What should the Washington Wizards’ starting five look like if the goal is to max out wins this season? A very specific question for a very specific goal. The goal this season is probably not to max out wins, but to develop young players and land a lottery pick for 2024. But what if it was? Then what starting lineup should the Wizards deploy?
If the Wizards want to win the most games possible, I believe the following starting rotation will allow us to do that.
PG: Delon Wright
SG: Jordan Poole
SF: Corey Kispert
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Daniel Gafford
The above provides a good mix of defense and rebounding.
The biggest surprise on this list would be starting Delon Wright. I believe with Poole and Kispert on the floor you need to have a defensive specialist. Last season, Delon was that for the Wizards. On top of stellar defense, he provides solid offense as well. His number of assists per 36 minutes is comparable to Tyus Jones’. I trust his ability to run coach Unseld’s offense and provide excellent defense at the same time.
Jordan Poole starts at SG
The newly acquired Jordan Poole is a given in the starting lineup. He could even slot in the point guard role. But, I like Poole primarily as a scorer and slasher. He shouldn’t have to get everyone in their sets every time up the court. Besides, that’s not how the show is run in Unseld’s offense anyway. Poole will get plenty of opportunities to facilitate and be the primary ball handler, even as the shooting guard.
Corey Kispert should start at small forward
Corey Kispert instead of Deni Avdija at the starting three is possibly another contentious move. Because of the presence of Delon Wright in the starting lineup, I feel comfortable sacrificing some defense for the sake of a three-point shooter. Kispert should spread the defense out which will allow Poole and Kuzma room to go downhill and get some paint touches.
Avdija in the starting lineup with this group would clog up the paint too much. With Avdija and Gafford in the starting five, defenses would have two players they could sag off of and give them a leg up on stopping paint penetration. That would be too much to ask of Poole and Kuzma to overcome.
Kyle Kuzma at the four is pretty much a lock. He can play the three, but he’s better at the four. He rebounds, stretches out other fours, he’s long, athletic, and plays downhill.
Gafford at the center spot is also another lock. The Wizards have no one else who can start at the five is almost an understatement. But I also think Gafford is massively underrated. Gafford will benefit from having Poole feed him lob passes. That dynamic can work out well for the Wizards this season.
The Wizards can win 32 games with this starting lineup
This lineup, with a reasonable bench rotation, could win up to 32 games. I don’t think Unseld will use this group to start with, however. I expect Delon Wright to be traded before the deadline. And I anticipate seeing a revolving carousel of starting rotations, but I would be shocked if Poole and Kuz aren’t in all of them barring injury.
Therefore, a maximum of 25 wins this season may be more likely.