A Preview of the Washington Wizards


The Washington Wizards made a lot of moves this offseason, making them one of the deepest teams in the NBA. However, despite the depth, a lot of their players are young, and there’s no telling how much this team will succeed or fail this year. Today, we’re breaking down the Wizards roster, what I think will work and what won’t, and where they will finish the regular season and playoffs. Let’s get started.

Note: If you do enjoy these types of preview blogs, then let me know in the comments what team you want me to preview. With luck, it should appear a few days after your request.

Credit to NBA.com for Picture

The biggest move the Wizards made this offseason was trading Russell Westbrook and two second-round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the number 22 pick in the NBA Draft, which they would later trade for Aaron Holiday. This move gave the Wizards lots of depth that they needed at multiple positions. They were also able to pull off a trade for Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, only losing a few second-round picks and Chandler Hutchinson. Dinwiddie has shown great promise as a young point guard, and before the season was postponed in 2020, he averaged 20.6 points, 6.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds. Dinwiddie also said that he believes he can recruit players to Washington down the line, something that should give every Wizards’ fan hope.

It was only two years ago when almost everyone was saying the Wizards weren’t going to do anything meaningful in the next half decade because they had signed John Wall to a super max contract that paid him over $40 million per year… only to trip in his house, fall, and tear his achilles. Now, the once deemed “untradeable” player was flipped for Russell Westbrook, who in essence became the Wizards’ five new additions: Dinwiddie, Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, Harrell, Holiday, and Isaiah Todd, a second-round pick. It’s these five players that will have some argue the Wizards had the best offseason of any NBA team.

With these new additions, let’s look at Washington’s depth chart:

Credit to Photo by Rich Kessler of Getty Images for Picture

Note: This is not the official depth chart of the Wizards, but where I think every player should go

Point Guards:

#1: Spencer Dinwiddie

Dinwiddie will unquestionably be the Wizards’ starting point guard, and even though he isn’t known for being a great shooter, Westbrook wasn’t either, and the Wizards made it work. He has amazing potential, and could become an All-Star soon.

#2: Aaron Holiday

Aaron is the brother of Jrue Holiday, NBA champion. Holiday hasn’t gotten lots of minutes in the NBA yet, but when he does get to play, he plays well. Holiday averaged 36% from three last season and averaged 7.2 points per game in 18 minutes per game. All in all, he has lots of potential, and hopefully, Washington will end up being a good place for him.

#3: Raul Neto

Neto played for the Wizards last year and was a solid contributor. Previously playing for the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers, Neto averaged the best numbers of his career while playing around 20 minutes per game, putting up 8.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and an impressive 1.1 steals per game. While Dinwiddie will lead the charge, I’m not super worried about how the team will fare when he needs a rest. I think they could be better, but all in all, not a bad third-string point guard.

Shooting Guards:

#1: Bradley Beal

Beal is easily the best player on the Wizards, and after carrying the team for so many years, it’s nice that he finally gets some help. Beal just barely lost the scoring title to Stephen Curry last year by a few tenths of a point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Beal comes back to win it again this year. If he’s not an All-Star this year, I will have a conniption.

#2: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

I’m really excited about Caldwell-Pope playing for the Wizards, because if there’s one thing the Lakers have taught the NBA, it’s that they’re great at selecting young talent, but horrible at developing it. After D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram left the Lakers, they became All-Stars. Lonzo Ball became a borderline All-Star, Julius Randle also became an All-Star, and Jordan Clarkson became a 6th Man of the Year. From 2015-2019, Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.1 points per game, and I have a feeling that, like Clarkson, Caldwell-Pope can turn into a 6th Man of the Year candidate.

#3: Garrison Matthews

Matthews can knock down threes at a Dāvis Bertāns-like rate without making $16 million a year. He’s a very scrappy player, which makes it easy for Wizards fans to love him. He’s fearless, which is a quality I admire, and I also think he has a chance to be something special down the line.

#4: Caleb Homesley

Rookie, played college basketball at Liberty University. I don’t think he’s going to get much of a chance to shine this year behind these quality shooting guards.

Small Forwards:

#1: Kyle Kuzma

Thanks to Tommy Sheppard’s genius this summer, the small forward position has now been revamped for the Wizards. The starting small forward will most likely be Kuzma, who I am very pumped to see play. Out of all the young players I previously mentioned that played for the Lakers, Kuzma put up some of the best averages there out of anyone. LA clearly wasn’t the right place for Kuzma, and he has said publicly that he believes he is capable of averaging 25 points per game in a different system and becoming an All-Star. Personally, I believe him, and while it may be a stretch to say that he’ll be an All-Star this year, anything is possible.

#2: Corey Kispert

Kispert can technically play shooting guard as well, but I think he’ll spend more time at the three. Kispert was one of the best three-point shooters in the NCAA last season, and helped lead Gonzaga to the NCAA Championship along with Jalen Suggs. Kispert also played a season with Rui Hachimura at Gonzaga. The Wizards desperately need three-point shooting and Kispert is exactly that, so I think he’ll get his fair share of minutes.

#3: Deni Avdija

Avdija did not have a stellar rookie year, averaging six points per game, and most of his shots came after an assist. He didn’t shoot much, and it was clear to most people that Avdija belonged as a reserve, not a starter. He is more comfortable in a reserve role, so hopefully he will find his groove coming off the bench.

“I think Deni, it gives him a little bit more confidence, I believe, if he comes off the bench. In that second unit, he could be a secondary playmaker. He can do a lot more things that he wasn’t able to do in that starting lineup last year. No roles are nailed down. Certainly, if he earns more minutes, he earns more minutes.”

Tommy Sheppard, Washington’s GM, in an article with NBC Sports Washington

Power Forwards:

#1: Rui Hachimura

Hachimura has been great for the Wizards, and his on-court growth and confidence is easily seen. His mid-range jumper is deadly, and in this article I explained why Hachimura is so talented at scoring. His three-point shot needs work, but he’s already shown improvement, going from 28% his rookie year to 32% his sophomore year. If down the line the Wizards needed him to, I honestly think Hachimura could average 20+ points per game when he hits his prime. I can’t say enough good things about him, and I can’t wait to see what he will do this year.

#2: Montrezl Harrell

Harrell can played center as well as power forward, and it’s not completely clear what position he will play. However, for now, I have him as a power forward. Harrell is one of the best young big men in the game, as he has played for the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers. Another young star coming out of Los Angeles, Harrell recently won the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year Award, and provides steady defense, solid picks, and another lob threat for the Wizards.

#3: Dāvis Bertāns

Bertāns has been in a little bit of a slump lately. At times, he can go off and make six threes in a row, looking like the best player on the floor. On other occasions, Bertāns can look completely lost and make everything he throws up look like bricks. Bertāns averaged 11.5 points per game last year, but the only thing he is on the floor to do is shoot threes. He is a defensive liability, which is a big red flag for the Wizards, and giving him a five year $80 million contract was a mistake. However, if Bertāns can be more consistent, then he can be a valuable asset off the bench.

#4: Isaiah Todd

Personally, I would love to have Todd play more minutes than Bertāns, but the Wizards overpaid for Bertāns, so they might as well get something out of it. Todd represents the new trend of NBA players playing for the G-League Ignite, the same team featuring Jalen Green and Jonathon Kuminga. Todd averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Ignite, but was overshadowed by his teammates whose names meant more to the public. This means two things: one, the Wizards got an absolutely underrated steal, or two, he won’t become a dominant star and be an average second-round pick. Todd is a low-risk scenario for the Wizards, and growing up in Baltimore, it’s amazing that he gets to play for his (kind of) hometown team. Todd is very athletic, and like Harrell, a lob threat.

#5: Anthony Gill

Don’t expect to see Gill play often, unless it’s a blowout. Other than Homesley, he’s the least proven player on the team. If the Wizards make a trade this offseason, he will probably be involved.

Centers:

#1: Daniel Gafford

Gafford has become a total steal for the Wizards, as the franchise was able to fleece the Bulls for him when he wasn’t doing much in Chicago. Gafford is a great presence defensively, and he can run, which is good since the Wizards are one of the fastest teams in the NBA. Gafford put up career-high numbers last year, and was a big part of the Wizards second half turnaround. Per 36 minutes, Gafford blocked 3.6 shots a game. He has Defensive Player of the Year potential.

#2: Thomas Bryant

Bryant should be number one on this list, but he is recovering from a torn ACL, the same injury Derrick Rose had in 2012. Bryant was going to have a breakout season before he got injured, as in 10 games, he averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds. Like Gafford, Bryant can run with a fast-paced team, is a great presence defensively, a lob threat, and can block shots. Bryant has also become a threat from deep, shooting 42.9% from three in those 10 games, meaning he has a very complete skill set. Ignore the shooting, and you have two centers whose play style is nearly identical. When one athletic center has to take a rest another can come in and pick it up where he left off… assuming Bryant comes back healthy.

Credit to Will Newton of Getty Images for Picture

The Wizards are on track for a great season in which they are not the 8th seed, but to get there, they have to make sure that all of these questions/potential problems go as they planned:

  1. How will the Wizards recover from injuries?

Both Dinwiddie and Bryant are coming off of season-ending ACL injuries, and we haven’t gotten a look at them on the court yet. Bryant was a key part of the Wizards’ core, and Dinwiddie was almost an All-Star before he got injured. If both of these players can come back at the level they were, the Wizards’ odds get a lot better.

2. Will the former Lakers live up to expectations?

As I mentioned earlier, previous young Laker stars have proven that once they leave the bright lights of LA and can just play basketball, great things happen. Washington is not the capital of the basketball world, and if Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma live up to the hype, then the Wizards’ future plans will skyrocket much higher and much faster then they anticipated.

3. Whose going to score?

We know Beal is going to score almost, if not above, 30 points per game. However, Dinwiddie was averaging around 20 points per game before his injury, Hachimura averaged around 14 points but has shown he can score more, as I talk about here. Kuzma claims he can score 25 points per game, and from the looks of things, it’s clear he wants to. Gafford chips in around 10 points per game, and with the starting five numbers alone, that’s 99 points. Someone’s production is going to take a step down, and it won’t be Beal or Kuzma. The bench is going to play, and if we add in their numbers, then the Wizards are going to end up with the highest points per game average in NBA history. This won’t happen, so someone will need to take a step down for the team. The question is, who? My money’s on Dinwiddie, because he’ll won’t need to score 25 points per game for the Wizards to win, and he can take his time coming back from his injury.

The Wizards two biggest problems last year were defense and three-point shooting. However, with this offseason, they have corrected both of those problems.

Credit to Stephen Gosling of Getty Images for Picture

For three-point shooting, they added Kispert, arguably the best shooter in his class, Caldwell-Pope, a good shooter, Holiday, a good shooter, and Kuzma, who shot 36% from three last year. They still have Beal, normally a good shooter, Bertāns (if he breaks out of his slump), and Matthews. It’s safe to say that this year, the Wizards will be a lot better at shooting and making threes.

The other major factor that the Wizards fixed was defense. The Wizards were one of the worst teams defensively last year, leading Beal to say they couldn’t guard a parked car. However, they have acquired Harrell, a great 6’7″ defender, Todd, a great 6’10” defender, Kuzma, whose solid on defense, and Dinwiddie, whose very tall for a point guard at 6’5″.

Predictions:

I think the Wizards will get close to, or even break the 50 win mark, something the franchise has never done (not even when they won the championship in 1978!). This roster will be great once they learn how to play with one another, so I think they are capable of winning 45-55 games if healthy. I can’t honestly say that they will be better then the Bucks, Nets, Hawks, and Heat (I’m not sure about the 76ers because of the Ben Simmons drama), but I think they do have a chance to capture the 5th seed at their absolute best, and the 7th at their worst (assuming things still go as planned and no one gets injured). It’ll be interesting to see if the Heat or Wizards finish higher, because while Miami is great defensively, Bam Adebayo can’t shoot threes, PJ Tucker can’t shoot threes at a high volume, Jimmy Butler isn’t known for his three-point shooting, Victor Oladipo isn’t known for his shooting, and Kyle Lowry is decent. This season is going to be entertaining, and I think the Wizards will make it to the 2nd round and, like in 2017, just barely lose out on a chance to make the Eastern Conference Finals. Prove me wrong, Wizards.

Let me know what team I should do a preview for in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

3 thoughts on “A Preview of the Washington Wizards

  1. Love the preview. Never been a big Westbrook fan so trading him was good move for the wizards, I think Beal, Kuzma, and Kispert are great additions. The big question is; can they play together as a team and will the coach allow them to play up to their strengths. Barring injuries, the Wizards will make a big splash this time around. Good luck Wizards.

    Like

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