By: Patrick Waring
Washington Wizards Preview
Regular Season – 46 – 36
Playoffs – 5th Seed
1st Round – Beat Toronto Raptors 4-0
Conference Semifinals – Defeated by Atlanta Hawks 4-2
The Washington Wizards have started to find success in the NBA by making the playoffs and advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the last two years. The Wizards won a total of 46 games in the regular season last year, the most since the 1978-1979 season. The goal for the 2015-2016 season will be to return to the playoffs, but advance further and contend for the Eastern Conference championship.
Projected Starting Lineup
G – John Wall
G – Bradley Beal
F – Otto Porter Jr.
F – Kris Humphries
C – Marcin Gortat
*Complete roster can be found here.*
G – Gary Neal
F – Alan Anderson
F – Jared Dudley
F – Kelly Oubre
F – Paul Pierce
F/C – Kevin Seraphin
Coach Randy Wittman is coming into his fourth full season with the Wizards. Wittman has an overall 137-158 regular season record with the franchise and is 12-9 in the playoffs. As mentioned earlier, the Wizards posted their highest win total in decades and have dug themselves out of the basement in the East. Wittman has emphasized defense in his time with the Wizards, but will now take a new approach on offense. The team will run more and pick up the pace. Expect quick shots and more three point attempts this year. Some have questioned if Wittman is the right fit in D.C. and if the team has reached it’s ceiling with him on the sideline. A strong season with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals could put a end to that.
Sorry Colin Cowherd, but John Wall has become a leader in the NBA. The first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft is coming off of his best season and his numbers rank him as one of the top point guards in the league. Last season, Wall averaged 17.6 points, 10 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. Wall has become the leader that the Wizards needed. He has worked on his game, become vocal on the court and has lead by example. Lessons on becoming a leader and a professional were learned from his time spent with future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce last year.
The New Big 3
The Wizards have a good mix of young players and veterans on their roster, but the core of the team is 25 years old and younger. Just turning 25 in early September, Wall is joined by two 22 year old players in the starting lineup. Shooting guard Bradley Beal and small forward Otto Porter Jr. are key pieces to this team and will benefit from Wall’s passes and the new offense this season. Beal and Wall form one of the top backcourts in the NBA and have commanded respect from opposing teams. Beal will try to work on shot selection, while also staying healthy during the season. He already has a reputation for knocking down shots and should be expected to crack the East All Star Team soon. Porter had a slow start to his career, but made a splash in the playoffs by averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds when he received big minutes from Wittman. Porter was also able to learn from Pierce. Playing the same position as the vet was very valuable. Porter was able to get a front row seat in “class” and picked up a little of the attitude that is needed on the court.
Center Marcin Gortat could also make a case for this being a Big 4 instead of 3. Gortat plays well in the pick and roll with Wall and has been consistent around the basket for the Wizards. The big man averaged 12.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year.
A starter last season, Nene Hilario will come off of the bench and primarily back up Gortat at center. With the offense going in a faster direction and more “small ball”, Nene will not spend much time at power forward unless injuries or a change of direction takes place. Speaking of power forward, Kris Humphries has slimmed down and has worked on his long range shot over the offseason. He showcased some of the new additions to his game in the preseason and will start when the season opens. Forwards Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson and Martel Webster will contribute at the wing, and Dudley should see some time as a stretch 4.
Fans in Washington should be excited this season. Many are anxious to see what life after Pierce holds, but expectations should be high. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the consensus pick to win the East again, but a few teams have something to say about those projections. With new pieces and a new offense, Randy Wittman and the Wizards are looking to be one of the last two standing in the East.
You can follow me @WaringPatrick.
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