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Draymond Green says Wizards must figure out future with Russ originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green made clear what Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard’s first priority should be this offseason after Washington was eliminated in Game 5 in Philadelphia on Wednesday night during a guest appearance on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” program.   

“They have not committed to Russ long term. His contract is what his contract is, but you could also move Russell Westbrook,” Green said. “So I think that’s step one: are they committing to Russ and [Bradley Beal] long term or are they not? And then they can go from there.”

Sheppard traded John Wall and a 2023 draft lottery-protected first-round pick to secure Westbrook’s services from Houston on Dec. 2. Westbrook still has two years on the five-year, $206 million max contract he signed with Oklahoma City before he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 season.

“If you’re not committing to Russ long term, Brad might have something to say about that because who are you bringing back to replace Russ? Because Russ isn’t easily replaced,” Green said.

“Draft picks,” TNT’s Kenny Smith responded. 

“If you’re bring back draft picks, that doesn’t help Bradley Beal, who’s going into year 10 of his career,” Green said. “So, I think they have to decide if they’re committed to Russ long term, and if they are, as y’all said then it’s time to get other veterans.”

For Green, who missed the playoffs with a rebuilding Warriors squad filled with more youth than they had on any of their championship teams and missed injured All-NBA shooting guard Klay Thompson all year, he isn’t convinced the best way to move forward is by staying pat. 

“But getting draft picks and placing them next to two All Stars, that don’t work,” Green said. 

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The conversation started when Shaquille O’Neal, no stranger to hot takes in his own right, said he thought the Wizards underachieved with one of the better backcourts in the NBA this season. O’Neal probably didn’t take into account the plethora of challenges it took for Washington to surge back into the No. 8 seed after an incredible May, including the COVID-19 outbreak at the start of the season and nagging injuries to Westbrook and company throughout. 

Holistically, though, when comparing the Wizards’ backcourt to a comparable team in Portland, which boasts star guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Washington’s supporting cast doesn’t match up. 

“I think they need four or five more players,” O’Neal said. 

“So they need a new team?” Green said with a laugh.

“Overnight fix!”  host Ernie Johnson joked.

“Four or five new players? That’s a different team Shaq! That’s a starting lineup,” Smith said with a chuckle.

“Well, it’s summer time and you’re gonna have time to look for some new players. You know Russ needs one more dog with him, they need another shooter, and they need a veteran,” O’Neal said.

That wish list may be hard to come by in one offseason without dealing one of Washington’s two best assets. The Wizards are projected to be over the cap and their late-season surge cost them a spot in the draft’s 14 lottery spots. 

“To me they underachieved because when I look at Beal and Westbrook, that’s a nice backcourt and they should’ve done better than what they done,” O’Neal said. “They need a lot of help from the others, so when I say four or five new guys – they need to do a whole new re-phase in the offseason.”

Smith laid out Sheppard’s options for Washington more clearly.

“They need a rebuild, or a veteran rebuild. There’s two ways, you can keep that backcourt intact and surround him with the Taj Gibsons of the world,” Smith said. “I’m just gonna say, who wants Russ? And then who wants Beal possibly? And we’re gonna start over and get a bunch of draft picks. Because there is no middle. The way this team is constructed is a 10th seed.”

With the amount of bad misfortune the Wizards were handed in this wacky 2020-21 season, it may be wise for Sheppard to see what he has and make some minor moves to complement Beal and Westbrook better. Ish Smith, Raul Neto, Robin Lopez, and Alex Len are all unrestricted free agents this summer while younger prospects Garrison Matthews, Isaac Bonga, and Cassius Winston are restricted free agents.