The Washington Wizards are coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs, haven’t really improved their roster, and it seems like their two best players, Bradley Beal and John Wall, really don’t like each other.
Wall isn’t happy that Beal makes more money than him, but that’s how contract extensions and the rising salary cap works. Beal himself things of himself as the Alpha on this team, and although the two have tried to calm things down through recent media comments, it seems that this might be another Butler-Rose or Irving-Waiters situation in development. The Wizards fired Randy Wittman and hired Scott Brooks, and Brooks probably isn’t going to be happy if this season doesn’t go in the right direction, and the Wizards start thinking rebuild.
What do the Wizards have to look forward to? Obviously, if both Wall and Beal stay healthy the entire season, that’s an impressive backcourt to enjoy. Otto Porter Jr. is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and hopefully will take another step forward after averaging a career high 11.6 points per game last season. Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t do much his rookie season, but the Wizards expect a lot more from him in year 2. They have to get something from their young players after not having a draft pick in 2016.
The frontcourt seems a bit thin. Marcin Gortat is still around, and Markieff Morris makes for a good power forward. But while the Wizards look pretty deep in the backcourt with Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton along with Oubre sitting behind Wall and Beal, the Wizards don’t have that much depth when it comes to big men. Ian Mahinmi costs over $15 million a season, but is he going to give the Wizards that kind of production?
Scott Brooks hasn’t been big on using small ball lineups, appreciating a team that can shut down the paint and make their way from there. This season is a big test for him, coaching without having a superstar as good as Kevin Durant or even Russell Westbrook at his disposal. Wall isn’t half bad, but Brooks will have to create, along with his coaching staff, a real offensive plan, or his tenure in DC will be off to a bad start.
Best Case Scenario
Making the playoffs again (did in 2014 and 2015, twice going to the conference semifinals). Scott Brooks showing he knows offense and can win games without Durant-Westbrook. Wall and Beal don’t have to get along, but they need to work well on the court. Porter and Oubre take another step forward. Gortat doesn’t fade away. Morris has no problem with his teammates and coach. The bench lives up and exceeds needs and expectations.
Worst Case Scenario
Missing the playoffs, and learning that Wall (signed through 2018-2019) and Beal (signed through 2020-2021) can’t work together. The Wizards don’t have a lot of cap space, with a lot of money tied up to Gortat and Mahinmi too. Failing to make this work will put a lot of pressure on Brooks, and even more on Ernie Grunfeld, who built this team towards this dead end, if this season is truly another bust.