason-Dixon, and the overall depressing culture of Washington pro basketball franchise are significant barriers. But the fact is that there are now too many distractions in life and that the Wizards must at least build positive cache for half a decade before anyone around the DMV (in particular the casual fan) will truly notice and appropriately care. Score: 2 out of 5.

SEAN FAGAN (@McCarrick)I think the fan base is still a little gun shy (pun intended) about the team. The uniforms were a great start, but everything needs a major upgrade so the Wizards look less B-list. Winning normally drives those changes. Score: 3 out of 5.

RASHAD MOBLEY (@rashad20): [No comment.] Score: 4 out of 5.

>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 2.4 out of 5 – 48% optimism

Special guests
AMIN VAFA, Bullets Forever and Hardwood Paroxysm (@AminNBA)I think this team is winning the fans back. It’s hard to create a fanbase in a metro area with people from all over the place, but the growing crowds last year meant people were paying more attention. Let’s hope they build on that. Score: 4 out of 5.

KEVIN DRAPER, Deadspin and TheDiss.com (@kevinmdraper)I’m probably too optimistic here, but I really think D.C. is ready to embrace this team. They started to in the playoffs, and with baseball and football (especially) in the area being disappointments, I think a lot of people will drift onto the Wizards bandwagon. Score: 4 out of 5.

TOTALS:

  • Dan Diamond – 70% optimism
  • Conor Dirks – 69% optimism
  • Adam Rubin – 56% optimism
  • John Converse Townsend – 66% optimism
  • Kyle Weidie – 64 % optimism
  • Sean Fagan – 54 % optimism
  • Rashad Mobley – 67% optimism

 >> AVERAGE: 63.7 out of 10064% optimism

Guest ratings: Amin Vafa (67% optimism); Kevin Draper (57% optimism).

 

 

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Dan Diamond
Contributor at TAI