WASHINGTON — The aftermath of the Wizards’ season has been somewhat of a mixed bag about how successful it was.
Indeed, they posted their best record (49-33) since the franchise’s last NBA Finals appearance 38 years ago, and took the top seed in the Eastern Conference to Game 7 of the conference semifinals, technically a one-playoff-game improvement over their previous playoff run in 2015, and a definitive improvement over their 2015-16 regular season which concluded without a playoff berth.
And yet, for the third time in four seasons, the Wizards failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs.
“I wouldn’t say it’s successful until you make that step forward and get further than you’ve been in the past,” Wizards analyst Phil Chenier told The Sports Junkies Tuesday.
Grant Paulsen had a more team-positive outlook on 106.7 The Fan.
“This season was a success. I don’t think you can view it as anything other than that,” Paulsen said Wednesday. “The opposite of success if failure, so to me you can’t say it was a good season and not call it a success. If it’s not a success, they failed.”
“How can you say that about this group, this team, this year,” he asked. “Year one of a new coach, didn’t make the playoffs last year, started 2-8, finished with 49 wins, in Game 7 on the road with a lead at halftime against the one-seed in the conference. Success. Not even close.”
“Markieff Morris exceeded my expectations,” he continued. “Otto Porter came into his own. You were able to get rid of the abominable, awful contract that you signed Andrew Nicholson to. You were able to bring in Bojan Bogdanovic.
“You improved the bench as the year went along. The Brandon Jennings deal was a success. John Wall took another step forward to being in the elite conversation now of the best players in basketball.”
Critics might point out that the Nicholson fiasco, and the Wizards inevitably getting out from under his contract, is yet another example of team president Ernie Grunfeld digging another hole for himself to dig out from, only to garner an odd amount of praise for the end result rather than scorn for delivering another self-inflicted gunshot wound. But that’s definitely not what Paulsen is saying here.
“So for [John Wall] to get better, for Bradley Beal, who got a max contract before he was a max contract player and to make good on it, for [Otto] Porter and Kieff, and even Marcin Gortat who was up and down, for all of those guys individually to have the years that they had under Scott Brooks in year one in this system, to become one of the most exciting teams to watch in this sport, to have protected the Verizon Center home floor the way they did from start to finish, this year was a success,” Paulsen said. “How can you view it as anything other than that?”
“Now you could say you’re disappointed with the outcome,” he said, a notion with which his co-host, Danny Rouhier, happened to agree.
“You can even say they’re not going to be this good next year,” he said, which with Rouhier also agreed. “You can even say they can never win a championship with this foundation, as the pillars that are holding this thing up like the white columns in some movie from 50 years ago in some house that was built on a plantation.”
“You can say any of that crap,” Paulsen added. “Still a success. I challenge you to tell me that it wasn’t, because I think that you’re wrong.”