Washington Wizards: 3 Training camp battles to watch

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Washington Wizards Troy Brown Jr.
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Position Battle #2: Third-strong Point Guard
Best Options: Raul Neto, Cassius Winston, or Troy Brown Jr.

John Wall is back healthy for the 2020-2021 season after missing almost two full seasons with an Achilles injury. With such a long layoff, GM Tommy Sheppard wants to ensure Wall is good for the foreseeable future. He’s repeatedly said in interviews that the plan is for Wall to sit out back-to-backs this year. In a shortened 72-game season, this will keep him fresh.

Washington does have 11-year veteran point guard Ish Smith to hold it down when Wall rests. He started 23 games for the Wizards last year. In 26.3 minutes per game, he averaged 10.9 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. Ish won’t blow you away in any specific area, but he’s a steady presence that can lead the offense and win you games. His leadership and NBA experience make him the ideal backup point guard.

With the backup point guard spot solidified, the question becomes ‘who will be the third-string point guard?’ Veteran Raul Neto was signed to a one-year deal in free agency and seems like the obvious option. He spent last season with the Philadelphia 76ers after four seasons with the Utah Jazz. Neto averaged 5.1points, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 rebounds in 12.4 minutes of play with Philly. He’s a solid player on offense and defense, but he doesn’t move the needle.

The Wizards need a third-string point guard that can elevate the second unit when Wall is out. That’s not Neto. Luckily for them, they have some other choices on the roster with a ton of upside. In this year’s draft, Washington traded pick no. 37 (Vit Krejci) and Admiral Schofield to the Oklahoma City Thunder for pick No. 53 (Cassius Winston). Winston played 4 years at Michigan State and averaged 18.6 points, 5.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals his senior year.

Even though he’s slightly undersized at 6’1″, his competitive spirit and willingness to lay it all on the line for his team could earn him minutes quickly. Winston has the heart of a champion. He was a two-time Consensus 2nd Team All-American (2019 & 2020), Big-10 Player of the Year (2019), and two-time 1st Team All Big-10 (2019 & 2020). He’s a great addition for Washington because he always competes at a high level. Winston is more than ready to contribute now, but coach Scott Brooks will probably give the third-string point guard spot to a player with more NBA experience.

And for that reason, another player comes to mind. Troy Brown Jr. is entering his third season with the Wizards, and I believe he should get more minutes running point. Coming into the 2018 draft, he was listed as a forward. However, after two years in the league, it’s obvious that his skill set is better suited for the guard position. Last season, his numbers spiked dramatically when he started at guard rather than the forward. 

He averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in eight games starting at guard compared to only 6.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists in 14 starts at forward. At 6’6″, Troy Brown Jr. is a terrific rebounder, but he also has great vision and can finish well in transition. His ceiling as a point-forward could propel the Wizards to new heights next year. They just need to give him more opportunities to run the show.

Projected Winner: Troy Brown Jr.