Season Preview: Washington Wizards

With the NBA season just a week away and the majority of player movement being done, I’m going to start previewing the teams. Based on my projected order of the standings, we’ll start at the bottom and work towards the top rotating between East and West. Past previews will be linked as well.

Atlanta Hawks | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Detroit Pistons | Los Angeles Clippers | Memphis Grizzlies | Miami Heat | Minnesota Timberwolves | New Orleans Pelicans | New York Knicks | Orlando Magic | Phoenix Suns | Portland Trailblazers | Sacramento Kings | San Antonio Spurs |

Overview:

Looking back at last season the story remains the same for the Wizards. John Wall gets hurt, the Wizards have a solid six man rotation but nothing behind that, and they get bounced out early in the playoffs. The Bradley Beal and John Wall back court is dynamic to watch, and Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, and Markieff Morris are solid versatile wings. Offseason acquisitions Dwight Howard and Austin Rivers both have big personalities, which should create fireworks when mixing with an already fiery team. They might not be that much better than last season but between the Beal and Wall dirty looks, Rivers thinking he's the alpha, and Dwight sure to cause problems they will be entertaining as hell. However if they Wizards want to take the next step, Scott Brooks is going to have to retool his bench (stop me if you've heard that one before) and they have to find a way to keep John Wall healthy. Give them credit for trying, but it's hard to expect anything different from the Wizards this season than what we've grown accustomed to seeing.

Photo courtesy of nba.com — by Sean Taira
Photo courtesy of nba.com — by Sean Taira

17-18 Stats:

Offensive Rating 108.1 (15th)

Defensive Rating 107.6 (15th)

Net Rating 0.5 (15th)

True Shooting Percentage 56.0 (12th)

Assist Percentage 63.1% (3rd)

Rebound Percentage 50.4% (12th)

Turnover Percentage 14.8% (20th)

Pace 97.72 (16th)

Record 43-39

Key Additions:

Troy Brown Jr. SF (draft), Jeff Green SF (free agency), Dwight Howard C (free agency), Austin Rivers SG (trade), Issuf Sanon PG (draft)

Key Departures:

Marcin Gortat C, Mike Scott PF

Bench Morris?

One possibly to solution to improve the Wizards bench production, might be switching Kelly Oubre and Markeiff Morris. Last season of the Wizards three most used lineups, by far the most productive one was John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, and Marcin Gortat, which posted a ridiculous +17.2 net rating in over 200 minutes. When Morris was in with the other four starters, that lineup still had a solid net rating of +7.7 but obviously not as good. Morris would be able to be the number one or one a option with Austin Rivers in the second unit, and Oubre can guard opposing point guards and give Beal and Wall a break on defense. Morris' personality probably has a lot to do with why the switch hasn't been made, but it might be better for the team.

John Wall Still a Superstar?

Last season John Wall played in only 41 games, missing a large chunk of the season with a knee injury. Starting next year, Wall's four year 170 million dollar extension kicks in and the Wizards need him to stay healthy and productive. Wall is coming off one of his worst statistical seasons, and needs to elevate his game to take the Wizards deep in the playoffs. In particular Wall really struggled from mid range, taking 5.1 shots per game and shooting only 28.1%. Bradley Beal plays better with Wall on the court as well, and hopefully bench guards Tomas Satoranski and Austin Rivers can give the two starters a breather and help improve their efficiency when they are on the court. Wall needs to improve his shot selection and return to being a dominant facilitator to make the Wizards offense function at a high level.

The Rivers and Howard Dynamic

Austin Rivers has turned into a decent NBA player, but he still thinks that he is always the best player on the court. Looking back into stories during his time with the Clippers, a lot of the problems stemmed from nepotism and Rivers alpha mentality. The Wizards backcourt already has issues with alpha dog syndrome and add in another guy who thinks he should get the ball at the end of games and it could be a disaster. Dwight Howard is now on his 6th NBA team and his fourth in the past four years. He can still be a decent role player, but he wants post touches and has an attitude problem of his own. Adding him to the mix should only make the situation more volatile. As I mentioned earlier the Wizards might not be that much improved on the court, but the drama with the team is going to be much watch tv.

Player to Watch: Kelly Oubre

Photo courtesy of dmvsportsnetwork.com — by Sean Taira
Photo courtesy of dmvsportsnetwork.com — by Sean Taira

Entering the last year of his deal, Kelly Oubre is still a player that is hard to figure out. Based on the eye test Oubre seems like a very good defender but the analytics don't back it up. The past two seasons Oubre has ranked 57th out of 68 and 46th out of 58 small forwards in defensive real plus minus, and the Wizards were +2.5 when Oubre was on the bench. Oubre did up his three point percentage to a career high 34.1% last season and hopefully can continue the upward trend. With big money tied up to Wall Beal and Porter the next few season, the Wizards are in a tough spot when it comes down to paying Oubre.

Starters:

PG: John Wall

SG: Bradley Beal

SF: Otto Porter

PF: Markeiff Morris

C: Dwight Howard

Reserves:

PG: Tomas Satoranski

SG: Austin Rivers

SF: Kelly Oubre

PF: Jason Smith

C: Ian Mahinmi

Westgate Projected Win Total: 44.5

Projected Record 42-40 (7th in Eastern Conference)

This article was originally published on sports