The Washington Wizards have been a lowly franchise for some time. The last time the casual fan NBA fan outside of the D.C. area gave a hoot about the team or any solid free agent considered joining the team was when Gilbert Arenas was lighting up the league (and almost “lighting” up the locker room) in the mid-2000s. The last time Arenas played the majority of a year for the Wizards was the 2006-07 season.
Since then, Nick Young became “Swaggy P” as a Wizard, Jordan Crawford became “Steezus,” and the Wizards drafted a 6-foot-11 high-flyer out of the Czech Republic with the number six overall pick in the 2011 draft in Jan Vesely, whose most iconic moment of his two and a half year career was a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on draft night. The list goes on and on about the colossal screw-ups for this franchise. There’s a reason they have been one of the most irrelevant franchises in the last five years.
But two young guards are gaining more and more national attention for the Wizards with each passing day. And this is just the beginning.
“John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to be the best backcourt in the NBA in five years,” said Charles Barkley last Thursday on Inside The NBA.
It was just a prediction by Barkley. Nothing more, nothing less. It may come true and it may not. But it’s bigger than that for Wall and Beal as well as the Wizards in general. It makes people start taking notice. It makes people want to flip on a Wizards game and see Wall terroize opposing point guards like he has been doing all year or Beal rising up off a Wall crosscourt pass and sink a three-pointer. It makes a big-time free agent in this league think he could have a chance at winning a title if paired up with the duo. These two are the catalyst for the franchise in the upcoming years.
Gaining national attention is not just important for helping Wall get the starting guard spot in the All-Star game or other allocates. It’s about the future of basketball in D.C. Who is the last big-time free agent to go to a team who only plays on national TV once the entire year? One game out of 82 is nationally televised. That’s irrelevancy and it’s near impossible in this league to be a contender without luring in top free agents.
Teams like the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder have built contenders through the draft, but that is two out of 30 teams who have mastered that formula, part of it being luck. The Wizards cannot try and do that considering they have only hit on three first round picks since they became the Wizards in 1997 (Richard Hamilton, Wall, and Beal). In order to improve through free agency, you must be relevant and have star-powered players like Wall and Beal. All-Star weekend is a chance for Wall and Beal to make a damn statement.
Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting that Wall will be one of six contestants in the slam dunk contest and although it has not been officially announced, multiple reports are saying Beal will partake in the three-point contest. This is a chance for these guys to hone their skills in front of the entire nation, since we all know none of them saw the two lead the Wizards to wins over the Warriors, Thunder and Blazers in the last week and a half. It’s especially big for Wall because one insane dunk can make you a icon in the league over night, and I’m sure he knows that. I’m convinced Wall is in “eff-you” mode after being snubbed from the 28-man roster for USA basketball as well as the starting guard spot in the East for the All-Star game. He is out to prove something during All-Star weekend. People will take notice if he shows out.
Beal and Wall could dominate All-Star weekend. They are both are certainly capable. But in the end, there is one thing that matters in this league: winning. They both need to keep improving and carry this Wizards to a solid playoff run this season. It is ultimately what matters when trying to build a contender. However, this year’s All-Star weekend can give them a chance to show players around the league just how talented and awesome they would be to play with.
Looking at you, 2016 free agent Kevin Durant.