As of this writing, the Washington Wizards are the second-biggest show in town in the nation’s capital. With the presidential election cycle in full swing, not much is being talked about the Wizards. That’s a shame, because the Wizards have quietly built one of the most solid teams in the Eastern Conference recently. Great backcourt play combined with an improving frontcourt could lead to a solid year for the Wiz, and I’m going to break them down.
Roster Breakdown: Starting Lineup
PG: John Wall (7th season)
One of the most consistent point guards in the NBA, Wall has never averaged fewer than 16.3 points (2011-12) or 7.6 assists (2012-13) in his career. Last year was a career year for the Kentucky product, where he averaged career highs in points (19.9,) assists (10.2,) rebounds (4.9,) steals (1.9,) and 3-point percentage (35.1%). On top of all of this, Wall is one of the fastest, most agile guards in the league. Expect another big year from Wall as he looks to lead the Wizards to a third straight playoff bid this season.
Potential Bucks Matchup: Matthew Dellavedova
SG: Bradley Beal (5th season)
Another Wizards guard coming off a year of career bests in multiple categories (points and field goal percentage), Beal could be called the ying to John Wall’s yang. Where Wall has nearly blinding speed and can sometimes play with abandon, Beal seems more in control of himself. While Wall is becoming an ever-improving shooter from beyond the arc, Beal is already there. A career 39.7% three point shooter, Beal’s worst long range season beats Wall’s best by nearly three percent. Together, he and Wall create one of the best backcourts in the NBA, one which will keep coaches guessing in 2016-17.
Potential Bucks Matchup: Giannis Antetokoumnpo
SF: Otto Porter (4th season)
The third time was the charm for Otto Porter. Leading into last season, Porter was not nearly living up to his potential he had coming out of Georgetown as the third pick in 2013. Playing 111 games in his first two years with only 13 starts, the departure of Paul Pierce became Porter’s golden opportunity to show what he was made of. He did just that, setting career highs in every single major statistical category. This included averages of 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in 75 games (73 starts.) While those aren’t numbers that will jump off the stat sheet, they can sometimes be just enough to help balance out a team that is as loaded in the backcourt as Washington.
Potential Bucks Matchup: Jabari Parker
PF: Markieff Morris (7th season)
This could end up being a toss-up between Morris and new signing Andrew Nicholson (formerly of the Magic) by the time October 27th rolls around. However, the reasons I am going with Morris are: first, he started over Nicholson in the team’s first preseason game, and two, he generally outplayed Nicholson (11 points, 4 rebounds in 27 minutes for Morris compared to 8 points and 3 rebounds in 22 minutes for Nicholson.) Also, the Wizards may want to see some production from Nicholson off the bench before they trust him with the starting power forward spot.
Potential Bucks Matchup: Greg Monroe
C: Marcin Gortat (11th season)
Center is another position that could end up being hotly contested in Washington before too long. Gortat has started at least 74 games in each of his three seasons with the Wizards, meaning he will likely be the starting center for Scott Brooks against Atlanta in a few weeks. However, his minutes may be reduced thanks to the arrival of Ian Mahinmi (pronounced Yan) from the Pacers in free agency. While Mahinmi will likely not see much starting five time barring an injury to Gortat, the pair should make for one of the best one-two center combos in the league.
Potential Bucks Matchup: Miles Plumlee
Key Guard Reserve: Trey Burke (4th season)
Burke was traded to Washington from the Utah Jazz in July for a 2021 second-round pick. This prompted a number of internet jokes which read similar to, “Trey Burke was just traded for a 13-year-old.” Nevertheless, Burke arrives in Washington with relatively low expectations. In reality, with a career average of 12.1 points and 4.2 assists per game, Burke could be looked at as one of the most overlooked young guards in the game today. After spending his first three years in Utah where he didn’t see the playoffs a single time, a spot behind John Wall in Washington may do wonders for Burke and provide him an environment in which he can succeed.
Key Frontcourt Reserve: Kelly Oubre Jr. (2nd season)
In his first NBA season, Oubre did not get much of a shot to show off his talent, only averaging 10.7 minutes per game. However, in the team’s first preseason game, Oubre shined, leading the Wizards in points with 16 along with collecting four rebounds and three steals. Now, it may be preseason, but those numbers are a good indicator of what Oubre is capable of. If he can see the court for around 13-15 minutes per game, fans could see a sneaky-good sophomore year from the Kansas alum.
As mentioned before, the backbone of this team resides in the backcourt. Wall and Beal will give teams fits and help stretch the floor for players such as Porter and Markieff Morris, who is more than capable of hitting jumpers himself.
As a whole, this team does not seem to have too many glaring weaknesses. On that note, if I had to pick, I would go with shooting guard behind Bradley Beal. There is no real clear cut number two behind him for the Wizards, and that could lead to issues when they go to the bench.
Projected conference finish: 7th
Projected division finish: 4th
High wins: 45
Low wins: 40