Too Early Reactions from the 2020 NBA Offseason

Although the 2020 National Basketball Association (NBA) season did not end until November, cutting the off-season to a mere two months, plenty of headlines still emerged across the league. Teams looked to bolster their rosters through the draft and free agent signings. However, some teams may already be regretting their decisions. In this article, I will be looking at a few offseason moves (James Harden breaking out of Houston does not count) that already look like catastrophic failures.

A few weeks ago, it seemed that the Washington Wizards would have at least a chance at the playoffs. Future NBA Hall of Famer and former MVP Russell Westbrook joining Bradley Beal in the weaker Eastern Conference would certainly be enough, right? Well, as I write this, the Wiz are last in the East with a 3-11 record, and at this point it looks like an average mid-major college team would still have a good chance of scoring over 100 points against them. As Beal so eloquently put it, “We can’t guard a parked car.” It’s not just the defense, which might make the case for the one of worst in modern-day basketball by the end of the season; the clunky fitting of Westbrook and Beal has caused problems on the offensive end, as well. Beal is doing his usual thing, leading the league in scoring with almost 35 points a game with respectable shooting splits of 48-35-87. The only problem is that the more he scores, the more the Wizards lose, evident by their loss to the 76ers at the beginning of the month despite Beal dropping 60. The bigger dilemma seems to be the recently acquired Westbrook. He is averaging just 18 points per game, his lowest total since 2009. His three-point percentage remains terrible, but for some unknown reason (head coach Scott Brooks being afraid of him), the team is allowing him to hoist up almost five a game. Last week, the Wizards visited the Houston Rockets and old friend John Wall, the main trade piece that got Westbrook to D.C. In typical Wizards fashion, Beal scored a lot and they lost (by a lot) to a Houston team who is in search of an identity and direction after the Harden drama. It is still very early, but I have no clue what direction this Wizards team is going in, and I just hope Beal can get out of there before it’s too late. 

Every year, just a few weeks into the season, it seems fans wonder how that one rookie fell so far in the draft. This year, that guy is Tyrese Haliburton — at least it should be. Although he has done it quietly — an unfortunate result of him landing in a market nobody cares about — Sacramento fans should be ecstatic. While his statistics are not astonishing (11 points, five assists a game), he is proving to be a reliable guard down the stretch in games. Kings coach Luke Walton is playing him upwards of 30 minutes per contest and is already using him to finish close games, pairing him with fellow exciting young guard De’Aaron Fox. While Sacramento still remains far away from contention in the West, this new backcourt of the future looks like it may be a handful for years to come. But I’m not here to talk about dysfunctional Sacramento making a rare good decision; rather, I’m here to talk about all the other teams who missed their chance. Even after a successful sophomore season at Iowa State last year, Haliburton fell to the number 12 pick. I would make the argument that Haliburton could and should have gone as early as four, but it may be too early to jump to that big of a conclusion. However, it is not too early to see that a couple of teams should already be kicking themselves. I’ll give the Pistons and Killian Hayes a pass because he has been plagued with injuries all season; however, they are in no way in the clear. The Suns and the Spurs though, who drafted the two picks before the Kings, should already be scowling at their scouting departments. The Suns went with Jalen Smith, a big man out of Maryland who isn’t really getting off the bench this season. Perhaps they felt comfortable with their backcourt situation of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, but can you imagine how great a mentor Paul could have been to young Haliburton? He could have contributed right away as their third guard — which is currently occupied by Javon Carter (I had to look that up) — then, in a few years when the aging Paul retires, taken over as the perfect complement to Devin Booker. Even worse, the Spurs actually drafted another guard, and Devin Vassell so far has not been close to Haliburton’s level. San Antonio, who is now in desperate search of their new franchise star after the Kawhi debacle, potentially had one sitting in their laps with the eleventh pick. And although I do not want to harp on that situation in Washington too much, Deni Avdija has only been kind of okay so far, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they are going to need some new guards in the next few years.