Why The Wizards Could Improve On Last Season’s 43 Wins
It seems as if we’ve only just stopped talking about the NBA offseason. Yet the 2018-19 season is mere weeks away at this point, with preseason beginning as soon as September 28th for a few teams. NBA speculation is about to heat up quickly, and we’re getting things started for the DC area with a few words on the possible win total for the coming season.
In 2017-18, the Wizards scraped into the playoffs with a 43-39 record. It was another in a series of seasons that felt disappointing – this time thanks in large part to a lengthy injury absence for John Wall and various locker room issues. Now, once again, Washington will be heading into a season with talent that can easily result in a top-three or -four seed in the East, but a roster that still lends itself to legitimate questions and doubts.
There are without a doubt legitimate reasons to believe the Wizards will be worse this coming season, and could even miss the playoffs in certain scenarios. The optimistic outlook is a little bit more logical however, so we’re making a few points in support of the idea that the Wizards will improve upon last season’s 43 wins and make the postseason with relative ease.
John Wall Is Healthy
There is some concern that John Wall may have gained some weight over the offseason, but that was the case a year ago as well and he shed it all before training camp. More importantly, he appears to be healthy after missing roughly half the season in 2017-18. Wall is still one of the best point guards in the Eastern Conference at his best, and in fact Jonathan Tjarks – one of the sharper basketball writers working today – just ranked Wall and Beal second in a look at the best backcourt duos in the conference. Wizards fans would be understandable in growing frustrated with this perfect-on-paper duo underachieving, but the talent is still there, which is easy to forget after a season like the last one.
Austin Rivers Is Good
Austin Rivers has been the subject of a lot of negative narratives. In high school he was overhyped; at Duke he was a one-man show; in the NBA he underachieved, and with the Clippers specifically he only hung on because his father was in charge. Or at least, these are the arguments of his detractors. Through it all however, Rivers has remained a very talented basketball player, and he’s capable of being a very strong backup point guard – certainly better than any options Washington had last season. His acquisition seemed to earn a collective chuckle and eye roll from NBA media, but the simple fact is that talent-wise, he’s an upgrade.
Chips On Their Shoulders
It’s a little early still for NBA projections, but the early buzz is that no one believes in the Wizards. One early look that took a betting angle predicted a 41-41 record despite a listed over/under of 44.5 wins. Jonathan Tjarks, in listing the backcourt as the East’s second best, said flatly that Wall and Beal should be better than they are. And as we get close to the season, all of the Eastern Conference talk is going to surround the up-and-coming Celtics, the Raptors with Kawhi Leonard, and the young 76ers. There’s just going to be a lot of dismissal, and it should give the Wizards a chip on their shoulder that ought to be good for a few wins.
Dwight Howard Is An Upgrade
This feels almost blasphemous to write. It’s been a while since Dwight Howard has made a meaningful impact on a playoff team. However, when you consider that Marcin Gortat averaged 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds on 51.8% shooting last season, and Howard averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and shot 55.5%, the upgrade is hard to deny. The counter would be that Howard has been a locker room problem in the past, but Gortat fairly openly had issues with the roster just last season anyway. Howard represents a fresh start from a chemistry perspective, and a clear boost on the court, even if he doesn’t have the best reputation at this point.
Troy Brown Can Contribute
Oregon’s Troy Brown wasn’t the most highly touted rookie in the June draft, but he’s a versatile player who can contribute off the bench in his first season. In fact, there’s a chance he was one of the steal. To give you an idea of how he’s viewed around the league, his fellow players gave him some Rookie of the Year votes in the annual rookie survey. That doesn’t mean Brown is carrying this team to the Eastern Conference Finals, but he’s a third new asset, along with Rivers and Howard, who may have been slightly overlooked.