The Cleveland Cavaliers were not supposed to be in the NBA Finals during year one of Lebron James’ homecoming. It was supposed to take time to develop chemistry. They have a rookie NBA Coach, they didn’t have Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving was not 100% healthy. Here’s what they did have: the best player on the planet….Lebron James.
Stephen Curry may be the league’s MVP this year, but everyone knows who the everyday MVP is of the NBA. It’s Lebron James. Like him or hate him, he’s the guy. This is the 5th straight Finals appearance for ‘The King,’ and he deserves his due. Is he better than MJ? Not in my eyes, but James still has time left on his career clock.
I’m not here to focus on the legacy stuff today. My focus is what this Finals appearance means for the rest of the Eastern Conference, especially your Washington Wizards. As much good will that has been gained the last couple of years by the Wizards, they are once again reminded that they will have to go through Lebron James. That is a scary proposition. The Cavs swept the East’s top seeded Atlanta Hawks after they beat down the Bulls in 5-games.
This sets up a very important off-season for the franchise. There is a report that Paul Pierce may be one-and-done. They also have to figure out if they can turn Nene’s expiring contract into something tangible, besides being what could be a fruitless Kevin Durant chase next off-season. Now that Billy Donovan has been hired in OKC, it looks like the Thunder have helped themselves in their quest to keep their superstar. The Wizards cannot afford just to be satisfied with treading water for another year, and then make their move on Durant.
They need to accelerate the growing process by being proactive this off-season. With as much criticism that the Eastern Conference has taken over the past few seasons, it may not be the easiest road to the Finals after all. Sure, they don’t have the same depth of most Western conference teams, but they have the most unstoppable player to go through for at least the next 5-7 years.
I’m not saying the Wizards shouldn’t try for KD in 2017, but that can’t be their Plan A, B, and C or ruin their salary cap this off-season. They still have a very young and talented backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal, who both represented themselves well once again under the brightest lights of the playoffs. They also found out Otto Porter can be part of the growing process.
The Wizards have this year’s 1st rounder and the expiring Nene contract that could be assets on the trade market. Or they can bank off growth from their young players and add a player or two from this year’s draft.
They can also play ‘small ball’ like they did in the post season and (yes, analytics crowd) shoot more 3’s. Randy Wittman seems ready to speed the tempo up and separate Marcin Gortat and Nene on the front line if both are still on the roster. Of course, that all sounds great on paper, but it is up the Ernie Grunfeld to now find the right pieces for Wittman to do that. The Wizards will need to be in the market for a stretch 4. They also need to add scoring punch off the bench.
I understand all of this is easier said than done, but the Wizards need to at least make the effort. We could look back on this past season as opportunity lost. There is no guarantee the Wizards would have beaten the Cavaliers. However, they would have matched up better than the Hawks. They also may never have a better chance at beating Lebron than this year with a less than 100% Irving and no Love. We will never know for sure.
Now the Wizards need to get back to the drawing board and try to build a roster that can at least get a shot at knocking off Lebron and the Cavaliers. I do know this much: the status quo won’t get it done.