Beal: Wizards’ newfound depth unseen since 2016-2017 squad originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Monday afternoon’s dominating win over the Philadelphia 76ers was the first time the Washington Wizards have had a fully healthy roster all season. Nobody was injured, nobody was in COVID-19 protocols (save the coaching staff), and finally, the Wizards yielded a complete roster.
The result was a 117-98 victory over one of the Eastern Conference's best teams. Washington had been waiting to get to 100% all season, and now that the roster is replenished, star guard Bradley Beal had an interesting answer regarding the last time a Wizards team was this deep.
“Gotta be playoffs, ’17,” Beal said. “That’s gotta be the last time we’ve had a legit roster.”
That 2016-17 squad was the best Wizards team since 1978-79, in terms of win percentage and season result. Washington took Boston to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals back in 2017 but would drop the decisive game in TD Garden.
Need more of a refresher? That series featured John Wall’s dagger in Game 6, in addition to players like Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and of course Beal himself.
While the Wizards have had success since then, including last year with Russell Westbrook and a playoff series vs. the Sixers, Beal thinks this current squad’s quality depth has only been equaled by that Wall-led team back in 2017.
“It felt good to be back tonight and have everybody back healthy, minutes to be dispersed the way they were, I think we had six or seven guys in double-figures,” Beal said after Monday’s game. “So it was a good testament to our team and our depth for sure…It was good to see everybody back in unison and us come together and play as hard as we did.”
Beal himself missed Washington’s previous three games due to COVID protocols and returned to drop 13 points against Philadelphia. Last year, the Wizards relied on Beal’s scoring (in which he finished second in the NBA) for success.
The fact that he can score only 13 points — the team’s fifth-highest on the day — and Washington can still win is a glorious testament to the Wizards’ newfound depth. Washington was so deep on MLK Day, in fact, that Davis Bertans didn’t play and four other players played under 10 minutes.
“I definitely address it because it’s like the elephant in the room,” Beal said of certain Wizard players not seeing the court due to roster depth. “You can’t ignore [the DNPs]. We all know the dynamic of our team, we all know that we have a lot of wings that are competing for a job, and that’s just the reality of it…There are gonna be guys who get DNPs or guys who are gonna play five minutes, guys who play two minutes, guys who play 27 minutes. You just gotta stay on the grind.”
Good news and bad news always come with roster depth in the NBA. The good news is obvious: more depth means more options for scoring and defense, higher chances for favorable matchups, and less fatigue. The bad news is that talented players won’t always see the court as much as they want to.
But one thing is for sure: if this Washington team reminds Beal of the 2017 squad, that is certainly a great sign. For context, the Wizards are currently 23-21. By this time in the 2016-17 season, they were 24-20 and about to win 10 of their next 11 games en route by season's end to a Southeast Division title and a No. 4 seed in the playoffs.