Is a losing season ever a success? Is anyone on a poor team irreplaceable?
The Washington Wizards end another bad year Wednesday somehow convinced that it was a good one and that guard John Wall should receive a max deal for, if nothing else, playing almost like the overall No. 1 pick that he was.
The bar of expectations for this franchise is so low, subway trains run on it.
Yes, the Wizards have some hope for ending a horrific five-year stretch when returning in the fall. Washington finishes with its best mark since 2007-08 and a winning record at home.
After a cataclysmic 4-28 start without Wall and with Nene frequently missing games, the Wizards posted a winning record the rest of the way. The team might fairly pretend that the second-half roster would have made the playoffs if carried over an entire season.
Wall was pretty good over the final month to soften some disappointment that the 2010 top overall pick wasn't quite as good as some No. ?1 picks over the years. Then again, nobody in that draft has outplayed Wall, so he remains the right pick.
But the franchise's woes are so pathetic over the past 30 years that even a mediocre season not close to the final playoff slot seems an improvement. That's just sad.
The Wizards have won only one playoff series (2005) since 1982. The 2005 to 2008 stretch of four seasons at .500 or better were the only non-losing seasons since 1998. They really haven't been great since the 1970s, taking the 1978 championship and losing in the finals the following year. Once that cast departed, the team has mostly stunk. The brief four-year resurgence in the past decade was still just a series of mediocre teams that looked better because of the team's recent past.
Still, amid this year's rubble, there is some hope that maybe next year means making the playoffs. Top pick Bradley Beal flashed real potential despite a bad start and an injured finish. The backcourt of Beal and Wall seems set.
But now the team must decide on another max contract that will define its next few years. The last mega-deal was a colossal bust in Gilbert Arenas. The Wizards can't make that mistake again or the $1 StubHub tickets of recent years will return.
The good news is Wall is much more grounded than Arenas, whose career has flamed out so spectacularly after legal troubles stemming bringing a gun into the Verizon Center locker room in 2009 that he played last season in China.
Wall is a restricted free agent next season, and Washington must sign him beforehand or risk losing him in a bidding war afterwards. A five-year max deal might reach $100 million.
After missing 33 games following knee surgery, Wall averaged a career-high 18.3 points per game. At 23 years old next season, he'll be much more ready to lead rather than just score.
The Wizards seem ready for better days -- hopefully. But then, we've heard that before.