The Washington Wizards finished the 2016-2017 season with a decent record of 49 wins and 33 losses, propelling them to the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Wall and Beal turned into a two-headed monster in the playoffs, soaring through the Hawks, only to fall short to the Celtics in a 7 game series. That’s the last season in Wizards fan’s recollections, as this prior season was deemed too catastrophic to even embrace. Although, the Wizards maintained a winning record by winning 43 games and losing 39, and they managed to last 6 games with the one seed in the east. The expectations were way higher for the Wizards before the season started, but due to John Wall’s injury, the hostility between teammates in the locker room, and an early playoff exit in the first round. The 2017-2018 season became “A season to forget”.
Luckily this Wizard’s franchise wasn’t content with their team’s effort to contend last season. They traded away their starting center, Marcin Gortat, due to the issues that ensued between him and John Wall. Marcin Gortat, who averaged 8.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game, was an aging player on the decline of his career. The Wizard’s GM did a terrific job pulling off a trade to land Austin Rivers for a low-value player like Gortat. Austin Rivers averaged 15.1 points and 4.0 assists showcasing that he is capable of producing starting caliber numbers in case either Wall or Beal face major injuries. And to have a player of his skill-set coming off the bench is a wonderful luxury that the Wizards can now afford to have. But The Wizard’s offseason didn’t just end there, they made sure to bolster the roster into an Eastern Conference contender.
Free agency came rolling around and The Washington Wizard’s definitely needed to make some signings. They were lacking a starting canter because of the Gortat trade, they also could have used some help defensively, and they needed more help from their second unit. And they addressed all of those issues within the team by signing two key players, Dwight Howard and Jeff Green.
Dwight Howard was an amazing signing for the Wizard’s because he just came off a season where he was an All-Star snub. Dwight was arguably the best player in his team, outperforming Kemba Walker who was an All-Star last season. He is also a clear upgrade over Gortat! Last season Dwight averaged 16.6 points 12.5 rebounds 1.6 blocks per game, almost doubling Gortat’s last season stats. Not to mention the defense he will supply to an already defensively stable team when everyone is healthy. Dwight is also a player who is looking to expand his game. He is in the gym working on his free throws, his three-point shooting, and just becoming an overall well-rounded player. With his physic and John Wall’s playmaking, the game will come easier to Howard this season. There is no doubt in my mind that Dwight Howard can score above 20 points and still average a double-double with rebounds next season with this Wizard’s team.
Jeff Green was also an amazing pickup for the Wizards. Throughout the season while the Cavs collapsed in front of our eyes, Jeff Green was one of the few players to keep performing at his best. It was his mental toughness that helped him keep on fighting in order to make a finals appearance. It’s his experience and toughness that will come in handy down the stretch for the Wizards. Especially in must-win situations, they will need a player like him to keep the team from falling apart. Also, it helps to have another guy on the bench that could score in the double digits. Jeff Green averaged about 11 points per game last year while performing even better defensively. They couldn’t have gotten anything better for the veteran’s minimum so this was a great signing as well.
This might be one of their last shots at being a serious threat to winning it all. They have no cap space to make any significant moves, and the good players that they signed for pennies on the dollar are going to want to sign wherever they could get the most money. They have a great team at the moment, lead by two bonified All-Stars in this league. If we look at John Wall’s season stats from the season prior to the injury, he averaged around 23 points and 11 assists per game. It’s not like John Wall is just pushing to replicate those stats again, instead, he wants to perform at an even higher level. Recently John Wall stated that he is striving to become MVP this season. Alongside Beal who averaged 22.6 points 4.4 rebounds 4.5 assists in Wall’s absence last season. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are quality starters who provide good offense, and even better defense. And now with the addition of Howard, I truly believe they have the most talented starting line up in the east.
The Wizards could finish anywhere between the 2nd seed and the 5th seed in this weakened Eastern Conference. The Celtics will probably have a better regular season than the Wizards, but that could be credited to their play style. I do not think Kyrie is as good as John Wall, and Gordon Hayward isn’t much better than Beal either. Of course, the Celtics have more depth with players like Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris coming off of the bench, but as long as The Wizards have their starters in the game they will be fine. And with players like Rivers, Green, Kelly Oubre Jr, and Mahinmi coming off the bench they shouldn’t lose out too bad in that aspect. It is important to compare these two teams because The Celtics will prove to be their biggest challenge in the offseason, and with some spectacular performances from Wall, Beal, and Dwight, they could come out victorious. Realistically there is no chance that they could beat whoever comes out of the West, but it is very much possible that the Wizards make a finals appearance.
Baseline Times Contributor