Preseason Preview #14: Washington Wizards

Season Goal: Don’t Implode

After an extremely disappointing season last year, the Wizards are hoping to return to form. Last season mainly consisted of John Wall being injured and drama for the Wizards. With reports coming out that nobody liked Wall on the team, especially Gortat, their chemistry seemed to be at an all-time low. Now they have traded Gortat but added Dwight Howard. He could be the player that destroys the locker room and ruins the team or the dominant center they badly need. With so many new additions this offseason, it will be interesting to see how they fit together. There’s enough talent for this team to compete for an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, but also enough uncertainty for them to be a first-round exit once again.

Storylines:

Can John Wall be a Championship Player?

Russell Westbrook is constantly criticized for his high turnover rate, inefficiency from three, and poor decision making. John Wall has all of these same problems but is rarely called out for it. People like to say Westbrook will never win a championship because of these flaws, so it raises the question of how far Wall can take the Wizards.

After receiving the super-max extension the Wizards are paying Wall like an MVP candidate, but he has never finished top 5 in MVP voting or led his team to even a conference finals appearance. He had his best season in 2016-2017 where he averaged 23.1 points, 10.7 assists, 2.0 steals and shot a 48.8% eFG%, all career highs. Unfortunately, injuries ruined the previous season for Wall. The one bright spot of the season was his three-point shooting, which improved to 37.1%. His improvement is critical to the Wizards’ success because of their lack of salary cap flexibility and young assets make it difficult for them to improve elsewhere.

In my opinion, Wall can only lead the Wizards to even a conference finals if he plays as he did in 2016-17 while shooting much more efficiently. Otherwise, he is simply too inefficient and ball-dominant to lead a team to playoff success. Luckily, the East without Lebron is highly unpredictable and 2019 might just be the year the Wizards make a breakthrough.

Will Dwight Destroy the Wizards?

Dwight Howard is an extremely talented big man who also has plenty of on and off the court problems as well. To start with the good, Dwight still averaged 16.6 and 12.5, which is way better than Gortat’s 8.4 and 7.6. His rebounding will be a huge help given the Wizards ranked 21st out of 30 in rebounds last season. Although his blocks per game aren’t amazing (1.6 BPG), his presence alone will improve the Wizards ranking in blocks (21st) and opponent points in the paint (20th).

Now time for the bad. First off, Washington will be his 4th team (5 if you count Brooklyn) in 4 years. Every time he has left a team, reports come out claiming his former teammates were much happier without him. This is definitely not what a team with poor chemistry already wants to hear. Also, he shot 8% worst from the field last season. He sometimes tries to post up too much and ends up taking ridiculous hook shots. His highly inefficient post-shooting will take away shots from guys like Bradley Beal and John Wall. But, if he accepts his role as a screener and rolls to the basket hard this team could be very good. Wall’s elite passing ability and Howard’s incredible catch radius and athleticism will make for an exciting pick and roll duo.

Depth Chart:

PG: John Wall, Austin Rivers

SG: Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky, Jodie Meeks

SF: Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, Troy Brown Jr.

PF: Marcus Morris, Jason Smith, Lavoy Allen

C: Dwight Howard, Ian Mahinmi, Thomas Bryant

Salary Cap Situation

~139M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Austin Rivers, Jodie Meeks, Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, Dwight Howard (PO)

Bad Contracts: Ian Mahinmi (2 yrs, 31M), Otto Porter Jr. (3 yrs, 81M)

*All salary data via sportrac*

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