Welcome to Bullets Forever's 2015-16 Wizards season preview. As we count down the days until their opener on October 28 against the Orlando Magic, we will go over some of the main questions that the Wizards face. If you missed it, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of our preview.
Is this the year Bradley Beal makes the All-Star Game?
by Alan Jenkins
Last spring, we saw Beal produce his second-annual playoff surge. He averaged 25.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5 assists vs. the Hawks, up from his season averages of 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Brad was carrying a heavy load for the Wizards especially through games 2-4 of the series while John Wall was out with injury.
Beal's game has developed nicely over his three-year career and he has given us glimpses of super-stardom throughout. Besides his occasional off shooting nights, the main thing stopping Beal is injuries. Aside from his second season where he played in 73 games, Beal missed significant time in his rookie and third years where he played in just 56 and 63 games respectively.
Players take time to develop, and fans tend to get impatient when top-three picks don't become stars overnight. Beal has shown consistent development through the playoffs and showed during the playoffs he is capable of carrying a team. Remember, it took John Wall four years to make his first All-Star appearance. And just like Wall, if Beal can stay healthy (knock on wood), this is the year it all comes together and he makes his first All-Star game appearance.
So ... can Bradley Beal stay healthy for a full season?
by Courtney Ward
Bradley Beal hasn't played a full year of competitive basketball since his first and last year at Florida in 2011-2012. Maybe one of the consequences of being a one-and-done player is it affects body development and physical maturation, leading to more injuries.
Last season he was beset by two different injuries. Beal sat out two weeks in November with a wrist injury, followed by three long weeks in February after suffering his third stress injury in three seasons as the Wizards were trying to make a push for the top seed in the East. During the stretch while Beal was out, the Wizards lost 5 games out of 7, as they fell to the fifth seed. The Wizards didn't truly recover from Beal's absence until the playoffs.
We’ve seen the pain in his eyes, the tears on his face, and the undeniable zeal of his three-point jump shot. Wizards’ fans deserve a full season. Bradley Beal deserves a full season.
Is Bradley Beal serious about eliminating long twos this season?
by Jake Whitacre
Early signs say yes. Last year, 316 of Beal's 851 field goal attempts (37.1 percent) in the regular season came from the mid-range area. Through five preseason games, just 15 of Beal's 56 field goal attempts (26.8 percent) have come from the mid-range area. So while he hasn't eliminated long twos entirely (which would admittedly be almost impossible without turning him into Anthony Morrow) he's certainly taking steps in the right direction.
Better yet, he's taking strides in the right direction in firing away from beyond the arc. He's averaging 2.2 more three-point attempts per 36 minutes during the preseason than he did during the regular season last year and his three-point shooting percentage is up two percent from last year as well. If he can keep that up, that shift alone will make Beal a much more dangerous player this season.
However, it's worth noting Beal's free-throw rate is down from last season so far. He's only taken four free throw attempts through 63 minutes of preseason action. Hopefully that's just a byproduct of Beal trying to limit his exposure to contact in preseason games (not a bad choice considering he missed the start of last season because he hurt his wrist in a preseason game) but if it extends into the regular season, it will keep him from turning into an elite scorer.
How will Nene's role adjust as the Wizards embrace pace and space?
by Alan Jenkins
Nene averaged 11 points and 5.1 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game last year -- all career lows in seasons where the big man played at least 60 games. In the playoffs, his minutes started to dip in their first round series against the Toronto Raptors. When Toronto started playing small ball, the Wizards followed suit and Nene wound up being the odd man out, particularly in late-game situations.
As the league continues to change, players like Jared Dudley, Kris Humphries, and Drew Gooden are more attractive options at the power forward position as they can stretch the defense and knock down long jump shots. Nene does not have a consistent outside jump shot and loses effectiveness the further out you take him from the basket.
Now that Kevin Seraphin is in New York and the Wizards didn't sign a center to replace him, it's clear Nene will be used mostly as Marcin Gortat's backup this season. The good news is, the early preseason signs are promising. Nene is scoring more, he's shooting better from the field, his rebounding numbers are consistent with last season's numbers, and he has the best defensive rating on the team.
Yes, it's early, and the Wizards' schedule hasn't been all that formidable, but the shifting Nene to center seems to be the right move, and it could pay big dividends for the Wizards' second-unit this season.
How will the new playoff seeding format potentially impact the Wiz?
by Jon Munshaw
With the quasi-elimination of divisions this offseason, the playoffs will now be seeded based purely on record. Frankly, all this really changes for the Wiz's season outlook is that it doesn't have to worry about being better than Atlanta in particular.
This simply isn't a 60-win team. I'd be shocked if that happened, so the chances of grabbing a No. 1 or No. 2 seed are slim. Still, it should keep the Wizards on their toes. If the Cavs, Hawks and Bulls all play on about the same level as they did last year, that basically locks up the top three seeds in the conference.
With the Bucks and Pacers likely improving over last year, it's not ridiculous to say they could reach 48 wins each. The Wizards will just have to fight to stay on the top half of the playoff seedings to avoid having to face LeBron or Spurs East (Atlanta) in the first round of the playoffs.