New Washington Wizards president Michael Winger definitely has his work cut out for him, and executives around the NBA reportedly believe he will soon embark on a total rebuild of one of the league’s least successful franchises.
“Many rival executives The Athletic has polled informally over the last two weeks expect Winger to undertake a full rebuild — if not this offseason, then within the next year,” Josh Robbins wrote in a profile of Winger for The Athletic.
The Wizards have made the playoffs once in the past five seasons (2021) and have not won a playoff series since 2017. They have not reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 1979, one year after winning their only NBA championship, when they were known as the Washington Bullets.
Winger has decisions to make about possibly having to re-sign Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis, who both have player options for next season, and asking Bradley Beal to waive his no-trade clause. The executive hasn’t decided which way he will lead the franchise.
“The raw, unfiltered truth is, I haven’t yet crafted the immediate vision for the franchise,” Winger said. “There are a lot of talented and high-character players on the team. I want to get to know them a little bit. The construct of a team isn’t just a matter of what is demonstrated on the court. It’s not just a matter of the box score. Team dynamics are personal, and I think that I need to understand those things before hatching an actionable plan. And I know that that’s not necessarily measurable in this moment. But it is the truth.”
Beal this season played through the first year of a five-year, $251 million contract, and the Wizards finished the regular season 35-47. They haven’t finished a regular season above .500 since 2018.
One NBA executive said Beal is not the type of player to build a team around and better suited in a supporting role. The 29-year-old has averaged 23.2 points per game in each of the past two seasons, during which he’s played 90 games combined.
He averaged more than 30 points per game the two seasons before that but only played 117 games total. Beal has not played a full 82 games since the 2018-19 regular season.
The Wizards have been coached by Wes Unseld Jr. the past two seasons, and he is expected to stay during this transition, though he likely will be evaluated closely. The 47-year-old was a longtime NBA assistant coach before Washington gave him his first head-coaching opportunity.
The belief around the NBA is that the Wizards will be aggressive under Winger’s leadership. With the official title of president of Monumental Basketball, which oversees the Wizards, Winger is in essence replacing former Wizards general manager Tommy Shepherd, who was fired in April.
Winger, who was hired in May, had been general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers since 2017.