Wizards

Washington Wizards 2018 Season Preview

The NBA season is now less than a month away, and it promises to be another year full of excitement and surprises. For the Washington Wizards, the 2018 season could go a number of ways. Regardless, its as important as any season in recent memory.

On the heels of disappointing first-round exit in last years’ playoffs, the Wizards are looking to take the next step in the Eastern conference. They added several new faces this offseason, including 8x all-star Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers, and Jeff Green.

This trio of free agent acquisitions will be expected to play big roles this season. Washington also drafted Troy Brown Jr. in the first-round and claimed former second-round pick Thomas Bryant off waivers. Both played well in the summer league and showed flashes of long-term potential.

So too did Devin Robinson, whose currently on a two-way contract and figures to spend time in the G-league this season. Robinson, Brown and Bryant could play a big role in the Wizards future success. However, given the current roster construction, they likely will not make much of an impact in 2018.

Some important dates to know as the season approaches;

Monday, September 24 – Official media day

Tuesday, September 25 – First day of training camp

Friday, September 28 – Open practice for fans

Monday, October 1 – Preseason opener vs. New York Knicks

Thursday, October 18 – Regular season opener vs. Miami Heat

As it stands, Washington has 14 players on the roster, leaving the final spot vacant. Here’s how the Wizards current rotation and depth chart shakes out;

Point Guard

Starter – John Wall

Backup – Tomas Satoransky 

Wall is looking to put an injury-riddled season behind him and return to playing at an All-NBA caliber level. He played in just 41 regular season games last year, and his performance left much to be desired. In the postseason, however, Wall bounced back and averaged 26.0 PPG and 11.5 APG in six contests.

Satoransky took on a starting role in Wall’s absence and filled in admirably, helping Washington stay afloat without their star point guard. However, his performance waned as the season wined down and he saw little playing time in the playoffs.

Ty Lawson acted as the backup point guard during the postseason. With Lawson out of the fold, however, Satoransky is set to fill that role once again.

Shooting Guard

Starter – Bradley Beal 

Backup – Austin Rivers 

Reserve – Jodie Meeks 

Fresh off his first all-star appearance, Bradley Beal could potentially take another step forward this season. Beal was forced to play a lot of minutes last season because of John Wall’s injury, and it showed. He tended to struggle late in games, but should find more consistency with Wall back in the fold.

Austin Rivers, acquired in a trade for Marcin Gortat, brings a dynamic scoring threat off the bench. Rivers will likely split ball-handling duties with Satoransky on the second unit, and could see time in three-guard lineups as well. He averaged 15.1 points per game with the Clippers last season.

Meeks, who was the primary backup two-guard last season, is set to serve a 25-game suspension for PED use. With Rivers in the fold, Meeks does not figure to play a role in the rotation.

Small Forward

Starter – Otto Porter Jr. 

Backup – Kelly Oubre Jr. 

Reserve – Troy Brown Jr. 

Otto Porter Jr. enters his third season as Washington’s small forward. Although he contributes in several areas and is extremely efficient, Porter has been criticized by many for not being more aggressive. Porter was solid last season, but didn’t make the leap people were hoping for after he received a max contract.

The Wizards sixth man, Kelly Oubre Jr, is looking to improve after an uneven 2017 season. He performed very well through the first few months, particularly shooting from beyond the arc. However, his play regressed as the season went along. Entering a contract year, it will be interesting to see if Oubre can take the next step in his development.

Rookie swingman Troy Brown Jr is listed as a small forward, but he can actually spend time at both guard positions, as well. Barring any of the guards or forwards in the rotation, Brown likely will not see much playing time this year.

Power Forward

Starter – Markieff Morris 

Backup – Jeff Green 

Morris is penciled in as the starting power forward, but could potentially see more time at the 5 spot this year when Washington opts to go small. Morris shot a career high 36.7% from three last season, but averaged just 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds. Like Oubre, Morris is playing for a new contract this year.

After Mike Scott joined the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, the Wizards signed veteran Jeff Green. Green can play both forward positions, but is best suited as a small-ball, versatile 4. He figures to play a key role off the bench this season and brings veteran leadership and experience.

Center

Starter -Dwight Howard 

Backup – Ian Mahinmi 

Reserve – Jason Smith 

Reserve – Thomas Bryant 

The Wizards finally decided to shake up the center position this season, shipping Marcin Gortat to the Clippers. To replace him, they signed former All-NBA center Dwight Howard. Howard has played for a different team in each of the past three seasons, but is looking for a fresh start in D.C.

Trade rumors swirled throughout the offseason, but Ian Mahinmi returns and will retain his role as the backup center. Mahinmi has not lived up to his contract since he joined the Wizards, but can bring energy as a defender and rebounder in short spurts.

Thomas Bryant is another new face at the center position this season. Bryant, a former second-round pick in 2017, was waived by the Lakers this offseason and quickly claimed by Washington. He will likely spend much of the season playing for the Capital City Go-Go, the Wizards new G-league affiliate team.

12-year veteran Jason Smith enters his third season with the Wizards, the final year of his contract. Smith’s primary position is at the 5, but his shooting ability allows him to play power forward as well. Smith does not figure to see the court often this season.

Two-way Contracts: Devin Robinson (F) and Jordan McRae (G)

With LeBron James no longer in the conference, eliminating the Cleveland Cavaliers as a playoff threat, the Wizards have an opportunity to make some noise. Their current roster is undoubtedly more talented than it has been in recent years.

However, as is the case sometimes, talent does not always equate to success. Scott Brooks has his work cut out for him in managing a locker room with several strong personalities. The Wizards internal drama and turmoil last season was well-documented.

If they can put these issues behind them, the Wizards can easily find themselves near the top of the eastern conference. They have the pieces to eclipse 50 wins and make a serious playoff run, it is all a matter of things meshing together.

How will Dwight Howard accept his role as a complimentary offensive option? Can Jeff Green and Austin Rivers fix the Wizards’ bench woes? Can Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre take the next steps in their development? Will John Wall be able to stay healthy?

These are all important questions that will ultimately determine the Wizards success. We will have to wait and see how things play out. Regardless, the NBA season is fast-approaching and it figures to be an exciting one.

Buckle up, Wizards fans.

Season Prediction: 48-34, 4th in East

Result: Eastern conference semifinals 

 

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