It's easy to compare the Wizards to the Golden State Warriors player for player to ponder what might have been in recent seasons had Washington drafted differently.
But the measurement of the difference between what the Warriors have become and what the Wizards still hope to be is best seen in the gap in collective confidence between the two teams.
In their 101-97 loss to Golden State, the Wizards had the chance to grind out their third victory of a dismal season. Instead, while the visitors held fast when it mattered, they faltered in little ways again and again and dropped to 2-15, the same record they had when former coach Flip Saunders was fired last season.
"It's tough. No fun," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "None of us want to be here."
While the Warriors (13-7) made their last 12 free throw attempts, the Wizards missed one of every two attempts in each of their final seven trips to line. The last one, of course, was intentional. Down 99-96 with 4.2 seconds left, Bradley Beal (17 points, six assists, six rebounds) made the first and hit the rim with the second intentionally.
He also got the rebound, even if he crept into the lane early, but he missed the game-tying putback, which was somewhat altered by Festus Ezeli and never made it into the cylinder.
"I should've made the layup regardless," Beal said. It was right there, honestly, whether it got blocked or I got fouled, it was a clean layup. I clearly should've made it, but it hit the corner of the rim."
It made the reminders of drafts past even more impossible to ignore. Draymond Green (six points, eight rebounds), who was chosen three spots after the Wizards chose Tomas Satoransky with the 32nd pick in the last June's draft, snared his own miss - part of Golden State's 57-37 advantage on the boards - and handed off the ball to Klay Thompson (23 points, five assists, six rebounds) for a corner 3-pointer to make it 91-85 with 2:49 left.
"There's no reason in the world he should've been sitting on the board at 35," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of Green before the game. Satoransky, meanwhile, remains in Europe.
Thompson was chosen by the Warriors in the 2011 draft five places after the Wizards picked Jan Vesely, who didn't play any minutes against Golden State, registering his third straight DNP-CD (Did Not Play, Coach's Decision).
Stephen Curry, who all but expected to be drafted by Washington in 2009, also had 22 points and five assists - his career-best seventh straight game with 20 points or more. The Wizards traded the fifth pick that season in order to land Mike Miller and Randy Foye, players who've long since departed.
Even Warriors backup guard Charles Jenkins, who was taken in the second round of '11 draft at No. 44 overall, 10 places after Shelvin Mack - who the Wizards cut in October - chipped in with back-to-back buckets as the Warriors pushed their lead to double digits in the second period.
None of those past decisions affected Jordan Crawford, who led the Wizards with 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. He played heavy minutes at point guard after Washington lost A.J. Price to a broken right hand in the first period, defiantly hitting back-to-back threes to trim Golden State's lead to one possession in the final two minutes.
"We doing everything that's keeping us from winning games," Crawford said. "Simple mistakes are keeping us from winning. It's not the team that's going, it don't matter who is down, it's always somebody who can step in that position and play for him."
Price said he's expected to miss 4-6 weeks, further depleting a roster that remains without starting point guard John Wall indefinitely and has already cut ties with two others who had started preseason with the team, Mack and Jannero Pargo.
If there was any consolation for the Wizards, Beal compared favorably with fellow rookie Harrison Barnes despite the late missed layup. Barnes, a wing scorer who was perceived as a fit in Washington coming out of North Carolina, was taken seventh by Golden State, four spots after Beal. Against the Wizards, Barnes' had six rebounds and four assists, but his three-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter was his only made shot of the night, and he later missed a pair of free throws that sparked a fourth quarter comeback for Washington.
But the Warriors, who were 23-43 last season - three wins better than the 20-46 Wizards - survived thanks to David Lee (24 points, 17 rebounds) and a host of foundational pieces already in place that could've been in Washington.
"We just couldn't get that push to get over the top," Wittman said. "I though Thompson's three with the clock running down in front of our bench - I didn't think he hand it in his hands. He was kind of throwing it up there beat the shot clock and it goes it. It's kind of our luck now."