Wizards seal 4th straight losing season


With their loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, the Wizards dropped to 30-42 on the year, securing their fourth consecutive losing season. While that may have seemed inevitable in the weeks and months before it occurred, it wasn't long ago the thought of them bottoming out to this extent would have seemed implausible.

The Wizards entered training camp with reasons for optimism, boasting a new-look roster that seemed to have the depth and defensive upside to maybe not turn them into contenders, but present a high floor. With Bradley Beal and a wide array of complementary pieces, they were widely predicted to make the playoffs for the second straight year.

Then, they started 10-3 and for about a month enjoyed what was essentially a best-case scenario. Their offseason additions were making the front office look very smart and that led to executives receiving promotions and contract extensions.

Despite winning 10 of their first 13 games, the Wizards appeared to be just scratching the surface of their potential, as Beal was off to a slow start and both Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant had yet to play. The Wizards, though, came crashing down quickly and have continued to trend downward for about 3 1/2 months.

Thursday's loss was their eighth in nine games. It came against a Bucks team that, although they are the defending champions, were missing two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and All-Star Khris Middleton. The Wizards battled back late, but came out flat to score only 13 points in the first quarter.

That followed a loss to the Rockets on Monday in which they led by 23 points and then lost by 18. There was a 43-point swing in the game, as they were down by 20 at one point, and it came against a Houston team that owns the NBA's worst record.

Despite their losing eight of the last nine, and the way this season as a whole has transpired, the Wizards could tout the development of their young players as progress. Hachimura, Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford are all showing signs to varying degrees, particularly Hachimura who has now scored double-figures in nine straight games and is all of a sudden the best 3-point shooter on the team.

But at some point, those signs of encouragement should probably translate to wins, or at least something more competitive than the Wizards showed from halftime of the Rockets loss to halftime of the one in Milwaukee. Though they don't have Beal or Kyle Kuzma, the Wizards have considerable talent remaining. In addition to all their young guys, they have veterans like Kristaps Porzingis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They just aren't putting it all together.

Can young players build winning habits without actually winning? The Wizards will surely hope so. There are also 10 games remaining for them to work with.

Now, the Wizards are starting to see some dividends in the draft lottery. Finally, the levee has broken in that regard, as despite losing a lot lately, they for the most part have seen little movement in their lottery odds.

That is beginning to change, as Thursday's loss moved the Wizards into sole possession of the ninth on the lottery ladder. That would give them a 4.5% chance of picking first overall and a 20.2% chance at the top-4. 

The Wizards, who have selected ninth overall in two of the past three drafts, are familiar with that spot. They were ninth in the lottery in 2020 and landed the ninth overall pick. They were sixth in the lottery in 2019 and moved back to ninth.

That year, the No. 9 team in the lottery, the New Orleans Pelicans, actually moved all the way up to No. 1. That was when they got Zion Williamson, so it's not a terrible place to be.

The Wizards could improve their odds even more if they keep losing, as at this point in the year, sometimes what's bad is good and what's good is bad. They are now only 1 1/2 games clear of the Spurs, who have the eighth-best odds but have won two in a row as they sit just two games out of the final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament.

That's the upshot of the situation the Wizards have found themselves in, the one silver lining. But surely this is not where they hoped to be or where anyone expected they would be when this once-promising season began.

Instead of charging towards the playoffs, they are planning for the future, hoping to be in a much better position one year from now.

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