For the first time in a very long time, the Washington Wizards will enter an NBA season with higher expectations than they had in the year prior.
After beating the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and pushing the number one seeded Indiana Pacers to six games, the Washington Wizards have put themselves back on the map and are finally recognized as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Their successful run in the post-season has earned them 10 nationally televised games for this upcoming season and major media outlets such as ESPN project them to secure home court in the playoffs next year by winning the Southeast division.
But, with all that said, the Washington Wizards made a series of moves this summer and their team will look somewhat different than it did during their successful 44 win season. For starters, the Washington Wizards lost their best perimeter defender, Trevor Ariza, and they don’t have anybody on their team currently that could replicate what he did for them on that side of the floor last season. Although adding Paul Pierce will soften the blow offensively, and might even improve the team a bit in terms of scoring, the Washington Wizards were a top-10 defensive team for two consecutive years and elite defense has been their identity ever since coach Randy Wittman took over for Flip Saunders in 2012.
The Washington Wizards have also lost Trevor Booker this off-season, who’s essentially the only player that played significant minutes for them this past year besides Ariza who they could not re-sign. Washington added DeJuan Blair, who’s a very similar player to Booker, and Kris Humphries, so they should have more depth in the front court than this past year on paper.
Washington’s second unit was not very good last season, especially when Eric Maynor was the primary backup point guard, and I expect the bench to perform much better this upcoming season, even though Martell Webster is expected to miss at least 3-5 months following back surgery.
Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr., who won NBA Summer League MVP, both played very well in Las Vegas, and now that Webster is out, the second year players will play much bigger roles for the team than they did last season. Unlike some Washington Wizards fans, I believe that Porter and Rice are ready to make an impact, especially since their skill-sets translate well to Wittman’s system.
Both Porter and Rice are capable of scoring the ball, but more importantly, they’re disruptive defensively. I don’t think either of them will replicate Trevor Ariza, but I do think they will help defensively.
Washington’s team will look different next season, but their growth during the NBA Playoffs will be key for their success for next year. Last season, the team’s goal appeared to be to just make the playoffs, but it seems like they’re actually expecting to make some noise during the ‘14-15 NBA season.
A lot, if not all, of the Washington Wizards’ success will continue to be determined by John Wall and Bradley Beal, and with another off-season under their belts, there’s no reason to believe they won’t continue to improve.
I still have some concerns, such as their lack of a lock-down wing player, but the team appears to be much deeper than they were this past season. Washington will have a lot more flexibility with their rotations since Pierce is capable of playing both forward positions, but they will also have a deep front court, which is something they did not have last year. Oh, and did I mention that they won’t have to rely on Eric Maynor?
A full season of Andre Miller! Rejoice!
As we all know, things rarely go as expected in the NBA, but I do think the Washington Wizards will be more successful than they were this past season. The Eastern Conference will be somewhat stronger than it was last year, but the Washington Wizards have the talent to compete with any team in the NBA.