In the next two weeks, the Armchair crew will be taking on the NBA Regular Season preview. We will be taking on each team individually and looking into what to expect from each.
Last Year’s Record: 46-36
Key Losses: Paul Pierce, Kevin Seraphin, Rasual Butler, Will Bynum
Key Additions: Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Gary Neal, Kelly Oubre
The greatest Magic trick of last season was Randy Wittman suddenly becoming a decent coach come playoff time when he trotted out a small-ball line-up to trounce the favourited Raptors in the first round, 4-0. And while we’re onto you Randy, in case you revert to whatever it is you were last season, can you pull off this act again?
I think it’s fair to say that Washington is all in on Durant, and this year not only has to establish the team as a viable destination, it also has to improve on the last one to let Durant know that he is the one, final piece to this puzzle.
Losing Paul Pierce will hurt in terms of leadership, but his impact during regular season was minimal and Dudley is a solid replacement in terms of skill set (although not in terms of “I take your dreams and eat them for breakfast” clutch factor). The bet here is that Otto Porter Jr. may be ready to step up and play both 3 and 4 where requested.
The best thing Washington brings to the table is versatility of going small or big. They can bring out both Nene and Gortat which will terrorize opponents, and possible send someone to the ER, or play small with one of their bruisers and slot in Dudley or Porter at the 3-4 slots. A lot will depend here on how much stock you put in Kelly Oubre. He was once a top five prospect and his skill-set remains appealing. If he can come in and show his stroke early, Washington can go on a tear and slot him in at the 3 for those small ball line-ups.
John Wall will once again lead this team, and he remains one of the best pure ones in the league. His speed is devastating on both the break and half-court sets as he can turn opponents ankles into mist. He isn’t as flashy as Steph Curry or as solid as Chris Paul but he is faster and quicker than either and his change of pace is what gives Wizards’ offence it’s motor. If his jumper continues to improve, Wall having the ball in his hands will open up a variety of kick and drive as well as pick and roll sets that can keep things diverse enough and prevent anyone from adjusting.
The main question is what Beal’s ceiling really is. While some may think that this is it, I am expecting another small jump. It may not propel him to Superstar, but Beal has the potential to be borderline All-Star if he stays healthy (in the East). His shooting brings much needed spacing to this offence and his ability to cut and pop ads another dimension to the John Wall mayhem drive and dish game. If Beal can stay on the court long enough to prove he has progressed Washington can be the second team to watch out for in the East.
Plausible best-case scenario: They get it together and stay healthy, trotting out diverse line-ups on night to night basis to match up with the opponents. Beal stays healthy and takes a leap and John Wall plays like the best point guard in the league. They lose to the Cavs in the playoffs but are the frontrunners to sign Kevin Durant as the cap blows up.
Plausible worst-case scenario: Otto Porter is not ready, Beal has peaked and Nene has fallen apart. Wall has to carry this team nightly, which takes it’s toll and they fail to improve on last year, losing in the first round.