For the first time in a while, the Washington Wizards are entering an NBA season without any expectations to compete. The primary focus of the 2023-24 season will be development rather than winning games. However, how the Wizards perform on the court still matters. It will be important to find out what the Wizards have, who is a long-term building block, and who is expendable. Therefore, the offensive and defensive efficiency of the team, and how each player contributes to them will be a key determining factor for decision-making in the future.
How will the 2023-24 Washington Wizards look on each end of the floor? Is there more offensive or defensive talent on the team?
The answer to that question depends on the rotation choices of the coaching staff. The Wizards bench is riddled with one-way players and whether offense-first or defense-first players get the nod in certain rotational battles will be decisive on whether offense or defense will be stronger.
The players that are certainly going to be a part of the rotation next season are Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Delon Wright, Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, and Daniel Gafford. This group of seven should play the most minutes to start the season.
There are only two good defenders in the projected rotation
Among this group, Wright and Avdija stand out as the only good defenders, with Kuzma being the only other above-average defender. Any combination of Poole, Jones, and Kispert on the floor together will make it difficult to defend at a respectable level. Considering that the team needs Jones’ playmaking, Poole’s scoring, and Kispert’s shooting desperately, at least two of them will be on the court together for extended periods of time. In fact, it looks like the trio will start games together to begin the season. This creates a ton of speed, athleticism, and size problems defensively.
Offensively, there is more hope for this group. Poole and Kuzma can carry the scoring burden, with Kispert providing shooting, Jones providing playmaking, and Gafford acting as the roll man. Avdija and Wright are below-average offensive players for their positions, but the starting five may have enough punch to keep up with some of the better teams if the shots are falling.
The offense could go up a notch if Landry Shamet, Danilo Gallinari, and Mike Muscala are also part of the rotation. The shooting and floor spacing provided by these three players will help open up driving lanes and make it easier for the rest of the team. The additional scoring versatility Gallinari and Muscala can provide from the backup frontcourt positions can be especially valuable on this limited team.
Bilal Coulibaly is the swing piece for team defense
One of the few ways the Wizards’ defense can overachieve will be rookie Bilal Coulibaly’s performance. Washington will likely slowly integrate him into the rotation with him playing more in the second half of the season. If Coulibaly can maintain the defensive prowess he displayed in the Summer League, he could make a significant positive impact on team defense. He can protect the rim, guard multiple positions, and provide defensive flexibility for coach Wes Unseld Jr.
Coulibaly has the potential to be the best defender and rim protector on this team, and if he can be that in his rookie season, the Wizards defense could surprise teams.
However, any 19-year-old rookie having that kind of impact is improbable. The same can be said about Ryan Rollins and Johnny Davis. The two second-year players have a chance to be defensive contributors next year but how ready they are and how much they will play remain to be seen.
As things stand, the Wizards project to be a better offensive team than a defensive group. Their one-way players skew more offensive-minded than defensive. That could obviously change with rotation decisions or trades, but it would be very surprising if the Wizards weren’t one of the worst defensive teams in the league. And it seems like there may be more offensive upside to start the season.