Wizards rebuilding: new coach hired, players new to team

Russel Westbrook (left) guards a shot against his future team, the Washington Wizards, in 2019.

Photo used with permission from Google Creative Commons

Russel Westbrook (left) guards a shot against his future team, the Washington Wizards, in 2019.

After several changes and new acquisitions to the team, The Washington Wizards look to improve off last season and start the new season off with magic.

Last season, after starting just 2-8 in their first 10 games, and suffering injuries to key players during that span, the Wizards squeezed their way into the playoffs, earning the eighth seed in the eastern conference. In the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards played the one seed in the conference, the Philadelphia 76ers, where they lost in a best of seven series, 4-1. 

This past offseason the Wizards looked to improve their team in several different aspects. After the end of last season the Wizards fired head coach Scott Brooks. Brooks spent five seasons as head coach, making the postseason twice. However there were several questions about how Brooks would lead his team in the future. “Scott Brooks was abominal in regards to his coaching, and he did not call good plays and had bad leadership,” junior Ananth Kudaravalli said.

Unseld Jr. brings an old school approach to the game and I think a fresh voice will bring new life to a rebuilding franchise.”

— Owen Lomotan

After firing Brooks, the Wizards would need to hire a new head coach. They turned to former assistant coach of the Denver Nuggets, Wes Unseld Jr.. Unseld Jr. is one of seven African-American head coaches hired this past offseason, setting a new league high for minority coaches. Unseld Jr. is also the son of former Washington Wizard (known as the Bullets at the time) Wes Unseld Sr., who is one of the most decorated players in the franchise’s history. “Unseld Jr. brings an old school approach to the game and I think a fresh voice will bring new life to a rebuilding franchise,” junior Owen Lomotan, a longtime Wizards fan, said.

In addition to changes in the coaching staff, there was a trade involving former Wizards point guard Russel Westbrook. Westbrook, who is going into his 13th NBA season, was an important part of the Wizards a season ago and was their primary playmaker leading the league in assists. 

However the team moved on from him since he requested a trade and had a large contract in the later stage of his career. The team acquired Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, center Montrezl Harrell, forward Kyle Kuzma, and two future second round picks in the trade. “Team success can be attributed to the replacement of Westbrook, which allows for more advised shots and better team chemistry,” junior Varun Somasundar said.

In addition to acquiring these players in the trade with the Lakers, the Wizards still needed to fill the starting point guard position that Westbrook served the year prior. They signed former Brooklyn Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a three-year $54 million contract. In five games played so far this season, Dinwiddie is averaging 19.8 points, 5.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game and the Wizards are 5-1 for just the third time ever through their first six games as of Nov. 1.