This upcoming season feels like it carries more weight than usual when you look at the landscape of the NBA. With the top Eastern Conference (after Cleveland and Boston) up for grabs, this could be a defining season for John Wall and the Wizards.
After inking a $207 million dollar extension, Wall is unequivocally Washington’s point guard of the future and rightfully so. Last season, John had his best year as a Wizards. He finished as the only point guard in the East to average a double-double (23.1 points and 10.7 assists a game) and one of three guards to do so in the entire league. He was named to the All-NBA third team and received votes for the All- Defensive team before ultimately falling short by two votes. While this season certainly is not a make or break year for Wall, this year does poses the same question to Wall as it does for the rest of the team, “What else you got?”
Washington was one regular season win away from becoming just the sixth team in franchise history (first since 1979) to eclipse 50-wins. Behind their top-tier backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington was able to force a game seven against the top seeded Boston Celtics in the Conference semi-finals before getting eliminated in last season playoffs.
This offseason saw a sea of change in the league, from star players like Paul George and Jimmy Butler switching conferences, to Allstar such as Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas getting traded to each others respective teams. For Washington however, the team stayed packed for the most part. Aside from not retaining Bojan Bogdanovic and Brandon Jennings, the Wizards kept it’s core intact. Last season, the Wizards had a top five starting five in terms of offensive, and defensive, and win percentage.
“Growth” should be the motto for Washington this season. After NBA legend Kobe Bryant challenged Wall to make the All-Defense first team, the team should follow the same mindset when setting goals for themselves. Can Bradley Beal make the defensive jump to truly turn himself into a lethal two-way player? Can Marieff Morris improve on his outside shot? Will Marcin Gortat fight off regression? Was last year just a fluke for Otto Porter Jr.? These are all questions that will be front and center for Washington all season and how they answer said questions will determine how successful the season turns out.
One glaring problem Washington had last year was their bench production. The Wizards fell to the bottom five in bench production in the NBA last season. Their bench play was the leading factor that caused Washington’s Game 7 collapse against Boston. With Jodie Meeks, Tim Frazier, and Mike Scott signing with the team, look for Kelly Oubre Jr. to make improve with more playing time.
While Washington is not the best team in the conference, they do have the pieces to make some noise in the top five teams race. If everything comes together (and Washington adds another solid bench player) do not be surprised if Washington advances all the way to the Conference Finals.
Regular Season prediction: 51-31