Rival executives seem to think new head of basketball operations Michael Winger will undertake a full rebuild with the Wizards — if not for the upcoming season, then perhaps the next, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
This would be a change of plans for a franchise that is so often stuck in the middle of the pack under team owner Ted Leonsis. Winger replaced Tommy Sheppard, dismissed at the end of the season. He has since added ex-Thunder executive Will Dawkins and former Hawks GM Travis Schlenk to the front office.
“I was really moved by Ted’s vision for the team. And I thought to myself, ‘He is all about the right things and he’s proven he’s all about the right things because he’s done it with the (NHL’s Washington Capitals,'” Winger told Robbins. “There’s a real potential here to be great. There’s a real potential here to help these players grow. There’s a real potential here to give the fans an enjoyable team.”
Winger will have to hit the ground running. While star shooting guard Bradley Beal has four years remaining on a five-year, $251 million deal, both forward Kyle Kuzma and big man Kristaps Porzingis are entering free agency.
“The raw, unfiltered truth is, I haven’t yet crafted the immediate vision for the franchise,” Winger said, via Robbins. “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.
“Then the question is, well, are you going to trade Brad? Are you going to keep Brad? I don’t know. I would like to meet with Brad. I haven’t yet met with Brad. What are you going to do with K.P.? What are you going to do with Kuz? I don’t know. They have choices. They have the power of choice, as does Brad. So, what I really want to do is I want to get to know these guys. If the visions align for being competitive and doing things the right way with a little bit of patience, absolutely there’s a path forward with them.
“I don’t think we’re going to be an overnight title contender; that I’m pretty confident about. And so, if they would rather pursue immediate winning, then they probably do have to pursue that somewhere else. But I think that there’s a very open dialog, a very open invitation to talk about the future of the team — the near-term future and the long-term future — and see where goals align and see where they don’t align.”
Winger had been serving as Clippers GM under Lawrence Frank since 2017 before taking the Washington job.