(May 8, 2015 - Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)
Coach: Randy Wittman
Starting line up: PG - John Wall SG - Bradley Beal SF - Otto Porter Jr. PF - Nene Hilario C - Marcin Gortat
Key Bench Players: Kris Humphries - PF Ramon Sessions - G Drew Gooden - PF/C Kelly Oubre Jr. - Wing Gary Neal - Wing
Key Loss: Paul Pierce
X Factor: Otto Porter Jr.
The Washington Wizards are a solid team. After sweeping a dismantled Toronto Raptors squad, they ran into a strong Atlanta Hawks team, losing 4-2 in the second round of the playoffs. While the Eastern Conference is still the weaker of the two conferences, teams in the middle, such as the Celtics, Bucks, and Pacers have become stronger and have added more depth to their rotations. These teams do pose a threat to the Wizards and might, in fact, push them down to a lower overall playoff seed.
While Wizards’ fans might have found last years playoff run to be a slight disappointment, we did see an emergence of former lottery pick Otto Porter Jr. After coming off two disappointing seasons, Porter averaged 10 points in the Wizards ten game playoff stint. While 10 points a game does not seem particularly high, they were far better than his regular season average. He is a good defender and the Wizards need him to now knock down shots at a constant rate in order to take the offensive burden off John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Speaking of these two, the Wizards might have one of the best backcourts (aside from the Splash Brothers) in Beal and Wall. They compliment each other well and will put up 40-50 points between the two of them on any given night. Last year, the team needed more offense outside of the backcourt. With Paul Pierce playing some stretch four, they needed more depth at the three spot in terms of offensive production.
During the offseason, the Wizards tried to address their offensive struggles at the three spot by adding depth with talented offensive role players like Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, and possible stretch four Jared Dudley. While they lost Paul Pierce, the Wizards are now younger and with these signings, indicate that they are looking into the future.
By drafting Kelly Oubre Jr., they also have a versatile 3-and-D wing who showed signs of a Jimmy Butler-like game in the NBA Summer League this year. They did not make any large splashes in the free agent market yet they made themselves much stronger and younger at the wings.
All this being said, the Wizards are still a solid team. Paul George is back, the Bulls have a new offense, Carmelo Anthony is healthy, the Bucks look like a team ready for a deep playoff push, and here are the Wizards, better, but still just a solid team. With their improvement of players at the two and three spot, I predict that they will grab a 6th or 7th spot in a stronger, healthier Eastern Conference. I predict them finishing with a record only one game over 500 and an early playoff exit.
If you are a Wizards fans, pray for Kevin Durant taking his talents to The District next year.