The Washington Wizards management and roster has significantly changed since the end of last season. The WX writers have compiled answers to some preseason questions concerning off season moves, hot takes and predictions.
Which off-season acquisition will help the Wizards the most?
Andrew Carter: The acquisition that will help the most, is the least talked about. The Latvian Laser, a.k.a Davis Bertans. Three point shooting has always been a concern for this team outside of Beal, and he’s a career 40% three point shooter (42% last season). He will be a reliable, knock-down jump shooter when called upon, and his experience in the Spurs organization will improve the workmanship and professionalism of the team.
Zach Herriott: Isaiah Thomas. Maybe not on the court. But, there have already been stories coming out about him helping mentor the rookies and establish the culture that Tommy Sheppard and co. are looking for. He will be a great example for the younger guys to follow. To me, that’s extremely important this year.
Aaron Leslie: Moe Wagner. He may not provide immediate help to the team, but he has the potential to be a real asset for this team as a stretch 4. As he gets more experience with the NBA game, I have no doubt he will improve his abilities and have an increased role for the Wizards. He also is a valuable trade asset should the Wizards chose to look for a trade this season. Moe’s strength is his offensive game and if his development goes well, the Wizards could have a Kevin Love-type player on their hands.
Dialante Daniels: I believe the Isaiah Thomas acquisition will help the Wizards the most. Thomas will bring scoring ability and experience to the team. He can lead the second unit, play alongside Beal, and make big shots in crunch time, as we have all seen. If Thomas can recapture some of that magic from his 2017 season, the Wizards can surpass people’s expectations.
Ryan Oliver: Davis Bertans. Bertans is a true stretch-big with range from way out. He’s something the Wizards have truly lacked during the Wall era. Too bad Wall won’t be able to enjoy the floor spacing Bertans will often provide this season. Spurs fans loved Bertans, and I expect him to quickly become a fan favorite here in DC. He should give both Beal and Bryant some much needed spacing on the court.
Defining success for the 2019-2020 season:
Matt Modderno: Giving fans and the organization legitimate hope for the future would mean success. I think of this year as a building block for next season so getting healthy and seeing developmental progress by the young guys would be the ideal outcome. Troy Brown being able to shoot, Mo Wagner being able to shoot…or defend…or something, Rui Hachimura showing flashes of future greatness or Thomas Bryant looking like a steal of a contract. I would welcome any and all of those things. There are so many question marks on this roster that it’d just be good to see them answer a few of those questions. I’d rather see tangible progress like that. I don’t much care about whether we finish 8th or 13th in the grand scheme of things.
Trey Johnson: In my opinion, success is viewed through the growth of the young talent the Wizards have. Wins and losses don’t matter that much this season as it will be seen as more of a developmental year. If Rui, Admiral, Thomas Bryant, and Troy Brown all take huge strides this season and become regular contributors for this team, then I will consider it a successful season.
Young Park: Similar to what the players, coaches, and front office personnel have been saying since the summer, a good year of development and culture-setting would constitute a successful year. That, leading to Beal staying with the Wizards long-term, would be the best-case scenario. This team is not going to win many games. What is most important is that the new culture that Ted Leonsis and Sheppard want to set gets implemented effectively and efficiently. This would lead to Washington being a more ideal free agency destination and the younger players developing, among other positives.
What is concerning about this roster:
MM: I see a lot of below average shooters and defenders and I don’t see an actual shot blocker. On the bright side, several of these young guys have the potential to turn into those things. Young potential has been a bit of a rarity for the Wizards for a while.
ZH: None of these pieces fit together that well. We have some solid young talent, but it’s very unclear to me who plays which position. That might not matter that much this season, though. I think Sheppard and Brooks are using this season as a “tryout” for half the roster. Then, next season, they’ll think more critically about roster construction.
TJ: The main concern about the current Wizards’ roster is the lack of experience on the roster. While having a lot of young guys isn’t a problem, it will be when we get into late-game situations. Having players step into situations that they have never been in before could lead to some growing pains early. The most important thing is that the younger players on the Wizards can learn from their mistakes and use it to benefit them in the future.
AL: Consistent outside shooting will be the most problematic aspect of the team makeup. Outside of Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans there isn’t much of an outside shooting threat. C.J. Miles has improved as a shooter from deep but there is a clear lack of shooting ability on this team, and it will likely show itself this season as the NBA continues to trend to more three point shots attempted each year.
On the young guys and development:
William Hathaway: This could be several players because the Wizards and GM Tommy Smith are doing the ol’ “throw a bunch of young guys on the court and see who sticks”. Personally, for the Wizards to be in the best position down the road, we NEED Troy Brown Jr. to take a big step. Brown’s stats show great upside – he averages 16pt-9reb-5ast Per 100. When healthy and given a bigger role, Brown could really make a big jump this year as a versatile guard.
DD: Thomas Bryant easily, I am really excited to see the continued growth and development of Bryant’s game. I believe he will have more of a green light to shoot from the three-point line and will show his growth offensively. The big area in his game that will truly take him to the next step is his improvement as a defensive player and rebounder. If Bryant can improve in those areas, sky is the limit for him.
Justin Redman: I think Thomas Bryant makes the leap this season. If he can more consistently stretch his game to the three-point line and continue to work on his defense, I think he’s easily a 15 and 10 guy this year. Troy Brown’s always been my guy, but the coaching staff needs to figure out his role before he can take that next step (he’s a point guard in my eyes, but we’ll see).
TJ: Troy Brown Jr is who I believe can do that. When he played in more than just garbage time, Troy showed his ability to handle the ball as well as score when needed. If he gets regular playing time, I can definitely see him take the next step into becoming a legit NBA player.
AC: I debated between Troy Brown and Rui Hachimura and I leaned toward Rui, and you’ll see why in a few questions. I believe Rui starts from game one and gets more playing time to learn the game and develop. Also, the depth behind him at power forward, which is where he should play, isn’t strong enough to warrant him losing minutes.
Does this Wizards team have playoff potential?
RO: My gut says no… but I guess crazier things have happened. If they were fully healthy entering the season, I’d feel more confidence in a surprise playoff push. Ultimately, not making the playoffs is better for the Wizards long-term goals anyway.
AC: Yes, the Wizards do have a chance to make playoffs but a lot of things need to happen in their favor. Great health, IT being the old IT, Beal taking an MVP-type step in his game, plus the quick and unexpected growth of multiple young guys all need to occur. I just don’t think they’ll be able to win consistently enough, especially with how many teams have gotten better across the league.
WH: No. Please don’t let the Caps’, Mystics’, and Nats’ successes spoil you or cloud your judgment. The East has at least 8 teams that are much better than the Wizards, and besides, we should not be interested in making the playoffs. If that means resting Beal here or there or playing our young players through tough growing pains, so be it. I will close with this – The NBA is a slow build. Tommy Sheppard and Ted Leonsis finally understand this and are taking the steps towards long-term goals instead of short-sighted band-aids of the past. PATIENCE FOLKS!!
What will be the Wizards’ regular season record?
DD: The Wizards season record will be 35-47 and pleasantly surpassing expectations.
JR: 36-46. The over under win total for this year is 27.5, and while I don’t think the team will take a huge leap forward, I’d feel pretty comfortable taking the over. I think the Wizards are going to surprise some people.
AL: I see this team finishing around 30-52. This is not me trying to be pessimistic, I just don’t see a ton of wins for this team with the roster constructed the way it is, even in the East. If Tommy Sheppard can pull off a blockbuster trade and a land a skilled veteran player, then obviously my take will change. But until then, I think this team will likely be in the lottery again at season’s end. Having said that, this team does feel like they are one consistent player away from making the playoffs in the East. If a trade is made and neither John Wall nor Bradley Beal are involved, this team could sneak into the playoffs in 2020.
YP: The Wizards will finish with anywhere up to 50-60 losses. I’ll say 25-57. The team last year was 32-50, and that was a year in which development wasn’t the priority. “Winning 50 games” was a goal set by Leonsis, and Beal played 3,000 minutes (only player to play over 2,900). Now that Sheppard is in charge, I think it’s safe to believe Sheppard’s word that the Wizards are going to approach this season differently, and with a new focus on development and culture-setting, winning games won’t be the team’s goal, and that is fine.
Hot Takes and Bold Predictions:
AC: I have two hot and bold predictions. One, Rui Hachimura wins the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year award. He’ll average 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists per game to beat out Ja Morant and Tyler Herro. Two, Isaiah Thomas wins both Comeback Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year awards.
AL: Admiral Schofield will provide a spark off the bench for this team late in the season and will become a consistent rotational player before the season ends, entering the conversation as the 2019 2nd round steal of the draft!
DD: Rui Hachimura will be a finalist for the Rookie of the Year award and the Wizards will win more than 30 games.
JR: I think we have the potential to be one of those funky teams that sneaks into the 8 seed. We’ve got a lot of speed and athleticism in the back court, and a bunch of dudes in the front court that can seriously stretch the floor. If Brad continues his growth as a play maker, I think we could have an above average offense. If a few guys grow defensively, I don’t see why we can’t win 40 games and sneak in.
MM: Thomas Bryant is this year’s Pascal Siakam-type story and a top-3 candidate for NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
RO: I don’t know how truly bold this is given the state of the Eastern Conference, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas Bryant made the East All-Star team. Especially if the Wizards are more competitive than expected early on. Bryant could easily average 20 & 10 this season for the Wizards, as they don’t have many other guys on the roster that can truly score.
TJ: Thomas Bryant wins Most Improved Player. His play last season flew under the radar of many NBA analysts and I think this year he just might be on the map. He will be a starter for all 82 games this season and I think that plays a part in who wins that award.
WH: Wow. Where do I begin?? To prevent my laptop from catch fire while typing this… I will not go so far as to say the Wizards will make the playoffs this year. However, I do think that Bradley Beal will make an All-NBA team this year. Missing by a few votes last year makes that just a lukewarm prediction. My hottest take is that the Wizards will be a playoff team 2020-21. I will also say that IT will win Comeback Player of the Year. DC Sports is just the place to be right now and IT seems more focused than ever.
YP: Rui Hachimura wins Rookie of the Year. Due to injuries to C.J. Miles and Troy Brown Jr., Hachimura may get some more minutes than initially planned. There have been nothing but good things said about Hachimura since being drafted, and after the preseason game against the Knicks, Brooks even said that “he’s like a wise veteran already, he just plays with a real calm influence”.
ZH: The Wizards will have more wins than last season and flirt with playoff contention. In preseason, the team has shown a completely different style of play from prior seasons. They know that defense will be their big weakness, and the way to combat that is to just score a ton of points. In the first four preseason games, the team has shot 47, 52, 41, and 46 3 pointers, respectively. These are Houston Rockets levels of volume from beyond the arc. If they can hit these shots at a decent clip (which is a big if), I think they have a chance to be one of the highest scoring teams in the NBA.