The Washington Wizards made a splash even before the 2022-23 campaign ended when team owner Ted Leonsis hired Michael Winger as president of Monumental Basketball, which oversees the Wizards.
It remains to be seen how the new executive will manage Washington. However, the belief across the league is that the team will become “aggressive” in the coming months.
“The early around-the-league reaction to Washington’s hiring of Michael Winger to take over its front office: Pretty much every rival team I’ve spoken to is already expecting aggressive activity from the Winger-led Wizards,” Marc Stein wrote on his Substack.
The Wizards have been in a state of mediocrity for a long while now. They have missed four of the past five playoffs, failing to win more than 50 percent of their regular season games in each of the past five campaigns.
The squad was fortunate enough to reach the postseason in the 2020-21 season despite finishing with a 34-38 standing. However, it was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia 76ers.
To try to change their fortunes, the Wizards nabbed Winger from the Los Angeles Clippers, where he served as general manager from 2017 until this year. He helped oversee the organization’s acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the 2019 offseason.
Before his Clippers tenure, Winger already had an extensive history in the league.
He began working in the NBA in 2005 as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ director of basketball operations, staying there until 2010. During that span, the franchise made five consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals, making an appearance in the 2007 NBA Finals.
Winger was then brought in by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010, serving as assistant general manager for multiple years. With the Thunder, he worked with three future MVPs in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Clearly, the new Wizards president has significant experience in collaborating with some of the NBA’s top stars. Perhaps that pedigree is what might help him build a winner in Washington.
His first order of business probably is determining what to do with current star Bradley Beal. The franchise can either build around the three-time All-Star or ship him elsewhere for key pieces or draft assets. Its roster could also feature Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma, both of whom have player options for next season.
Exciting days might be ahead for the Wizards organization and its fans. Only time will tell if the addition of Winger results in success or more heartbreaks.