Monday, October 19, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
[] 46-36
[] Offensive Rating: 104.6 (22nd)
[] Defensive Rating: 103.7 (5th)
[] Net Rating: +0.9 (13th)
[] Eliminated in Eastern Conf. semifinals
[] Coach: Randy Wittman

The Wizards have been eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals in each of the last two seasons.  Not much has changed with the core of the roster over these last couple years, as mostly the same squad is back this year, minus Paul Pierce.  With Pierce off to the Clippers, the Wizards are expecting to play a faster brand of basketball this year.  Washington only averaged 93.7 possessions per game last season, ranking 18th in the league.  That seems a bit low, considering the fact that they have one of the league's fastest PGs, if not the fastest.  The Wizards are hoping an increase in pace of play helps boost an offense that struggled mightily last year.  That could mean more small-ball lineups, as neither Marcin Gortat or Nene is a perfect fit in an uptempo offense.  Washington's ability to thrive in small-ball units will likely balance on the growth of Otto Porter, the 5th pick in the 2013 draft.  Porter showed signs of life last year after a quiet rookie season, and will step right into Pierce's spot in the starting lineup.  You know Wall, Beal and Gortat are going to be good.  If Porter steps his game up, it should help the Wizards truly challenge to exceed their accomplishments from the last two seasons.  Even if he doesn't, the Washington defense, built around Wall's pressure at the point of attack, is going to keep the Wizards competitive.
Projected Starting Five

PG: John Wall - 6'4, 195 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
79
17.6
19.9
26.1%
52.3%
30.0%
.186
78.5%
.310
46.3%
18.7%

Wall's been an Eastern Conference All-Star in back-to-back seasons, but he still feels a bit under-appreciated throughout the league.  He's a quality defender, usually among the league leaders in Assist Rate, and he's the heart-and-soul of a Wizards team that may or may not even make the playoffs without him.  His offensive efficiency will never dazzle unless he can get his 3P% up, but as Wall enters his prime over the next few years, I expect him to continue to shine.  He's not there with Curry, Westbrook or Paul, but I would place Wall right among the next tier of the NBA's elite PGs.

SG: Bradley Beal - 6'5, 210 - 4th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
63
15.3
14.0
22.5%
52.1%
40.9%
.304
78.3%
.195
15.0%
11.7%

Still only 22 years old, it feels like Beal still has another gear or two that he can hit.  His efficiency numbers haven't been great through two seasons.  He doesn't get to the line enough to overcome poor 2P% numbers.  However, he's a great outside shooter, a good enough playmaker, and perhaps most importantly, Beal got some serious credit for his defensive efforts in last year's playoffs, especially for disrupting Kyle Korver.  Beal needs to show it for a full season, but I think this is the year where we see him make a leap.  I'm tempted to predict an All-Star appearance for Beal, although that may still be one more year off.

SF: Otto Porter - 6'9, 200 - 3rd NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
74
6.0
11.6
15.1%
52.3%
33.7%
.266
73.4%
.202
8.7%
6.8%

With Paul Pierce now in Los Angeles chasing a title with the Clippers, Porter has to improve this year if the Wizards aren't going to fall off.  There were some encouraging performances, especially in the playoffs, as Porter hit double digits in five of Washington's ten playoff games.  He even notched two double digit rebound games as well.  In order for Porter to be productive, he needs to help space the floor around Wall and the bigs, as well as providing solid defense.  That seems possible, but Porter is a question mark for the Wizards to start the season.

PF: Nene - 6'11, 260 - 14th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
67
11.0
14.3
21.8%
53.4%
60.4%
.336
11.5%
5.7%
17.0%
0.5

Nene is the other question mark for the Wizards.  Reports had it that the Wizards tried to move Nene in the summer, but had trouble finding anybody willing to take on the last year of his deal.  The reasons behind that are that the aging Nene isn't an ideal fit at PF, at either end of the floor, in today's NBA.  They need him to at least be as productive as last year, which isn't a given considering Nene turns 33 before the start of the season.

C: Marcin Gortat - 6'11, 250 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
82
12.2
18.2
17.6%
58.7%
70.3%
.226
16.5%
8.5%
24.1%
1.6

The Polish Hammer remains useful, however, as he remains a steadying presence at both ends of the floor.  He'll turn 32 in February, but unlike Nene, Gortat is under contract for the long-term.  He's signed through 2018-19.

Bench

PG: Ramon Sessions - 6'3, 190 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
64
6.3
11.1
18.7%
49.0%
31.7%
.180
76.9%
.518
23.0%
17.3%

Sessions was acquired at the trade deadline last season and provided a lift for what was a seriously weak set of bench guards.  His full season numbers listed above weren't good, but he was much better than that in his stint with Washington, including a 14.7 PER, 54.7 TS% and better assist/turnover numbers.  The Wizards need more of the same from him this season.

G: Garrett Temple - 6'6, 195 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
52
3.9
10.9
13.9%
53.4%
37.5%
.518
72.9%
.282
11.0%
15.1%

Temple should merely provide depth again this year, as it's hard to see him winning minutes away from Sessions, Neal or Anderson.

G: Gary Neal - 6'4, 210 - 6th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
54
10.1
11.1
23.8%
48.3%
30.5%
.326
86.7%
.268
14.5%
10.4%

Neal's 2014-15 season, split between Charlotte and Minnesota, didn't go as planned, mostly due to the fact that his outside shot completely abandoned him.  There's no reason to think he'll have the same major struggles again this year, so I'm expecting a better year for him.  He should give Washington offense off the bench.

G/F: Alan Anderson - 6'6, 220 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
74
7.4
10.6
13.5%
57.2%
34.8%
.477
81.2%
.230
7.2%
11.0%

Anderson had a productive season with the Nets last year, and should split some of the wing minutes with Jared Dudley and Kelly Oubre.  If Oubre impresses, it's probably Anderson who will lose minutes.  I don't see that being the case, at least not until late in the year.

G/F: Jared Dudley - 6'7, 225 - 9th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
72
7.2
12.3
14.2%
56.3%
38.5%
.454
71.6%
.158
11.5%
12.1%

Dudley rebounded in a major way last year after a disastrous 2013-14 season with the Clippers.  He'll play an important role for the Wizards this year, as the Otto Porter insurance policy and generally important bench piece.  Washington needs him to knock down open shots, play solid defense and provide them with the same leadership he was hailed for in Milwaukee last year.

G/F: Kelly Oubre - 6'7, 205 - Rookie
GP
PPG
RPG
SPG
FG%
FT%
3P%
36
9.3
5.0
1.1
44.4%
71.8%
35.8%

With all of the veteran options at his position, Washington will have the luxury of bringing Oubre along at whatever pace he tolerates best.  I don't think he'll earn major minutes this season, but he has the natural talent to prove that statement false.

SF: Martell Webster - 6'7 ,210 - 11th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
AST%
TOV%
32
3.3
5.9
18.2%
44.5%
23.3%
.473
75.0%
.703
6.7%
15.6%

Minutes look so tight on the wing with Dudley, Anderson and Oubre around that there's been talk that Webster could play minutes as a stretch four.  I'm not expecting much from him this year, wherever he plays his minutes.

PF: Kris Humphries - 6'9, 240 - 12th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
64
8.0
15.4
18.3%
51.2%
74.4%
.262
17.4%
10.1%
24.4%
0.7

Humphries played a whopping one game in the playoffs last year, as he lost his minutes to Drew Gooden.  He's not a waste of a roster spot, but it seems like his role could be limited this year.

PF: DeJuan Blair - 6'7, 265 - 7th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
FT%
FTr
TRB%
ORB%
DRB%
BLK/36
29
1.9
7.7
18.3%
46.9%
66.7%
.105
17.5%
10.3%
24.5%
0.2

Blair only saw limited action in his debut season with the Wizards last year, and it's hard to see that changing this year.

F/C: Drew Gooden - 6'10, 230 - 14th NBA season
GP
PPG
PER
USG%
TS%
3P%
3PAr
FT%
FTr
TRB%
AST%
51
5.4
11.9
17.0%
46.9%
39.0%
.214
77.3%
.159
14.5%
8.6%

Gooden revived his career last year by becoming a surprisingly good stretch big.  If he can keep it up again this year he should be the main big off the bench.

Outlook

With a pending pursuit of Kevin Durant in free agency next summer, it's important that the Wizards show they can provide KD with a title contending cast.  An improved year from Wall, Beal and Porter and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would be just the thing to do that.  I'm not sure they have the offensive chops to get that done, but I'm not ready to rule it out.  The depth in the frontcourt is a bit of a question as well, but I don't think those issues are enough to keep Washington from at least getting back to last year's heights.  I see the Wizards hitting 45 wins and winning a playoff series, which would make for an interesting pursuit of Durant next summer.

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