NBA Off-Season Preview: Washington Wizards
Record (41-41) The 2015-16 season for the Washington Wizards would ultimately be considered a disappointment as they seemingly took steps backwards, rather than ahead. In comparison to the season prior, they not only dropped five more games off their record (46-36 to 41-41) but five rankings on the standings as they went from fifth to tenth place and missed the playoffs. The biggest question is what went wrong for this young team that, in the previous two seasons, were challenging high ranked teams on a consistent basis and would fall just games short of Eastern Conference Finals births. Washington has presented a backcourt that can go toe-to-toe with any backcourt in the league, as long as they can actually get on the floor. Injuries have been the main culprit to their star duo not being able to stay healthy and it’s warred on their chances to compete in the weak Eastern Conference. Last year, John Wall suffered a wrist injury in the playoffs which kept him out for the majority of the second round against the Atlanta Hawks. This season, his running mate Bradley Beal would be plagued by injuries. Dealing with continuous problems with his right leg and suffering a sprained shoulder made it tough for him, and Washington, to find a rhythm. However, a team can’t just rely on two guys to be successful. There are other reasons as to why the Wizards weren’t able to recreate what worked for them in years past. Although only a member of the team for a year, the lack of Paul Pierce’s veteran presence in the locker room left this team mentally fragile and searching for a leader with answers. They also would add what seemed to be an almost ‘cancer-like’ personality at the time into the fray with the trade acquisition of Markieff Morris. Without being able to maintain solid play throughout the lineup, they weren’t able to gain a sense of consistency throughout the season and it reared its ugly head. With the season now over, most teams in their position are looking towards the draft. However, Washington does not have a pick in this draft because it belongs to Atlanta (ironically). With that being said, if the Wizards can get healthy they truly are a few solid pieces, or one big piece, away from being strong competitors in the East. They have two priorities this off-season. They must resign Bradley Beal, even if he can be injury prone, and they need to get themselves a sit-down with the best free agent available, Kevin Durant. Yes there have been signs pointing to it being unlikely Durant signs with his hometown team, but it wouldn’t hurt Washington to give it a shot. A player of his caliber would catapult this team into the hierarchy of the NBA and Durant would have more than one proven option to rely on at his disposal. This would make Washington box office material but as stated earlier, they are probably lower on his list than they would hope to be. Even if they aren’t able to get the hometown kid, this shouldn’t deter them from trying to get a scoring threat on the wing. There will be guys like Chandler Parsons, Nicolas Batum, and Luol Deng who can fill this role but of the three, Batum will probably be the best choice. Before Batum suffered injuries late in the season, the Charlotte Hornets relied heavily upon his skill set. A player that can be placed on defense against the opponent’s best player, the ability to score the ball in a myriad of ways, and being able to get his teammates involved to the point where he could be a threat to record triple double like numbers on any given night, makes him immensely valuable in a league that has an obsession with small ball. They may also want to cut ties with Nene, who has declined each year over the last couple of years and doesn’t give this team valuable minutes and sometimes effort. A free agent of Joakim Noah’s caliber could give this team new life and a tougher mentality on the defensive end. He doesn’t require plays to be called for him and can always find ways to affect the game. His passing and defensive abilities make him that much more valuable than Nene, and the Wizards should have him rated highly on their free agent wish list.
NBA Off-Season Previews
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics – Brooklyn Nets – New York Knicks – Philadelphia 76ers – Toronto Raptors Central Division: Chicago Bulls – Cleveland Cavaliers – Detroit Pistons – Indiana Pacers – Milwaukee Bucks Southeast Division: Atlanta Hawks – Charlotte Hornets – Miami Heat – Orlando Magic – Washington Wizards Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks – Houston Rockets – Memphis Grizzlies – New Orleans Pelicans – San Antonio Spurs Northwest Division: Denver Nuggets – Minnesota Timberwolves – Oklahoma City Thunder – Portland Trail Blazers – Utah Jazz Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors – Los Angeles Clippers – Los Angeles Lakers – Phoenix Suns – Sacramento Kings