Basketball

With Heightened Expectations, Will Wizards Improve or Implode?

For all intents and purposes, the 2016-17 season for the Washington Wizards was nothing short of a success.  You have to remember where we were just one season ago.

Let’s take a trip back down memory lane shall we?

Heading into training camp last season, do you remember what the big story of the moment? John Wall and Bradley Beal “not getting along” and Wall calling out Beal for his play after signing his new max-deal earlier in the off-season.  Remember that?  Remember the questions we asked?

How can we play Beal all that money?

Can he even stay healthy for a full season?

How is this gonna work…they obviously dont get along?

Funny what one breakthrough season can do for the mindset of a team and its fan base.

Remember the last game at the newly-renamed Capital One Arena?

 

Let us not forget!

By the end of the season, the NBA was put on notice.  Wall and Beal are here to stay and are going to be a tough out against any team they encounter on a game-by-game basis.  The biggest key of the transformation of the franchise in one short season was the hiring of Scott Brooks as head coach.  Now, in my opinion, he isn’t in the upper tier of head coaches in the NBA but he can damn sure coach.  Having been coached by Randy Wittman for their whole NBA careers, having a real-deal NBA caliber offensive mind at the helm was huge in the development of not just Wall and Beal, but players such as Otto Porter and Markieff Morris flourished offensively.  The starting five – which includes mainstay but maligned Marcin Gortat – became one of the top units in the sport and showed that they could compete with anyone.

Yet with all those positives there are obvious issues fundamentally with the roster as the bench last season was so bad that GM Ernie Grunfeld had to waste another draft pick to acquire some sort of scoring prowess in Bojan Bogdanovich  – who subsequently left for “greener pastures” in free agency this offseason – solely because of a trash-@$$ bench.

 

 

In some strange way, this team seems to win in spite of the moves made by Grunfeld over the years.  Last off-season was doubly egregious with overpaying Ian Mahinmi when no one would offer him anything close to the deal he eventually signed for, the other signings of Andrew Nicholson (remember him) and Trey Burke were just god awful and crippled the cap for this off-season.  Again, the team had to acquire cheap talent such as Mike Scott, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks, Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks can help the depleted unit.  Continued growth of Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre along with fan favorite Jason Smith doing what he does best, the unit has to be better than last season.

Lastly, health will be paramount.  The team just can’t afford any major injuries to Wall and Beal.  Until someone from the bench gives the quality NBA-level effort consistently to spell the starters, we are just going to have to watch those guys wear themselves out eventually as that is indeed what happened in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season vs the Celtics.

The Wizards have been pegged as a third or fourth seeded team by most prognostications  but I tend to see them as a real contender for second seed and the Eastern Conference championship.  Considering the growth of Wall and Beal with Brooks for a second season, continuity will matter with all the changes in Boston and Cleveland.  Those teams are more talented than the Wizards but anything less than challenging for the conference crown would, and should, be a huge disappointment.

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