The Capital City Go-Go, the Washington Wizards’ G League team, will begin their season on November 9th at 7:00 pm at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. The Go-Go, who went 25-25 last year in their inaugural season, open the year against the Grand Rapids Drive. There are 48 games in the G League season, which means 24 home games. Sixteen of which are scheduled on weekends in the same building where the Mystics just won their first WNBA Championship. Hopefully, the Mystics left a little magic in the arena.
As NBA fans know, a lot of a team’s success comes down to how much talent is on the roster. General Manager, and former George Washington University star, Pops Mensah-Bonsu has managed to assemble a seemingly capable yet somewhat unheralded group.
“There are a minimum of 10 players on rosters, not including a pair of two-way players allowed per NBA team. A team’s active roster may expand to up to 13 players if its parent club assigns players from the NBA roster,” per the NBA G League. These restrictions ultimately drove a lot of the decision-making regarding the final roster.
For easier consumption, it helps to break the roster into a few groups. Most notable, are the Two-Way players, who are allowed to spend a portion of the year with the Wizards. Garrison Mathews is a 6-foot-7 shooting guard out of Lipscomb who went undrafted in 2019. He averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per game in his senior season. With his size and shooting ability, Mathews will have plenty of opportunities to earn minutes and touches.
During the preseason, Mathews showed off the potent outside shooting that the Wizards organization finds so appealing. In roughly 18 minutes per game, Mathews averaged just shy of nine points on almost 42-percent 3-point shooting. Just based on what I’ve seen so far, a Korver-esque career seems realistic to me (Yes, I realize comparing him to another pure shooting white guy is a lazy comparison but I promise it’s fair!)
The other Two-Way player is Chris Chiozza, a 5-foot-11 point guard from the University of Florida, who averaged almost 14 points and 7 assists for the Go-Go last season. In 43 starts in 2018-2019, Chiozza made 42-percent of his 4.2 3-point attempts per game. He has already appeared in two games for the Wizards this season, averaging 3 points and 3.5 assists.
I would also like to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for President of the Chris Chiozza Fan Club. He just seems to have an edge to him, which I think is a good thing for the other young guys to see every day. The Go-Go will go as far as Chiozza takes them (try saying that 5 times fast).
The next noteworthy players are those who were in training camp for the Wizards but did not make the final cut. Phil Booth, a 6-foot-3 guard, averaged 18.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Villanova Wildcats in 2018-2019. A two-time NCAA champion at Villanova, Booth is another example of the organization trying to fill out its ranks with high-character guys who will help establish a winning culture.
The Wizards front office has also tried to build up the talent level by taking chances of players who did not work out in their initial NBA stops like Mo Wagner and Isaac Bonga. To a lesser degree, that is what they are attempting to do by adding Anzejs Pasecniks to the Go-Go. Pasecniks is a seven-footer who was drafted 25th overall by the Orlando Magic in 2017. The Magic traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers who did not bring the center over to the United States right away. Ultimately, he was released by the 76ers for cap relief before ever really showing what he could do.
Based on what I observed in Summer League, I had flashbacks to Oleksiy Pecherov, except better looking and without Pecherov’s (theoretical) jump-shot. But one Latvian is already playing well for the Wizards so, hopefully, the 23-year-old Pasecniks can follow in Davis Bertan‘s footsteps instead.
Jalen Jones also had a quick cup of coffee with the Wizards during the preseason and will now play for the Go-Go. Jones is a 26-year-old, 6-foot-7 wing who went undrafted out of Texas A&M but does have some limited NBA experience. In 32 career NBA games (16 with Cleveland last season) he has averaged around 5 points and 2 rebounds.
The next group that might be less familiar to Washington fans are the most recent selections from the G League draft: Jalen Hudson and Matt Kenyon. With the 7th overall pick, they selected uber-athlete Jalen Hudson. Hudson is a 6-foot-6 wing who generated legitimate draft buzz after his junior season at Florida but chose to return to school to continue to boost his stock. That ended up being a bad choice, like a “nothing good happens after 2 A.M.” type of bad. After averaging close to 16 points on 40.4-percent 3-point shooting as a junior, his averages plummeted to 9.3 points and 28-percent 3-point shooting as a senior. The Go-Go front office is really hoping that Hudson’s senior season is the outlier and he turns into this year’s Devin Robinson (also a monster athlete from Florida).
Later in the first round (19th overall), the Go-Go selected Matt Kenyon, a 6-foot-5 guard from Australia. All I knew about Kenyon prior to researching him for this article was that he looked like Australian Andrei Kirilenko. Right? Kind of? According to the Go-Go, he apparently played last season for the Dandenong Rangers (yes, that’s their real name) of the Australian National Basketball League and averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.
Unlike someone who played in the Big East last year where their stats are more easily quantifiable, it’s harder to get a sense of what kind of player Kenyon is based on his NBL production. It seems like a bit of an odd draft choice but maybe this is a real (very well) hidden gem from the scouting department!
There are also two returning players on the roster: Noah Allen and Kellen Dunham. Allen is a 6-foot-7 swingman who averaged 9.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 42 games for the Go-Go last season. Dunham, a 6-foot-4 guard, shot 46-percent from 3-point range on 3.4 attempts and averaged 7.7 points and 2.4 rebounds.
In the 2018 G League Expansion Draft, the Go-Go selected Mike Cobbins, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 8.4 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Oklahoma City Blue in 2017-2018. Cobbins played last season overseas, averaging 11 points and 4.8 rebounds for KK Split of the Croatian League.
The Go-Go also picked up guard Ike Iroegbu in an offseason trade. Iroegbu averaged 12.2 points, 4 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Agua Caliente Clippers in 2017-2018 before also playing overseas last year.
The final spots went to two players who were discovered during a local tryout. Maxie Esho, who played his college basketball at UMass, is from Upper Marlboro, Md. Jamall Gregory recently went undrafted out of Jacksonville State and is originally from Washington, D.C., where he attended Coolidge High School. That both of them are from this area shows that the Wizards organization is taking the “Rep The District” slogan very seriously.
The roster is not the only thing in flux, as the Go-Go has a new head coach for 2019-2020. Ryan Richman, who was an assistant for the Wizards last year, is replacing Jarell Christian. To complete the “switcheroo,” Christian will be moving be taking Richman’s spot on the Wizards’ bench.
“Richman spent his first three seasons with the organization in the video room before transitioning to a role as player development coordinator/assistant coach in Brooks’ first year as head coach (2016-17). In that role, he assisted player development during pre-practice, pre-game and after-hours sessions while also analyzing game film and holding responsibility for game scouts and preparation. Richman served as the Wizards’ Summer League head coach in 2018,” per the G League website.
So what is a reasonable expectation for a team with considerable roster turnover and a new coach? Going 25-25 in 2018-2019 put the Go-Go right in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. On paper, this team looks less talented without players like Jordan McRae and Devin Robinson. However, if players like Justin Robinson and Admiral Schofield are assigned to the Go-Go for extended stints it might help to mitigate their losses. Accordingly, I would expect to see the Go-Go finish in a similar spot this year.
True success will not be measured by their record, it’s whether or not Richman and his staff show a knack for player development. Wizards GM Tommy Shepard would much prefer that their G League affiliate becomes a proving ground for young talent that eventually helps the big ball club. Anything more than that is a bonus.