Before the season actually comes around and spoils everyone’s fun, let’s take our time to embrace optimism and tell you why your team will win the title. We continue with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards ran into some bad injury luck last season, as John Wall missed much of the postseason with an injured wrist. An injury to the best player on any team is a lethal blow, and Wall does everything that makes Washington go.
And yet, the Wizards played admirably in a six-game series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. Bradley Beal had a magnificent playoffs once again and looks primed to break out heading into this season. Otto Porter thrived as a small-ball 4 and finally showed the promise Washington has been waiting to see.
It was a defeat, but it highlighted the path to contention for the Wizards. Paul Pierce did depart this offseason to join Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, but the Wizards can overcome Pierce’s departure with better health luck in the playoffs.
Jared Dudley may not be Pierce, but he can play in a smaller lineup and guard traditional big men. He also has quick hands and can be an effective passer without needing the ball a ton. His skillset will complement Wall and Beal perfectly once he returns from a back injury.
Wall may be the most underrated superstar in the game. He’s the best in the league at setting up teammates for good looks, and his blinding speed makes him a nightmare matchup. He’s also probably the best defender among the elite point guards.
Wall’s game can mesh perfectly with Beal, although it took the duo a little while to find the perfect balance. Beal is good with the ball in his hands as well, but was a little too ball dominant to start the season last year with Wall on the floor. As the year went on, however, Beal started realizing the best time to attack was when Wall had already gotten the defense on its heels.
Beal is an excellent shooter, having sniped over 40 percent of his threes in each of the last two seasons. He has a quick release and a balanced shot, and he can force the defense to make a quick decision when he’s letting it fly. Closing out on Beal hard is difficult, since he also possesses ball skills and can get it to the rim.
Too often, however, Beal isn’t getting the ball in good three-point shooting opportunities. He wasn’t in the top 50 in the league last year in three-pointers attempted per game, despite playing with an elite assist man in Wall.
That needs to change, and likely will change. Randy Wittman isn’t the best coach, but it seemed like everyone on the Wizards realized exactly how the team needed to play down the stretch last year. The team can play small at times, and Wall can get good looks for his teammates on almost every play.
If Beal starts shooting more threes and has the breakout season everyone is waiting to see, the Wizards will have one of the best backcourts in the league. The Wall-Beal duo is already up there in terms of best backcourts, but another step by Beal would take it right near the top.
Couple that with a solid frontcourt and some more consistency from Porter, and the Wizards could certainly be one of the best teams in the East this season. And with an elite player like Wall leading the way, it’s not unrealistic to see the Wizards playing into June this upcoming season.