That’s a wrap for the Washington Wizards 2016-17 preseason.
They made quick work of the visiting Toronto Raptors 119-82 on Friday night, invoking confidence for the upcoming season, while leaving Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey searching for his team’s identity.
“We act like today was the first day of training camp,” Casey said, attempting to explain how his team managed to give up 119 points on 57 percent shooting.
The Wizards most likely won’t be that hot all season and it was a game that didn’t count in terms of official win-loss record. It did matter when it comes to figuring out what type of team will be on the floor come next week.
Here’s three takeaways from the game that deserve attention heading into the regular season.
Battle at Small Forward
The Wizards have been searching for a reliable starting small forward since the departure of veteran Trevor Ariza a few years ago.
Cue Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Though Porter took the start on Friday night, both players logged about 25 minutes, which was plenty of time for both to actively affect the game. Porter finished with 16 points–going a perfect 7 of 7 from the field–and nine boards. Oubre finished with 13 points and five boards, including a ridiculous put back jam in the third quarter.
Porter was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft with the third overall pick. He’s flirted with the starting lineup the past three seasons, but a Paul Pierce (or similar veteran forward) would swoop in and take control. It’s clear that he’ll get the starting nod at small forward this year, but it’s up to him as to how long that lasts. Young Kelly will definitely be nipping at his heels all season long, healthy competition is always good.
Meanwhile, Oubre–drafted last year–was also selected by the Wizards in the first round to address the void.
The old guys are gone, and for now, it doesn’t look like there will be anymore veteran free agents coming in to challenge them. Head coach Scott Brooks has a tough, but important, decision to make at this position as the season progresses.
While in Oklahoma City, Brooks was criticized for not getting his teams to play with better movement offensively.
That wasn’t the case Friday night, as Brooks applauded his team as they dished out 33 assists, (20 combined from Wall and Beal) and were gashing the Raptors with cuts to the basket for easy scores.
“John [Wall] demands a lot of attention, rightfully so,” said Brooks. “He has great ability to get into the teeth of the defense. Our perimeter guys are really doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket.”
This is the biggest difference offensively between the Brooks regime and that of former head coach Randy Wittman. When Wall penetrated, he found open shooters. Seen that before. What we haven’t seen before is Wall looking for cutters or divers working on the weak side.
This constant flow is intended to open up the floor for Wall, one of the best playmakers in the NBA this season.
Wall more confident than ever
Speaking of Mr. Wall, somebody forgot to tell him the season hadn’t stated yet.
He didn’t have to go at opposing guard Kyle Lowery (2016 NBA All-Star starter and Olympic gold-medalist) like he was out to prove his rank among fellow NBA point guards. He didn’t have to showcase why he’s one of the best passers in the game (nine assists in the first half) to spite the 2016 NBA.com GM survey that says otherwise.
But, he did.
Wall played about 28 minutes and managed to tally 15 points (3-of-4 from behind the arc), 11 assists and seven rebounds.
The Wizards will look to start the regular season as well as they ended the preseason when they travel to Atlanta Thursday, Oct. 27 to play the Hawks.