The Washington Wizards have a surplus of young players on the roster for the 2023-24 season. Thanks to a slew of off-season moves, the Wizards now have a solid depth of young players to develop. Other than Delon Wright and Mike Muscala, whose futures with the Wizards remain uncertain, there aren’t any players above 30 years old that project to be in the rotation. This means that there will be expanded roles for plenty of Wizards; who will shine the brightest and have a breakout season will be fascinating to watch.
There are plenty of candidates on the Wizards who could surprise everyone and take a major leap forward.
Jordan Poole will now be a primary creator after having a sixth-man type of role in Golden State. Kyle Kuzma is going to be the best two-way player on the team after being third on the totem pole behind Kristaps Porzingis and Bradley Beal. Tyus Jones will be a starting point guard after being Ja Morant’s backup for a few seasons in Memphis. The Wizards will be Landry Shamet’s fifth team in six seasons, so he has plenty to prove in Washington.
Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert will have a competition for that starting role, and have to step up their games to earn that small forward spot. Kispert entering his third season and Avdija heading into his fourth, are at the stage of their careers where NBA players show the most improvement. Daniel Gafford, also entering his fourth year, is starting the 2023-24 season as the clear-cut starter for the first time in his career.
Then there are the second-year players: Johnny Davis, Patrick Baldwin Jr, and Ryan Rollins. This trio hasn’t shown enough as NBA players so far in their career, so they are likely to be lower on the hierarchy. They need to show significant improvement to get consistent rotation minutes. All three of their Summer League performances were encouraging to some degree.
Obviously, there is also Bilal Coulibaly, the blue-chip prospect the Wizards have been waiting for. As a 19-year-old raw prospect with minimal high-level basketball experience, it may be too early for him to contribute to winning in his rookie season. The flashes we saw in Summer League were nevertheless extremely impressive.
So, who is the best candidate out of all these players to have a breakout season?
Jones, Poole, Shamet, and Kuzma are more known commodities. It’s hard to see Jones and Kuzma taking that big of a step forward at their age to catch people by surprise. Shamet is turning 27 and he projects to be a bench shooter for the rest of his career. Poole certainly could improve but the change in his offensive role is going to be so big that it’s hard to see him having an efficient scoring season right away.
Davis, Baldwin Jr, and Rollins are too far away from being solid rotation players in the NBA. Odds are one of them will probably get there next season, but it’s hard to foresee which of the three. They all have to significantly improve different parts of their games to get there. Perhaps thanks to his size and shooting ability, Baldwin Jr may be more likely to surprise NBA fans who are unfamiliar with his game.
Therefore, the prime breakout candidates on the Wizards are Kispert and Avdija. Both players are already solid rotation players, and they can both take another step forward to become proven starter-caliber players.
Kispert is a better player right now. He is an excellent three-point shooter who should be above 40% from beyond the arc again. He added to his playmaking and interior scoring last season as well.
However, it’s hard to see Kispert as much more than what he has already shown. His physical, athletic, and defensive deficiencies might cap his upside. He will likely have a similarly productive season next year as well, perhaps with more points per game.
Avdija, on the other hand, has the edge on who has the higher upside. The path to Avdija being a solid starter is a clear one. He already is one of the best defenders on the Wizards. He is likely going to be utilized as the primary stopper on the wing. He just needs to add to his offensive game to have a breakout season. This can come through improving his catch & shoot three-pointers to become an off-ball threat, or improving his ball-handling and passing to become a more reliable on-ball creator.
The fact that Avdija has multiple paths to get to where he can as a player is a positive sign. He is not too far off either. He already has the building blocks and fundamentals as a ball-handler, passer, and shooter. He just has to keep improving in these areas to get his offensive production close to his defensive capabilities.
Considering that this is Avdija’s contract season, he will be even more motivated to have the best season of his career. It would not be shocking to see him have a stat line of 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists at the end of the season. We can’t wait to see if it’s Deni Avdija or another Wizard who delivers the breakout performance of the season.