Now that the Washington Wizards have gone into a rebuilding mode, the expectations from them for the next season are very low. In fact, according to the sportsbooks, their over/under for win total is 24.5, the fewest mark in the league. This makes sense as the Wizards are a young and inexperienced team, but there are still ways for them to overachieve and win 30 or more games.
In order to escape the bottom of the league, the Washington Wizards need to be respectable either on offense or the defensive end. All three teams that won fewer than 25 games last season were ranked in the bottom four in both offensive and defensive ratings. Three teams that won around 30 games: Portland, Indiana, and Charlotte, were closer to average in either offensive or defensive efficiency.
If the Wizards want to be a competitive team next season, they will have to hang their hat on one end of the floor. Considering the talent on their roster, it might have to be the defense.
Washington has solid scorers on their team in Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma. However, they are below-average-efficiency scorers who have never been the primary creator of an offense. They will likely be overstretched as no. 1 and no. 2 scoring options.
Tyus Jones is a good floor general that will help the offense but he is certainly not an above-average shot creator among starting point guards.
Moreover, young players like Bilal Coulibaly and Johnny Davis will play plenty of minutes and will almost certainly struggle with efficiency, bringing the overall offensive production down.
Yet, if Kuzma continues his playmaking improvement, and Poole increases his three-point shooting percentage, there is a chance the offense could be respectable.
However, the real upside for Washington there is on the defensive end.
Other than Jordan Poole and Corey Kispert, the defensive talent on the projected rotation of this team is relatively impressive. Any combination of Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija, Bilal Coulibaly, Johnny Davis, and Daniel Gafford provides intriguing defensive lineups. There is size, athleticism, switchability, and rim protection available in these groups.
The most important part of any defense is having a solid anchor in the backline. A rim-protecting center who can cover up the rest of the team’s mistakes can make the defense look much better. This makes Daniel Gafford one of the most critical pieces in the Wizards’ rotation next season. Considering that his projected backups Tristan Vukcevic and Mike Muscala are weak defenders, Gafford will have to play a lot of minutes and show improvement as a defensive communicator and leader.
If that happens and Poole and Kispert show meaningful improvement on defense, the Wizards may exceed expectations on that end. Having close-to-average defense would help Washington be competitive and win more than the expected 25 games.