There hasn’t been a Wizards head coach that finished with a winning record upon leaving the team since Bernie Bickerstaff was fired in 1999.
At the time, Wes Unseld Sr. was the general manager in Washington.
“I felt it was not working as far as my viewing of the games,” Unseld said after the firing. “I was looking for some things to happen. I feel they didn’t happen, so I decided to do what I did.”
And that was that.
The general manager’s vision wasn’t coming to life on the court, so a change was made.
But what happens when the general manager’s approach is flawed, and the execution of it is a minefield of mistakes?
Well, you get what Washington fans have witnessed for years, especially following the trade of forward Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Just the latest failure, and part of a pattern that can be traced all the way back to the arrival of general manager and team president, Tommy Sheppard.
Sheppard was hired by the team in 2003 and brought with him an approach of building through the NBA Draft.
Developing home-grown talent, in order to become a consistent challenger in the Eastern Conference.
While Sheppard didn’t become the general manager until 2019, he’s been an important part of the decision-making process for 20 years now.
And only recently has he displayed an effort to make meaningful trades, with even those ultimately bearing very little fruit.
Focusing on the draft, since Sheppard’s arrival to the franchise, the Wizards have turned just two drafted players into all-stars.
Guards Bradley Beal and John Wall, have eight appearances between the two.
None of their teammates, drafted or otherwise, have made even one all-star appearance.
That’s the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division during that stretch.
And in that same stretch, only the Philadelphia 76ers match the Wizards having at least four trips to the conference semifinals without ever making a conference final, again since 2003.
But even the 76ers drafted and developed four all-star caliber players (Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Joel Embid, and Ben Simmons) during the time Sheppard has held influence in Washington.
What Washington and Philadelphia have in common in their failures, however, is that neither ever had more than two of those all-stars on their roster at the same time.
Meanwhile, six Eastern Conference teams have done what the Wizards have since Sheppard arrived, but have advanced to at least the Conference Finals on top of it.
While Washington has taken a homegrown approach to roster building, it’s produced the third-fewest self-made all-star appearances among that franchise population.
But it’s not just about failing to turn drafted players into all-stars, it’s also about the number of draft picks wasted on guys who barely lasted long enough to be remembered as Wizards at all.
From 2003-2019, the Wizards left the NBA Draft with a total of 22 players.
Only five of them made it beyond their fourth season.
Two of those five were traded during their fifth.
Of the three Wizards who have yet to even reach year four in their NBA careers, forward Deni Avdija is also rumored to be on his way out, and rookie point guard Johnny Davis has done nothing to win the front office any credit.
Sheppard may not have been the general manager for the past 20 seasons, but he’s been around to lend a hand in every misplaced brick.
In return, he got a new contract and added title, while Washington fans got two more years of mediocrity and wasted star power.
All while waiting and wondering how long it will take for their favorite franchise to finally figure it out.
Related Article: Details on the Rui Hachimura Kendrick Nunn trade
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