NBA Season Preview: Washington Wizards

Last Season: 44-38, 2nd in division, lost round 2 to the Pacersl Leading scorer—John Wall (19.3), Leading rebounds—Macrin Gortat (9.5), Leading Assists—John Wall (8.8)

Changes: Added—DeJuan Blair (sign and trade), Paul Pierce (signed), Resigned—Drew Gooden, Marcin Gortat, Lost— Al Harrington (free agent), Chris Singleton (free agent), Garrett Temple (free agent), Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Ariza (free agent), Trevor Booker (free agent)

Positions

Point Guard: John Wall, Andre Miller, Garrett Temple

In case there is any question here—John Wall is really, really good. Last year he was 6 points shy of MVP Derrick Rose, and only about 1 assist behind last year’s Chris Paul. He was equal to if not better than Kyrie Irving. All respect to Russell Westbrook, but the only point guard in the league more than marginally more productive than Wall last year offensively was Stephen Curry. Wall’s had a rough go through his first few years, between injuries and bad coaches, and a general lack of anything else going on the Wizards roster, but Wall is a very good point guard.

Andre Miller is one of the canniest veterans this league has seen and he keeps making an impact despite playing on reduced athleticism and basically not leaving his feet for six or seven years. Wall doesn’t need to sit for too many minutes when healthy, and Miller will be capable at running the team for those he does.

Temple hasn’t been very productive or earned many minutes yet in his career, but the Wizards will want to give him enough minutes to stay engaged in case of injury to one of their top two. He’s serving as a kind of insurance policy, but he only managed 5 points in 20 minutes the year before this one when pressed into service, so don’t expect him to serve as more than that.

Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal, Martell Webster

Beal increased his scoring by four points in his second season and shot over 40% from 3. He is a good complement for Wall and the duo are one of the best young back court combinations in the league. Expect him to continue to develop his game. He may not be the primary or secondary option, but his shooting stroke is good and he should cement his reputation as a really good two in the league this year.

Webster is a solid backup, and should fill in nicely when Beal needs a rest. I don’t expect heavy minutes for him but he should be in the 10-15 range and score 5-7 per game in that time.

Small Forward: Paul Pierce, Otto Porter Jr., Chris Singleton, Glen Rice Jr.

Paul Pierce isn’t the guy he was in 2008 where he outplayed Lebron’s Cavs and the Lakers to earn Finals MVP honors, but he is still a really useful player. He got pressed into doing more than expected as everything around him collapsed in Brooklyn last year, but here he steps in as the only 36 year old in the line-up (not counting Miller) rather than just another over the hill star amongst a collection of them. Nene is 32, Gortat 30, and Wall/Beal haven’t even hit 25 yet, so the one aging starter who won’t be asked to be even a third option will be a role that Pierce can excel at. I expect he will stand out in a few key moments per game, average 12 or so a game, mostly on catch and shoots, and be available to turn things on in the playoffs.

Otto Porter is too young and too untested to be called a bust yet, but he didn’t do a lot last year despite being picked high. If nothing else he is young and athletic, and Pierce may need more time off the court than Ariza did last year. Porter showed promise in Summer League, so it could be that he will be getting up to NBA speed in his second season, but that’s the kind of hope you’d rather be clinging to for second round picks, not lottery picks.

Singleton and Glen Rice Jr. are both lower upside players than Porter.  I think Rice has the edge towards earning more minutes here because he’s less proven in how little he will be providing n the court. How much either plays depend as much on Porter as what they show in the time they do earn.

Power Forward: Nene Hilario, DeJuan Blair, Al Harrington, Drew Gooden

Nene is a beast of a player at power forward and playing alongside another quality front court player in Gortat. Nene is prone to suspensions, like the one he got for leaving the bench in the pre-season, and technical, but the way that the combo of Nene and Gortat destroyed the Bulls defense in the post season last year makes this front line one of the most potent in the league.

For backups, the Wizards have quietly assembled a collection of useful bigs—Blair has been efficient and competent in a backup role behind Duncan and Dirk in his career to date. Harrington is nowhere near his peak, but both he and Gooden are still useful as reserves.

Center: Marcin Gortat, Kris Humphries, Kevin Seraphin, Melvin Ely

Gortat has been a monster defender since the days when he was backing up Dwight Howard in Orlando. The fact that, it took seven years for him to really find a spot where he fits is a shame, but he and Nene have a lot of chemistry. The Polish Hammer is also probably the top NBA follow on social media. I date you to find a more entertaining player who rivals his production on the court.

Humphries is a better player than his reputation, and the further away from his involvement with the Kardashian family he gets the more he will be judged by his efficient, quality play in the post and good rebounding. His last year as a starter he averaged a double-double, and he is actually significantly better than the typical backup center stiffs around the league.

Seraphin and Ely are both exactly that, if not a little less. I don’t know that I expect either to stick on the roster, as all three of Blair/Harrington/Gooden are more useful overall and Gortat and Humphries will use all the center minutes realistically, except when in foul trouble.

Outlook: The Wizards are really good. I have them locked into a number 3 seed, slightly behind Cleveland due to no Lebron and Chicago due to a really sever coaching disadvantage. The Wizards are really good, they have one of the best rosters in the East if not the league 1-5, with quality backups at just about every position as well. Wizards fans have a lot to be happy about, and envisioning a scenario where they get lucky in a few games and make the Finals is not hard to imagine.

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