It’s October 19th, 2022. Tonight, at 7:00 PM EST, the Washington Wizards will tip-off against the Indiana Pacers. Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis will share the floor as teammates for the first time in the regular season. Monte Morris will bring the ball up as the Wizards newest member of the point guard carousel.
Oh, man. I don’t know if I’m ready for this.
Wait, we still don’t know who’s going to start at small forward?
Excuse me, just one second.
Rummages through closet. Finds last season’s City Edition jersey. Pours large 32 ounce beer.
Okay. Let’s boogie.
There are a lot of things to consider before tip-off tonight, and many of them have been covered ad nauseum throughout.
Whether it’s the matter of the small forward position, the fit in the backcourt, or what the expectations for this team should be – it can all be found with a Google search. I don’t need to repeat them for you.
No, this isn’t exactly a primer. This is more of a toast. An invitation to embrace the mess, the moments of exhilaration, and the mind-numbing turnovers that will come in the final two minutes of pivotal game.
So raise a glass and join in as I ponder three things that interest me before a single minute of Wizards basketball is played.
Bradley Beal’s Shooting Form
There is no doubt in my mind that Beal will score a lot of points this year. Hell, he might even lead the league in scoring. However, after off-season wrist surgery and trading for a basketball unicorn, I find myself wondering whether Beal will return to form and hit a lot of threes this year.
The hope is the offensive talent around him will alleviate some of the defensive pressure. But as of now, it’s just hope.
Beal will find the basket and he’ll sink free throws at a respectable rate. But can hit reach that 40% mark again? I’m a firm believer he has all the tools and talent to join the 50-40-90 club. But the last few years have been weird, and now that the bag is secure, will he find that stroke again?
Will Barton’s Bucket Game
The debate for the starting small forward position will rage on Wizards Twitter all season long. For the sake of roster balance, I lean towards starting Deni Avdija (though I think Rui Hachimura is the better basketball player), simply because the other four likely starters (Morris, Beal, Kuzma, Porzingis) can more than make-up for his offensive limitations.
And as limited as Avdija can be, he’s still a bigger offensive threat than say, Ben Simmons.
But the reason I’m not as interested in sliding Will Barton in that role is because Barton is a solid and trustworthy bucket-getter. The bench unit is going to crumble at times. Opposing defenses are going to break set plays, and in those moments, you need a guy who can create his own shot or do the work to create plays for others.
Enter Will Barton.
He can create opportunities for others, he can shoot off the dribble, and he can drill catch-and-shoot threes. Yes, I know this sounds like an argument to start him, but I think there’s value in having that sort of skill set off the bench.
A bench unit of Delon Wright, Corey Kispert (when healthy), Will Barton, Rui Hachimura, and one of Gafford or Taj Gibson? That’s going to be real trouble for opposing B-teams.
Corey Kispert’s Adaptability
Lost in the small forward debate and the Johnny Davis pessimism is the delightful and quiet trust fans have in Corey Kispert. Is he a three-level scorer? No. Is he a defensive dog? No. But he’s a sniper from the outside and the dude is damn good at his job.
Need him to start in a pinch? No problem, here’s five threes at the half. Need him to be the seventh man in the rotation? No problem, here’s a helpful 10 points in 20 minutes of play.
But you know what he doesn’t really do? Disappoint me. I’m never disappointed in Kispert, and maybe it’s the dad in me, but for that, I am very grateful.
It’s unfortunate that he’s out with a sprained ankle, because I do believe his plug-and-play ability will be something the Wizards miss these first few games. His defense, like most of the teams, leaves us wanting, but did you know Corey Kispert is 6’7?
No, I’m serious. He’s 6’7. I’m still not sure I believe it. Maybe Coach Unseld can find some use for that.
So cheers to you, Wizards fans. We are in for a crazy ride, so strap in and get your popcorn ready.