By Jalon Dixon, Columnist
After over a decade of terrible trades, bad contracts and even worse draft selections, the Washington Wizards are finally free from Ernie Grunfeld’s inept decision making.
It has been more than 15 years since Grunfeld was named president of basketball operations for the Wizards. That tenure sits atop the league alongside notable names like Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics), Pat Riley (Miami Heat) and R.C. Buford (San Antonio Spurs).
Unfortunately for Washington, Grunfeld was not nearly as successful in building the types of championship contending teams that his colleagues were able to. Organizations like the Spurs and Heat prospered through winning division titles, competing in the playoffs every year and winning championships. On the other hand, Grunfeld developed struggling rosters that have gotten used to missing the playoffs and first round exits.
In Grunfeld’s time at the helm, the Wizards have missed the playoffs seven times, lost in the first round four times and been sent home in the second round four times. Essentially, that means that Grunfeld has not produced a single roster that posed a true threat for NBA championship, let alone an Eastern Conference crown.
Some old school fans will look back at moments like drafting forward Jan Vesley over guard Klay Thompson, forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Kemba Walker in 2011. Maybe even the re-signing of injury riddled point guard Gilbert Arenas in 2008 just before the infamous suspension for gun violence towards a teammate the following year.
Some fans will look to as recent as three years ago when the talk of the town was “will Kevin Durant come back home to play in D.C.?” Everyone except Grunfeld knew Durant was not going to sign with the Wizards. And how did he respond to missing out on the KD sweepstakes? He follows up by signing center Ian Mahinmi, forward Andrew Nicholson and forward Jason Smith to multi-year contracts.
No matter how you slice it, Grunfeld has not been a very good basketball executive. He has hardly been a mediocre one.
Wizards fans, our cries have been heard. Yes, we will be missing our star point guard in John Wall for most, if not all, of next season. Yes, we still have holes in our front court that need to be addressed in the draft. But, at least there is a silver lining: The team has a fresh start.
With the season finally coming to a close, the Wizards have a chance to reshuffle the deck and start fresh with a new executive who has a plan and a vision in place. The team may continue to suffer in the short term, but at least there is something to look forward to after over a decade of underachieving and failed seasons.