As excitement for the forthcoming NBA season brews, folks around the media world are making their projections for teams and predicting the final outcome. One particular website – Hoopshype.com – has the Wizards ranked 12th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference, which to be honest, just doesn’t seem very realistic. Teams like the 76ers (who had literally the worst season in NBA history last year) and the underwhelming Brooklyn Nets ranked higher than the Wizards. Jorge Sierra, who wrote the article for HoopsHype, explains his skepticism:
“Overall talent level is nothing to call home about … Outside of Wall and Beal, any other Top 100 NBA player in Washington? … They don’t really make up for lack of star power with depth … Beal’s durability is a real issue … He has missed 20 games on average his first four years as a pro … A team like Washington can ill-afford to play without its second best player so many games … While Mahinmi should help there, don’t expect Washington to be an elite defensive or rebounding squad … They were near the bottom of the league in both rebounding and opponent shooting percentage last year … Washington could miss a glue guy like Jared Dudley, who was the team’s best three-point shooter in 2015-16.”
Although being an injury-prone team the past three seasons (among a selection of other issues) has made it hard for the Wizards to make a case for themselves, it’s also hard to read Sierra’s take and totally agree.
No, the Wizards are not a premier defensive team; however, that does not make them poor defensively. The frontcourt of Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris has had little issue bullying other teams in the paint, while Wall is a quick-handed guard known to come up with a steal, or five. According to Mike Sykes of BulletsForever.com and stats from NBA.com the Wizards are in the top half of teams when it comes to their defensive ratings. They ranked 14th overall defensively in the 2015-16 campaign and finished the latter half of the season in the top 5 teams.
And no, the Wizards may not have a top 100 player outside Wall and Beal, but have brought in some new fire power this season to try and prove they don’t need a super-team to win games. Losing key role players like Garrett Temple, Nene, and Jared Dudley would seem hard to recover from but that likely won’t be the case. The Wizards added former Michigan standout Trey Burke to their backcourt. Burke has averaged 4.2 assists per game for his career coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz, and brings a “pass-first mentality” similar to John Wall’s.
Ian Mahinmi, who was brought in from the Indiana Pacers is a perfect backup for Gortat. Mahinmi nearly averaged a double-double last season with 9.3 points and 7 rebounds per game. He is a mirror of Gortat, who averaged 13.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Now to the big question: Bradley Beal. Will he be healthy? Can he and John Wall coexist on the court? The simple fact of the matter is that Bradley Beal is still just an above average jump shooter, while John Wall is one of the best point guards in the league. Unlike most of the big name point guards, Wall actually likes to pass! While averaging 20 points a game, he also averaged 10 assists. This being just one assist less than Rajon Rondo, who has no other option but to pass because, well, he can’t really shoot at all. If Bradley Beal allows Wall to run the team and accepts his role as his “sidekick”, the Wizards will undoubtedly be a 5 or 6 seed by season’s end.