The Washington Wizards had high expectations heading into the 2015-2016 NBA season. Unfortunately, poor coaching and injuries plagued them in a season full of lost potential. This season boasts even more promise than the last, and this time, the Wizards appear set to run away with the Southeast. Here’s why:
Head coach Randy Wittman has been replaced by former NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks.
As head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooks molded the tandem of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant into two of the most dangerous players in the league. Now he will be tasked with doing the same for franchise point guard John Wall and up and coming star guard Bradley Beal.
The Wizards’ starting five appears to be the best of the bunch in the Southeast.
John Wall is one of the elite point guards in the league, and he just keeps getting better every year. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal will also be a huge factor in Washington’s success this season, as long as he can stay healthy. In four NBA seasons, Beal has never played an entire year and started just 35 games last season.
Washington’s backcourt tandem is arguably the best in the NBA, and they will both be able to feed the ball to big man Marcin Gortat in the paint. Gortat has always been an overlooked offensive threat, and he possesses a nice mid-range shooting touch. Gortat is definitely a rim protector, however isn’t as great a lateral defender. To stabilize their defense down low, Washington brought in center Ian Mahinmi from the Pacers. Mahinmi didn’t see a tremendous amount of minutes in Indiana, but he made his presence known with solid defensive fundamentals and great rebounding skills.
The biggest unknown for the Wizards will be small forward Otto Porter. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes invisible, Porter will need to prove he can provide consistent production on a nightly basis. If he can get in rhythm, Washington’s offensive will be unstoppable.
What about the rest of the Southeast division?
The Wizards are still likely no match for the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Golden State Warriors. That being said, they appear to be the most well rounded team in the Southeast.
Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are both no longer members of the Miami Heat. The Charlotte Hornets boast Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum, but aside from that lack the depth to compete on a nightly basis. The Orlando Magic boast a young, promising team but don’t look like much of a threat just yet. The only challenge for the Wizards will be the Atlanta Hawks.
Atlanta recently traded starting point guard Jeff Teague and lost center Al Horford to free agency. Dwight Howard will now man the paint with Paul Millsap while Dennis Schroder takes over at the point. It will take time for the Hawks to mesh, and this should leave the door wide open for the Wizards to win their first division title since 1979.
Thirty-seven seasons is a very long time to wait.