June 30, 2015

15 Years

Put this post in the "better late than never" category. This one is way overdue. I should have thanked the Wizards for this months ago.

The 2014-2015 NBA season was my 15th as a Washington Wizards season ticket holder. If you had told me back in the fall of 2000 (when I bought into my first year as a STH) that I would still have season tickets now, I can't say that I'd be surprised. But if you told me then that being a Wizards fan would permeate almost every month, week and day of my year, I think I might have been shocked. Back then, I couldn't contemplate attending even half the home games in a season. Now, I not only shoot for all 41 regular season home games each year, but I also want to make it to Summer League, a couple of Wizards road games and maybe a D-League game or two. How times have changed me.

A few years into my season ticket holder journey, the Wizards instituted a longevity rewards program to thank fans for their continued support over the years. The plan works on a five year milestone anniversary basis and happened to get implemented right before my fifth season as a full season ticket holder. The five year anniversary gift was (and still is) a private (meaning not open to the public) reception with Wizards management and special guests. The special guest at our reception was supposed to be Gilbert Arenas but he ended up a no show due to an (alleged) flat tire so all we really got was some food in the Acela Club that day plus an autographed basketball and the apology note at the top of this post. Oh well.

Five years later, I passed the ten year milestone which got me (yawn!) my name on the Wizards Wall of Fame, a backlit plexiglass sign on the 100 Level of Verizon Center. The display was originally a little more deluxe in (as I remember it) the form of a series of plastic circles in a display case with whatever writing I chose to put on there. There was a character limit so I chose to abbreviate my name and my friend Mike's name and they ended up getting it wrong since they didn't understand I was abbreviating. The mistake was made that much worse by the Wizards mailing me a glass paperweight engraved with the same mistake. I threw that away. Oh well.

So after a couple of swings and misses in the anniversary milestone rewards program, I finally got to the 15 year mark and hoped the Wizards would pay off in spades. The 15 year gift is a Lexus Level suite for a game all to ourselves. That's right, an entire suite for me and whomever I choose to bring (well, up to 18 people total anyway) for a whole game. I'd been looking forward to this gift for years and the experience did not disappoint. There's no doubt this was totally worth the wait.

Now I've never been much of a suite guy. I'd attended one game in a suite once before way back in 2005. In fact, it was the playoff game vs. Chicago when the Wizards clinched the franchise's first playoff series win since 1979 and the then Bullets team was the proud owner of a brand new championship trophy. I hated it. The suite, not the 1978 championship. It was me, my friend Mike and one other guy from work on a freebee to see if our company might be interested in investing in some Wizards suite tickets (we declined) along with some other folks doing the exact same thing. It was a hugely important game and we were totally disconnected from the suffering fan base we had been sitting with game after game for the first five years of my season ticket holding tenure. It sucked! I wish I had been in my seats in Section 402, Row G for that game instead of sitting in that suite.

But having a suite to myself? And being able to choose who I brought along? Now this had to be a can't miss experience. And it was.

Inside the suite.
Our view of the court during pre-game introductions. This is about as good as it got.
Early last season I received an email notification from the Wizards that the choice of suites for the anniversary gift was posted online and available for selection. I had set myself up for a Tuesday night game against Milwaukee or a Wednesday contest vs. Toronto so my expectations were pretty low here but hey, it's free, right? Right. Only the choice was not limited a series of unsellable games on weekdays early in the week. We actually selected and were granted a Friday night game in January against Brooklyn, who despite their below expectations record at the time were still somehow a popular team (go figure; two years in Brooklyn and wildly popular). Now I was a little more excited. Friday night games are actually desirable and the chances folks might beg off because of having work the next morning went way down.

This experience all around was truly fantastic. Not only did it include 18 free tickets, there were also two guest passes (which get you in the suite but not the building) and two parking passes. I have never parked at Verizon Center in my life. I mean I generally try not to drive anywhere I don't have to and living pretty much right on top of a Metro line means I don't have to like ever. But doing it once for this event was just awesome. We got there about an hour and 15 minutes before scheduled tip time and were allowed after a quick wanding by security to take the elevator straight up to the suite level. If I had enough money to be driven around all the time, I suppose I'd want to do this for every home game.

When we got to the suite, the place was outfitted with food (way more than I expected), beer (about what I expected and not enough for the crowd I was bringing), congratulatory decorations, and a swag bag for each person with a Bradley Beal bobblehead as the main attraction. So not only am I essentially hosting my own party in a space that I don't have to clean up, but there's live hoops at basically the world's highest level (OK, maybe not that night; the Wiz managed to lose by 22 behind 26 each from Jarrett Jack and Brook Lopez for the Nets) on the floor below us. I could get used to this sort of treatment, although honestly, I'd still rather spend time surrounded by other fans in my regular seats for the other 40 games in the year.

Swag bag!
The Wizards are by no means obligated to do this for fans (although they actually sort of are now since they put it in writing on their website) and it goes a long way to making me as a season ticket holder feel appreciated. I can't imagine there are too many other teams who hand out suites to their season ticket holders after 15 years. I mean this experience is worth some serious bucks. Likely way more than the 20 year reward (trip to an Eastern Conference away game; I'm guessing bus trip to Philly here) and certainly more than the 25 year reward (participate in the pre-game captains' meeting) which is essentially worth very little, unless I'm missing something major about the experience. If I had an option, I would way rather do this again than get my scheduled 20 or 25 year reward.

Other than the on court performance, there was nothing about this night that was not just incredible. And honestly that didn't matter that much because I spent most of the time that night celebrating the fact that I had reached this milestone with good friends and family, including my friend Mike who has been on this journey with me for the last 13 of the 15 years. I think most of them honestly saw this as an effort in perseverance and refusal to give up on my part and were glad to see me get something back.

I'd love to do this every year, although honestly it's probably not worth springing for a suite every year. I guess I have to wait another 20 years to get another one of these based on the schedule published on the Wizards' website. That's a long time. I may just have to spring for one of these things before then. I'm not sure I can wait that long to have a suite to myself again. Maybe at 20 years? 

Thank you, Washington Wizards, for making my 15th year truly memorable on and off the court. It's not often you get a reward like this plus the best record for the franchise in three and a half decades. I'm never going to stop being a fan of this team.

Two of my favorite people in the world.
15 years!!! We made it!!!

June 18, 2015

Season Tickets Or StubHub? 2015 Report

During the 2013-2014 NBA season, I tracked the price of Washington Wizards tickets on the secondary market, specifically on StubHub, and compared the price of those tickets with the cost borne by Wizards season ticket holders. I did this as a means of justifying my commitment I make each spring to my favorite basketball team and to make this information available to existing and potential new season ticket holders considering taking the journey I've taken with the Wizards in the last decade plus. Spoiler alert: it might be a bumpy ride.

The results of my first season tracking pricing on the secondary market were interesting. Generally speaking, I found the price I paid for my lower level corner seats were 30% cheaper than the resale market and my upper deck tickets in pretty much the same spot in the arena as I buy downstairs were 25% cheaper. I warned though that the price increase imposed by the Wizards for my seats this past season (10% downstairs and 25% in the upper deck) might come pretty close to those available on StubHub and that the secondary market would need to keep up to make the Wizards faithful feel like they were getting value for money.

Not surprisingly, this past season, I did the exact same thing.

Just to refresh everyone's memory about the controls of this experiment, I am seeking to compare the prices of Wizards tickets in the first ten rows of the center five sections of Verizon Center's lower level and the first seven rows in the center five sections in the upper deck at VC with tickets available for sale on the secondary market. Why these locations? Well, because I hold season tickets in the fifth row of Section 109 and the third row of Section 415 and I want to know how my tickets compare more than any others. I consider tickets a few rows behind mine could roughly be considered equivalent to what I have.

I took data at two separate times, just like I did in the first year I did this: one week ahead of game day and the day of the game itself. This allows me to get a handle on trending data as game day approaches and see if there is any advice I can offer the secondary market purchaser about when to pull the trigger and invest in some NBA tickets. For the record on this one, overall there is about a 3% price drop over that last week. More desirable games do not drop; less desirable ones drop more. I still think if you find tickets you want at a price you are willing to pay, you should grab them. That's what I do when I'm traveling to watch the Wizards.

Finally, I ignore other factors about seat location like the fact that my seats are aisle seats toward the center court side in both levels or the fact that in Row J in the lower level, you probably can't see, hear or be heard like I can from row E. Now you know where I sit, stop by and say hi sometime; bring beer as a gift if you are feeling generous. Budweiser in the grossly oversized 25 oz. can is preferred by me when at Verizon Center.

Just like last year, StubHub was my preferred site to comparison shop. StubHub is a great site for this work because they display the final cost of tickets to the consumer, rather than hiding all sorts of fees behind an attractive low low price like other sites sometimes do (nbatickets.com run by Ticketmaster comes to mind). I did track pricing on nbatickets.com this year but the data is less useful because of that site's general unwillingness to show their hand. While the Ticketmaster data is useful to some degree, they kept switching the format of their pricing throughout the year. I was impressed towards the end of the season that they started being more transparent about pricing (see the photo above), but by then it was too late to get a complete set of data.

So let's get to the results. I'll present just as I did last year.
  • Purchasing Section 109, Row E seats for the entire 2014-2015 season (including preseason) cost me $2,337.50. Purchasing equivalent seats on StubHub for each and every regular season game (no preseason; preseason has no value) one week ahead of the event would have cost me $4,476. Season tickets are 48% cheaper. Wow!
  • Purchasing Section 415, Row C seats for the entire 2014-2015 season (including preseason) cost me $850. Purchasing equivalent seats of StubHub for each and every regular season game (again, no preseason) one week ahead of the event would have cost me $1,566. Season tickets are 46% cheaper. Also wow!
The results for this past season show a huge discrepancy between the cost of tickets to the season ticket holder vs. the cost of tickets on the secondary market. Last years "cheaper than" percentages were 30% and 25%. This past year season tickets were a real bargain compared to StubHub. This season also saw a large jump in "per game" pricing on the secondary market: lower level tickets averaged $109 per game ($72 last year) and upper level tickets averaged $38 ($22 last year). I placed quotation marks around per game because we all know prices fluctuate by game. A game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers does not cost what a game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks costs.

Now, before the Wizards get any ideas about hiking ticket prices (well, they've already done that so...), the season ticket holder SHOULD get a discount. Remember we are the team's bread and butter and shouldn't be forced to pay market driven prices in advance for a product that may or may not deliver that value. Some of us buy and show up every game regardless of team performance. We don't get money back on our purchase when the team stinks. At least nobody's given me any cash back yet.

Now the short answer above considers a scenario where you attend all 41 home games per year. But some folks (can't imagine why not) don't want to do this. Just like last year, I looked at various other scenarios for buying games a la carte from StubHub. In every scenario (vs. the best teams in the NBA, going only on weekdays, going only on Fridays and Saturdays) I looked at, the cost of tickets this year was consistently about 35% or more higher than the 2013-2014 season. Considering the 10% / 25% hike that season ticket holders were subjected to, the value is actually pretty good. But again, it should be.

Last year I considered how many games you could attend if you only had $200 to spend. In 2013-2014, you could buy seven lower level games or 20 upper level games. This past season, your $200 would only get you five lower level games or 13 upper level games and you'd spend a lot of time watching the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers on Monday through Wednesday nights. This data is not surprising considering the overall increase in secondary market pricing. Your $200 doesn't go as far this year as it did last year.

Finally a word about the playoffs. Last year I noted that the difference between the regular season and playoffs were striking in terms of secondary market value. This year, I'm making the statement but for the exact opposite reason. In the 2014 playoffs, Wizards tickets were hot. Or maybe Chicago Bulls vs. the Wizards tickets were red hot and those for the Indiana series were a little cooler but still smoking. At least until the game three loss against Indiana when all the bandwagonners decided they didn't want to play any more.

This year, not so much. Last year's playoff market would have cost me 3-5 times what I paid as a season ticket holder. This year, that gap shrunk to less than three times the season ticket holder rate, specifically $992 lower level on StubHub vs. $393 STH pricing for all five games and $400 vs. $142 upstairs. The drop in my opinion is strictly based on our opponents. Toronto and Atlanta are not as sexy as Chicago and Indiana. Last year, the Wizards were selling additional seats for season ticket holders for up to $125 for upper deck Indiana seats. This year, I bought some extras for game three vs. Atlanta (on a weekend night no less) for $50 and had to end up selling them at a loss. Playoff seats were definitely tough to move this year.

So what does all this mean for the season ticket holder considering lower level corner tickets went up $11 per game (20% increase) and upper level center tickets went up $8 per game (40% increase)? Well, I think it means if you are planning on attending every Wizards home game, you are going to spend more money next year over this past season just like you did last year vs. the previous season. Your tickets were way cheaper than the secondary market and if trends hold, they are still cheaper next year than the prices on the open market this past season. If that's any comfort, that's great. In the end, you are still spending more. Eventually, you might even get priced out of your seats so some fair weather fan can scoop them up. Not an uplifting thought.

Now if you like holding season tickets but not going to all the games, then the chances are you can unload the tickets for some games you don't want to attend at or above what you paid for them. Don't get your hopes up for Minnesota on a Monday or Toronto on a Tuesday but if you are looking to skip a Friday game when Cleveland's in town, you may make a tidy profit. I suppose the Wizards may end up resenting this but I hope they don't. Season tickets can't possibly be priced at open market prices by game; we can't afford to pay the top dollar price for every game like people attending one game per year can.

I still think the price of Wizards tickets is very affordable. Based on the increase for the 2015-2016 season and my season ticket comparison shopping this past March, I believe the Wizards are right in the middle of the pack (maybe 15th or so) when it comes to season ticket prices across the league. I also think the price of Wizards tickets will continue to rise over the next few years assuming the success of the current team continues. I wouldn't be surprised to see hikes like the ones this past offseason go on for another two or three years. I'll be back at Verizon Center for at least 39 or 40 games next year and I'm sure I won't think I'm wasting my money. Not next year anyway.

NOT my seats at Verizon Center.

June 10, 2015


This post probably gets filed in the "less sense than money" category.

Randy Wittman has been head coach of the Washington Wizards for just a little bit less than four seasons. He was elevated to that position after the Wizards got tired of the lack of results under Flip Saunders and decided to kick Flip to the curb just 17 games into the 2011-2012 NBA season. Since his appointment as head coach, Randy's record is not stellar, posting a 46.4 winning percentage, although he did manage to get the Wizards into the second round of the NBA playoffs each of the last two years, something that hadn't happened in 36 years.

Sad though it may seem (because it's easy to achieve given my favorite team's historical performance), Randy is already becoming one of the most accomplished coaches in Wizards / Bullets team history. Despite his below even winning percentage, he's eighth all time in that category among the 23 head men in franchise history. I expect as his teams continue to win, he'll bring his winning percentage higher and higher. A 21-0 start at the beginning of next season would bring him to .500 instantly.

Randy fares better in some other franchise coaching categories. In total games coached, he's fifth. If he lasts to the end of next season he'll pass Dick Motta, who won the 1977-1978 NBA Championship with the Bullets. In playoff wins, Randy ranks fourth with 12 in just two playoff appearances. Maybe if John Wall hadn't hurt his wrist, the Wizards would still be playing and he'd be adding to that total.

In playoff winning percentage, Randy is first in team history with a 57.1 winning percentage. First!!! Granted there have been only two Wizards / Bullets head coaches who have an above .500 winning rate (the other being Dick Motta) but still…Randy deserves some credit here I think. If he wins three more playoff games next year, he'll be in second place on the all time team playoff wins list; If he gets the Wizards an NBA title, he'll be first. By one game.

If you read this blog regularly or know me personally, you'll know I'm a big Randy Wittman fan. He stresses the less glamorous parts of the game (fundamentals and defense) that are generally more difficult to be good at and he holds people accountable for performance. Those two things have been instrumental in turning the culture of the Wizards team over the last three plus seasons. So in honor of Randy being the winningest coach in Wizards / Bullets playoff history, I thought I'd see if I could buy all of Randy's basketball cards from his days as a player. I think I did that (and more) all for the low low price of $34.07. Here's what my money got me.

1983-1988: The Atlanta Hawks Years

Randy was drafted in the first round of the 1983 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets as the 22nd overall pick. He never played in Washington as the Bullets traded his rights to the Atlanta Hawks for Tom McMillen, who apparently asked then Hawks owner Ted Turner for a trade to Washington so he could start working on his post-NBA career as a politician. Turner obliged and Randy ended up in Atlanta.

Randy ended up spending five seasons down south and got a basketball card of himself each of those five years. Basketball cards back in the 1980s weren't like basketball cards today. There was generally only one series of cards manufactured and not everyone got a card. There were no alternate series of cards, autographed cards or pieces of jersey or sneaker embedded in the cards. There were just plain old thin cardboard cards with an image on the front and some statistics on the back. These days there are what I refer to as liner notes about each player on the backs of the many many cards that players get today. A couple of years ago, I found some fairly amusing words on the backs of some of my Wizards cards which I wrote about in this blog.

I invested anywhere from $1.25 to $3.00 for each of my Randy Wittman cards but I sprung for a whole $5.00 plus $2.99 shipping for his rookie card, which came in a special plastic case with a grading number of 10 which I assume is the best grade a card can receive since it's noted as "Mint or Better." I'm not sure how anything can be better than mint but whatever. The image on the card is awesome, showing a wide eyed rookie in the horrendous mid-1980s Atlanta warmups. Is this the best picture they could find? The card is shown above, still in it's special plastic case because I haven't figured out how to remove it yet.

Randy's 1984-1985 through 1986-1987 cards are shown above in order from left to right. His second year card again shows him in his warmups, this time with the short sleeved shooting shirt removed and displaying his Hawks uni with the diagonal team name and numbers. I don't know what someone was thinking when they designed those things. I like the Hawks logo on the cards produced by Star; when Fleer got the contract they decided to remove the logo and not even mention the city where the Hawks are located. I'm not such a big fan of the Fleer cards.

Randy's third and fourth year cards use the exact same picture of him dribbling the ball up the court in front of a typically empty Hawks arena. Maybe there were a lot fewer pictures taken at basketball games in the 1980s so the same image got used two years in a row, with a little color contrast adjustment to confuse people a bit. I'm guessing the card companies figured nobody would ever assemble a collection of Randy Wittman cards so they could probably get away with the exact same pic. Little did they know…

Randy's final Hawks card is awesome. I love the maniacal look on Randy's face as he's (and I'm presuming here) launching one of the midrange jumpers he was famous for during his career in front of a watching Magic Johnson. I'm guessing the shot went down. Randy shot over 50% from the field during his career, which is pretty impressive at the guard position.

1988-1989: The Sacramento Kings (Half) Year

After the 1987-1988 NBA season, one in which the Atlanta Hawks would lose in game seven of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against a Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics team, Randy was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Reggie Theus. Just like his five years in Atlanta, Randy managed to get a basketball card for his time in Sacramento.

Randy's not wearing a Kings uniform on his 1988-1989 card, presumably because the cards were printed in the summer before the season started and he hadn't yet donned a Kings uni. So of course the folks at Fleer used the exact same image that they used in 1986 and Star used in 1985. Is the only stock image of Randy Wittman playing basketball that anyone felt comfortable using in the mid-1980s?

For its image alone, the card is a classic. But I love the "Traded to Sacramento" pennant placed over the Hawks name, as if someone had placed an actual sticker or something on an old Atlanta card. The back of the card displays Randy's stats as a pro, just like the Atlanta cards did. Card manufacturers still hadn't started adding liner notes to the backs of cards yet. That would change soon.

1989-1992: The Indiana Pacers Years

Randy's stay in Sacramento was brief. He wouldn't last the 1988-1989 NBA season, being traded to his hometown Indiana Pacers on February 20, 1989 in exchange for Wayman Tisdale and a draft pick. Indiana is where Randy would spend the rest of his playing career.

By the time Randy got home to Indy, he was effectively done as a starting player in the NBA. With the exception of his rookie year in Atlanta, he never averaged fewer than 9.9 points per contest while playing there. In Indiana, he only averaged as many as 5.2 points per game in 1988-1989, his first year back in town. In the 1985-1986 NBA season with Atlanta, Randy managed 12.9 points per game in 81 games. The next two years (also in Atlanta), he'd average 12.7 and 10.0 in 71 and 82 games respectively. His last three years in Indy saw scoring averages of 2.1, 1.8 and 0.7 points per game. Done...

Despite his lack of production, the folks who made basketball cards back then saw to it that Randy got one each year he was playing for the Pacers, and doubled the fun by making two in 1990-1991. By this time, basketball cards were starting to become collectible as the trading card market exploded. I'm not sure it was worth it making two Wittman cards in a single year, but it wouldn't be the last time that happened either. Randy's cards from the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons are shown above. 1989-1990 was the first time we saw the issuance of cards under the NBA Hoops brand, a line carried on to this day by Panini America. I don't know how successful the arched design of the two cards on the left are but I'm positive it's better than the Skybox swoosh and diagonal lines design on the right. In this card, Randy looks like he's an unwitting contest in some sort of basketball Tron, although 8 years after that movie was originally released.

During the 1991-1992 season, the Hoops design loses the arched feature (shown above on the left), which definitely enhances the brand, although the appearance is still sort of bargain basement, a look which sort of continues to this day. That year would be Randy's last in the NBA, although that didn't stop Topps from producing two Wittman cards during the following season after the Pacers waived him: the gold embossed Stadium Club series on the right above featuring Randy shooting in warmups or practice and the shot of him on the bench shown below. Two cards and he didn't play a single game?? That's not bad.

During Randy's first year in Indy, we finally see notes about the players' histories on the backs of cards. They wouldn't be there every year but they'd eventually stick. The notes on the backs of these cards often stretch the truth; I'm convinced writers employed by the card companies are paid to embellish the facts as much as possible. I'm not sure why. It's not like people are buying the cards for the information on the backs.

The words on the back of the Stadium Club card are both prescient and sort of pathetic. First... "Coach on the floor type who hasn't been a regular starter sine 1987-88." Well that's projecting Randy's future vocation pretty well, although as I've noted many times before there are many who feel Randy is not damn good at coaching (I'm not one of them, just to reiterate). And then..."Once played 54 minutes in a playoff game without fouling." Is that all they can say that's positive? Really? OK, whatever. How many people play that many minutes in a playoff game, let alone without fouling.

So how cool is all that? I mean who has a better Randy Wittman basketball card collection than me? I'm guessing the answer is nobody.

But wait! I didn't even talk about the best part. By sheer luck while I was looking on ebay for everything that makes up my Randy Wittman card collection, I stumbled upon some dude selling a few Pizza Hut promotional cards from the 1986-1987 season, including one of Randy. There have to be far fewer of these cards than any of the others in my small collection so this really becomes the crown jewel of my Wittman card stash. It's shown in all its glory at the top of this post. The photo looks like a headshot straight out of the Hawks' media guide and I love the fact that the phone number has no area code. Like why would you even need more than one area code in a city in the 1980s.

With the Pizza Hut card, I know my collection is the best Wittman stash on the planet. Bring on the comments!! I swear I'll lay off the Randy Wittman appreciation posts for at least a few months now. Summer league starts in less than five weeks!

June 3, 2015

Now What?

So the Washington Wizards 2014-2015 campaign is done. Has been now for about three weeks. I'm now reduced to rooting as hard as possible for any scenario that will have the Cleveland Cavaliers end their season without an NBA championship. It's sad, I know. The Golden State Warriors can't possibly lose to LeBron James, a hobbled Kyrie Irving and a bench full of also rans and LeBron hangers on, can they? I'm hoping not. Go Dubs!

The Wizards season this year, one could argue, is the most successful they have had it three and a half decades. Actually there's not much doubt about that just viewing that statement factually. The Wizards won more regular season games than they have since 1979, made the second round of the playoffs for only the third time since that same year and managed a better playoff record at 6-4 than at any time since 1979. Yet other folks seem to be lamenting that this season was unsuccessful because the team didn't achieve everything they could have. Well, maybe so. Or maybe not.

For the last two years, I've published a post listing what I think the Wizards should do in the offseason. I'm not going to do that this year, although I've been surprisingly prescient with my posts in 2013 and 2014. I'm not sure if that means the Wizards are listening; or what I'm proposing is common sense; or that I just read a lot of what other people write about the Wizards; or I've just gotten lucky. Regardless, I'm not going to do that this year. Instead I'm going to ask a series of questions. A six pack if you will. That's it. Nothing more.

One could argue that this offseason is different than it has been in years and years for the Wizards. For the first time since 2008, the Wizards face the prospect of having a first round draft pick that is outside the top five. Astonishing as it sounds, it's true. In the last six years we've had four first round draft picks at 1, 5, 3 and 3. The other two years we had none. You know who our three first round picks were the summer before we picked John Wall? JaVale McGee (18), Nick Young (16) and Oleksiy Pecherov (18). Suffice it say we are not that good at drafting in the late teens. This year we pick 19th.

And for the first time in years, it actually seems like with the right moves in June, July and August, the Wizards could be bound for the NBA Finals. Seriously, who besides the Cavaliers is going to stand in our way? How long is the Hawks success sustainable? Those two questions don't count as two of this post's questions. Let's get to those other six right now.

Question 1: Is it time for Ernie and Randy to go?
I know what most people are hoping that I'll say here. I can almost hear the dozen or so people reading this chanting "Yes!" I'm going to disappoint you. I'm not saying yes. Not yet.

I think if you have read every word I've ever written about the Wizards in this blog (I know, who on Earth has done that?), I've been very kind to both Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman. I remember what life as a Wizards fan was like before either of those two got here. In the front office it was terrible personnel decision after terrible contract after terrible trade with a sprinkling of luck thrown in now and then. In the coaching ranks, it was a revolving door of guys who were largely ineffective at winning (Eddie Jordan's the exception here), building a professional locker room culture (Eddie's not an exception here) or getting the guys on the wood to play defense (or here). So rather bemoaning what we've got, I'd rather stand pat. For now. Sort of.

So I get that Ernie Grunfeld's draft record is spotty at best. Not just with the Wizards but going all the way back to his time with the New York Knicks in the 1990s and with the Milwaukee Bucks in the early '00s. But he's pulled off some pretty good trades (Caron Butler for Kwame Brown, anyone? Antawn Jamison for Devin Harris?) and signed some pretty good guys that have panned out really well from Gilbert Arenas (the first time, not the second time) to Paul Pierce (if only we had the team option…). Maybe we need to relieve Ernie of his duties come Draft night and get someone else to make the pick.

I also get that Randy Wittman is not the most glamorous of coaches, that his teams in Washington the last two years have maybe underperformed in the regular season and that there are some fairly vocal critics with national platforms (Bill Simmons) calling Randy a "terrible coach" among other things.

But here's the thing. Tom Thibodeau had tremendous success in the regular season with the Chicago Bulls in the last five seasons but he maybe wore his players out on meaningless games in late October through mid-April. He's no longer employed as a head coach in the NBA. A lot of people seem to think Mark Jackson is an awesome coach and deserves a lot of credit for the Golden State Warriors being in this year's NBA Finals. But his players and coaches were in almost open rebellion against him. Randy's players have nothing but praise for him and John Wall credits Randy with making him play defense. Mark Jackson is also no longer employed as a head coach in the NBA. And if Bill Simmons is so great, has anyone ever offered him a spot as an NBA head man or even as an assistant? I'm guessing no.

Randy wins in the playoffs and his teams play defense. That's enough for now. Let's see what he can do with a stretch four, if Ernie can find one. Coach stays!

Question 2: Are Bradley Beal and Otto Porter really as good as they were in the postseason?
Regular season and postseason stats for the 2014-2105 NBA season for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are below.

Bradley Beal
  • Regular Season: 33.4 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 3.1 APG.
  • Playoffs: 41.8 MPG, 23.4 PPG, 4.6 APG.
Otto Porter
  • Regular Season: 19.4 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.9 APG.
  • Playoffs: 33.1 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.8 APG.
These two guys were number three overall picks in consecutive NBA drafts and they are both 21 years old. Bradley was able to be far more aggressive in the playoffs and looked like he deserved to be a player licking his chops for a max contract extension next summer. And Porter…wow! I mean this kid grew up in the postseason. I think he's ready to start next season, even if Paul Pierce finds it in his heart to exercise his player option and come back to D.C.

Beal and Porter now seem to be the key to the Wizards making the leap from a second round hoping for more playoff team to a Finals contender. Based on this postseason, there is every indication they are both ready. I'm hoping the answer to this question is yes.

Question 3: Will we ever see another legit halftime show at Verizon Center?
A little over a month into the 2013-2014 season, I wrote a blog post about the lack of halftime shows at Wizards games season to date. It was honestly a bit of a filler post, something to write about between gushing about the Martell Webster bobblehead I picked up earlier that month and the Nenê bobblehead I was looking forward to later the same month. I figured eventually we'd end up with a serious halftime show and that it was just sort of a scheduling issue that had forced us to watch kids playing basketball and local folks singing in the inaugural Monumental Talent Showcase that year. I wasn't really intending it to be an honest criticism of the Wizards organization. Besides, I don't really care that much.

But now a season and three quarters later, we still haven't had a professional halftime show. I saw one in Milwaukee in the one game I saw up there in the very cold winter of 2014 and I was only there for one game. But in the 79 regular season games and ten playoff games I've sat through in the last two NBA seasons at Verizon Center, I've seen none. Not a one. Zip. Zilch. No Beale Street Flippers, no Drums of Thunder, no University of Maryland Gymkhana, no Quick Change, no nothing.

Now if this is all a cost saving measure to keep season ticket prices low low low, I'm good with all that. But there's been no sort of statement to that effect or any other rationale offered. In the meantime, I'm starting to suffer from an inferiority complex. If other teams have halftime shows, why can't we? And keep in mind I don't really care. It just feels like we are being cheap and that bothers me. I'm hoping it's not a sign of other cost cutting measures to come.

Question 4: Can the Wizards draft someone who can shoot free throws?
The Wizards free throw shooting during the past couple of seasons has driven me CRAZY! They are FREE! For nothing. Nobody's going to block or challenge the shot. Get good at making these things and maybe just maybe we win some more close games.

The Wizards ranked 21st in the NBA this past season in free throw percentage at a paltry 74.2 percent. 21st is not a good spot to be in. Looking at the team numbers, it doesn't really seem like the Wizards free throw shooting was a deterrent to winning more games. I mean if they jumped into the top 10 in the league and shot 76.2 percent like the 10th place Sacramento Kings, they would only add 0.4 points per game to their point total (based on 21.4 attempts per game). Let's face it, the Wizards didn't lose any games by 0.4 points this year.

But here's my rub with the Wizards and free throw shooting. While their free throw percentage wasn't that much of a difference maker based on the season stats, the NBA doesn't award the Larry O'Brien Trophy on that basis. The Wizards had some good free throw shooting nights and some horrible free throw shooting nights. It's the number of horrible nights I'd like to see reduced. Just look at game five of the Atlanta series, where the Wizards shot just 68.8 percent from the charity stripe. Add a couple more makes and that game is ours in regulation or at worst we take it to overtime.

So who's going to be that dependable clutch free throw shooter for Washington's professional basketball team? Well, I don't know. Nobody shot better than Rasual Butler this year at the line and he shot 79.1 percent. That's lower than the combined average of everyone on the Memphis Grizzlies squad  who led the league in free throw percentage. We really don't have a stone cold ice in his veins knockdown end of game guy.

What does my question have to do with all this? Well, I guess it's a plea not to draft someone who can't shoot free throws. Look at the Wizards' last eight first round picks and how they fared before the NBA from the free throw line.
  • Otto Porter, Jr.: 75.1 percent. Good.
  • Bradley Beal: 76.9 percent. Really good.
  • Chris Singleton: 59.2 percent. Really, Chris?
  • Jan Vesely: 61.6 percent. Stunned this is higher than Singleton's.
  • Trevor Booker: 62.1 percent. Not good.
  • Kevin Seraphin: 60.0 percent. Small sample size but not good.
  • John Wall: 75.4 percent. Good.
  • JaVale McGee: 51.4 percent. Do I need to use this to prove that this pick was a stretch?
I know we shouldn't use any sort of litmus test when it comes to drafting players, but could we at least find someone who can shoot 70 percent from the line? Maybe that would help us next year.

Question 5: Can the Wizards please get rid of Wale?
I hope the answer is yes. What does this guy do to add value? And will he just bail if the Wizards ever get less than good again? Where was he during the lean times? Apparently rooting for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets while uttering the words "I gotta be honest, I'm not the biggest Wizards fan." Well guess what, dude? I AM one of the biggest Wizards fan and to see you installed as the Wizards' Creative Liaison doesn't thrill me that much.

OK, so maybe I'm just ranting here and I'm being really unfair to Wale. I get that most people don't find his opening-credits-to-a-Wizards-home-game music as discordant and awkward as me. And I'm probably really sore about someone who professed some love for the Cavs and Nuggets and none for the Wiz a couple of years ago now draped all over my favorite team as if he'd been there applauding night in and night out while JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche called Verizon Center home. At least he shows up and give the team some love now right?

Wrong. And this is what really gets me. I admit I missed two games during the regular season and maybe Wale made an appearance at both. But honestly, I only remember him showing up to two regular season games this year: opening night against Milwaukee (when he was performing live) and the April 3 game against the New York Knicks. Two games?!?!? (or four if he attended the two I missed) Are you kidding me? The Wizards' press release about Wale's appointment as Creative Liaison said he is a "die-hard Wizards fan." I don't think so.

Question 6: Are we really pinning all our hopes on luring Kevin Durant back home?
First of all, if we are and that's our strategy for winning an NBA title and securing a future perennial contender for long suffering Wizards fans, you could make me the General Manager and I could make that pitch. I might need some help with some of the finer points like filling out the roster with bargain contracts but I could handle the heavy lifting.

The two questions I have about this strategy (no these don't count as two additional questions) are can we afford him and do we need him? Barring any unexpected changes in the NBA Players' Union's strategy, the salary cap is set to explode during the 2016 offseason and the maximum salary superstar players can receive will skyrocket along with the cap. John Wall's current just less than $16 million salary during the 2016-2017 season is going to seem like a bargain and Marcin Gortat's $12 pricetag is going be dirt cheap. But the new way higher limits on contracts are going to fill in the gap. Bradley Beal AND Kevin Durant? You know KD already expects the max. He already said so! Get ready to open your checkbook, Ted Leonsis, and Ernie Grunfeld better be trolling the D-League for bargains. I don't see it.

Assuming both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter next year play anything like they did in the postseason this year (see question 2 above), do we even need Durant? I know this is tempting fate here but think about it. How good is a starting lineup of 27 year old John Wall, 24 year olds Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, 33 year old Marcin Gortat (with very low mileage) and anyone else to kick off the 2017-2018 season? Split Durant's salary between a serviceable starting four and a couple of production bench players and who's going to challenge that team?

That's it. I've just told every Washington hoops fan dying for KD in a Wizards uniform that we don't need him. What else can I offer? Probably should shut up now.