Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard: Losing in first round ‘no longer acceptable’

Wizards star Bradley Beal
Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trading for Russell Westbrook helped the Wizards exactly as much as was reasonably expected. Washington (34-38) finished eighth in the Eastern Conference in the regular season, lost a road play-in game, won a home play-in game and made the playoffs for the first time in three years. The Wizards got walloped in the first round by the 76ers, winning only the game Joel Embiid got injured.

But this season was far more satisfying than the last couple lost years while Bradley Beal is in his prime. Making the playoffs is not nothing.

Now, expectations – as set by Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard – are rising.

Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards got better once they traded for Daniel Gafford and got fairly healthy. Thomas Bryant returning from his injury could lift them further.

But they weren’t close to winning a playoff series this year. It’s good Sheppard recognizes this roster needs improvement if still trying to win around Beal.

That said, it will be difficult to back up his big talk (“no longer acceptable”).

Washington could trade Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and the No. 15 pick for veterans who are currently better. But I doubt other teams value those young players more than the Wizards do.

Far from having cap space, even using the full mid-level exception would project to push Washington into the luxury tax. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis probably wouldn’t go for that.

Washington could oust Scott Brooks as coach. Many possible replacements offer a higher upside. But the fundamental problem is a roster built around John Wall‘s terrible contract (traded for Westbrook) and a dearth of very high first-round picks the last several years.

It’s nice to want to improve around Beal, who has repeatedly professed his loyalty to the Wizards. They owe him the best supporting cast possible.

But cracking the East’s top four won’t be easy. The Nets, Bucks, 76ers and Hawks have big head starts. Several other teams – including the Celtics, Heat, Knicks, Pacers, Raptors and Bulls – are also chasing the conference leaders. Not only must the Wizards catch a top-four team, they must fend off the rest of the pack.

So, what happens if Washington has the unacceptable – yet very plausible – outcome of another playoff loss next season? Will there actually be major consequences?