Before the start of each new season, we come out with a list of predictions about the upcoming Wizards season. Most of the time, we get too optimistic and wind up being very disappointed (especially last season) but every now and then, we get something right.
Feel free to add your own predictions or tell us why the ones we made are wrong in the comments.
1. 2016-2017 Otto Porter will be the best Otto Porter yet
Otto Porter is a rare breed of NBA player. He isn't flashy, he doesn't have an ego, but he works hard and it shows. Every year, he has been better than the last, and it isn’t just because he’s played more minutes. Look at how his per 36 numbers have steadily gone up as well.
All of these efficiency and nominal increases have happened with increasing minutes each year as well. Many of his advanced stats have gotten better each year, too; PER, WS/48, BPM, and VORP have all increased year over year. If history and intuition tells me anything, we are going to see a really productive Otto Porter this year - the best Otto Porter we've seen yet. - Sam Rinde
2. Otto Porter will sign a deal worth over $70 million this summer
If the preseason was any indication, Otto Porter will probably do a lot of the same things he did last season. There will be games where he’s blindingly efficient and makes plays all over the court, and there will be games where he just doesn’t make an impact.
Still, he’ll take a step forwards because it’s hard to see a scenario where Porter takes a step back. He’ll have more experience, a new coach, and an understanding of what the stakes are in a contract season. Even if he has to wrestle for playing time with Kelly Oubre, well, it isn’t like he isn’t used to having his minutes yanked around, so he’ll probably weather whatever happens this season just fine..
When it’s all said and done, Porter will do enough to show he’s worth a long-term investment. And besides, the Wizards will likely already be capped out this summer which means their best course of action is to overpay Porter, since they won’t have the means to replace him. - Jake Whitacre
3. John Wall posts a career-high true shooting percentage
It’s tough to predict how players will come back from surgery on both knees, but I think this will be a relatively efficient year for Wall. His true shooting was around 52 percent in 2013-14 and 2014-15 before dipping to 51 percent last year. However, his steady improvement as a three point shooter combined with Scott Brooks’ desire to challenge Wall to get to the line more, not to mention the fact that Wall should be pain-free for the first time in years, will hopefully lead to a good uptick in efficiency. - L.W.
4. Wall will make First Team All-Defense this season
Wall took a large step back last season as a defender with an increased offensive load because of injuries to key players on the roster and the sudden implementation of a high paced offense with very little substance.
With the emphasis back on defense now, I think Wall reverts to his old habits of hounding ball handlers and using his athleticism to sneak back into plays for steals and blocks. He’s a menace at the rim, which is a ridiculous thing for a point guard. And the Wizards should really be able to take advantage of that with their aggressive defensive system under Scott Brooks. - Mike Sykes
5. Wall will finish in the top-five in MVP voting
If you take Wall off of last year’s roster, the Wizards would have been a 25-30 win team. Wall remains one of the most overlooked All-Stars in the NBA on a national level, even after three straight All-Star game appearances. That all changes this year. Wall will post similar numbers to last year but his play will not go unnoticed thanks to the Wizards winning more games in a watered-down Eastern Conference. As a result, Wall will get more notoriety, launching him into the top-five of the MVP race. - Alan Jenkins
6. Wall will have at least seven triple-doubles this year.
Us Wizards fans know that Wall is a superstar. The average NBA fan still hasn’t caught onto that. Wall recorded five triple-doubles last season and was just a hair short of being the 11th player in NBA history to average 20 points and 10 assists for a season. John Wall will burst onto the national scene this year not for his scoring but because he’s be logging triple-doubles at a higher rate. Oh, and more triple-doubles likely means more MVP votes (see above). - Alan Jenkins
7. Bradley Beal will have a 50+ point game this season
As hard it is to believe that Beal signed the fourth richest contract this summer, it is even harder to believe that he has not scored more than 40 points in a single game. He came close when he dropped a career high 37 points against the Memphis Grizzles in 2014, and a playoff career high of 34 points against the Atlanta Hawks during the 2015 playoffs.
With his skill set and his ability to takeover games, Brad should’ve had 40+ point nights dating back to his rookie year. That is why I’m predicting that Brad will not only score 40+ points multiple times this season, but he will also score 50+ at least once.
This is a big year for Brad. He has to prove that he is worth the $128 million investment and that he is an All-Star caliber player. The best way to do that is to simply get buckets. I look forward to watching Bradley torch the 76ers with 55 points on Nov. 16th. - Jesse Lyles
8. Beal will appear in his first All-Star game
Bradley Beal has a “do or die” season ahead of him and has the max contract to show for it. The way Beal looked in the last two preseason contests is a good sign for big things to come. If he can stay healthy for 65-70 games and average 20-4-5, he’ll be a lock for an All-Star nod. - Fimihan Oshin
9. Beal will play in at least 70 games this season
I’m knocking on all wooden objects around me while simultaneously cringing as I type this. - Alan Jenkins
10. Ian Mahinmi will average more fourth quarter minutes than Marcin Gortat
Judging by the starting lineups throughout the preseason, it seems pretty safe to assume that Marcin Gortat will start at center over Ian Mahinmi. The question still remains, however, who will finish games?
Scott Brooks made it perfectly clear at media day that the Wizards would be a defensive minded team this year and try to recover from a poor defensive showing last season. Marcin Gortat may be the Wizards’ best offensive center, especially in the pick and roll, but he doesn’t bring with him the defensive versatility and presence that Ian Mahinmi does. Expect to see Mahinmi consistently playing more fourth quarter minutes than Gortat for this reason (when he comes back from the torn meniscus, obviously). - Mike Knapp
11. Mahinmi and Gortat play less than 15 minutes together all season (and not because either of them gets injured)
The Wizards have a lot of centers and power forwards, so there really isn’t any reason for Brooks to experiment with twin towers-style lineups. While he did like to play lineups with two big men in Oklahoma City, Gortat and Mahinmi will only share the court together in very weird or special circumstances, if they do at all. At least, I hope that’s how it goes. - L.W.
12. Gortat will be shipped before the trade deadline
Ok before you bring your pitchforks out take a look at this:
- Washington signed a 30 year old center to a $64 million deal
- Gortat still has three years left on his deal
- Washington will have little to no cap space next summer
- Mahinmi will cut into Gortat’s playing time when he returns from his injury.
At some point, something has to give. - Fimihan Oshin
13. Markieff Morris will become the team’s most important player outside of John Wall
Say what you want about Bradley Beal and the potential season that he can have, but Morris has the ability to become a matchup problem for other teams on a consistent basis. He is still athletic enough to guard bigger wing players (i.e. Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Paul George) but he is big enough to handle traditional 4’s as well.
That said, his real value will be his ability to hit open shots and stretch the floor. Teams with traditional 4’s will have a difficult time contesting his shooting and he could further create problems if Coach Brooks decide to use him as a small ball 5. - Marcus Atkinson Sr.
14. Morris will lead the team in technicals
With Nene gone, Morris will need to provide toughness for this team. John Wall and Marcin Gortat have been known to get T’d up for arguing calls but it will be Markieff Morris that leads this team in technicals. Morris won’t back down from whoever he has to guard and he isn’t afraid of getting physical; which will probably result in quite a few technical fouls this season. - Alan Jenkins
15. Tomas Satoransky becomes the primary backup for both guard positions
After committing around $46 million dollars to the power forward and center positions this season, the Wizards are bit thin on the wing. The team presumably hopes Trey Burke will be John Wall’s main backup, with Tomas Satoransky and Marcus Thornton splitting time at the two guard spot.
For the long 82 game grind, it makes sense to utilize a larger rotation. However, much like last year with Ramon Sessions, I suspect the coaches will lean more and more on Satoransky as time goes on, having him play both guard positions and reducing the roles of Thornton and Burke to mostly garbage time minutes. Unfortunately, this says as much about the Wizards’ other backup guards as it does about Satoransky. - L.W.
16. Satoransky will enter the Dunk Contest
I don’t have too much to explain here. The art speaks for itself.
If Satoransky has 40 dunks (which I realize sounds absolutely ridiculous as I type this sentence) then he should definitely enter the Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend in New Orleans. We don’t need an Aaron Gordon and Zach Levine rematch. The world needs to witness Satoransky dunk over G-Wiz while wearing a blind-fold and the Chef Curry 2s. - Jesse Lyles
17. Kelly Oubre will shoot 35 percent from three this year
The Wizards offense is the biggest question they have coming into this season because, despite how good John Wall is at setting shooters up, the Wizards have very little proven quality shooting on the team. Bradley Beal and Marcus Thornton are the only members on the team who have shot over 35 percent from deep over their careers.
So for this offense to be good, someone has to step up as a shooter. Otto Porter is the top candidate to do so, but I think Kelly Oubre has a very good opportunity to as well. He shot 32 percent last year in limited opportunities, which is below league average. But playing with John Wall opened up a lot of things for him. According to NBAwowy’s stats database, Oubre shot 43 percent from deep with Wall on the court last season.
Oubre won’t be a starter, so minutes with Wall will be hard to come by. But in those spot minutes, I expect him to produce. Plus, the Wizards have more shot creation ability than they’ve ever had before. There should be plenty of opportunity there. - Mike Sykes
18. Marcus Thornton will play more minutes than Trey Burke
Trading for Burke was a decent gamble by Ernie Grunfeld, especially since it ended up being for essentially nothing. However, the Wizards will feel the drop-off from him to Ramon Sessions fairly quickly this season. Unlike Sessions, who had a knack for getting to the rim and getting fouled, two things which proved extremely important for keeping the Wizards offense afloat, Burke does not really have any tangible skills that set him apart. He’s a mediocre shooter, can’t get to the line, is not a great passer, is a net negative on the defensive end, and just hasn’t been very good throughout his career. He is still only 23, so there is time for improvement, but nothing he has shown so far indicates he can improve enough to be a reliable backup for John Wall.
Thornton is not a particularly great option either, but at least has a tangible skill that makes him playable for 12-15 minutes a game behind Bradley Beal. If he can shoot his career percentage from beyond the arc, his flaws should not kill the Wizards too much, especially since he will not be handling the ball like Burke would. Of course, Tomas Satoransky, who had an impressive preseason, would take over the ball-handling duties in the second unit in this case, and while he still has some flaws of his own, his upside creates a much higher variance of output, increasing the chance of getting production off the bench. - Akbar Naqvi
19. Sheldon McClellan cracks the Wizards’ rotation
Right now, it looks like Marcus Thornton and Tomas Satoransky will share time at backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal. But Thornton is far from a reliable option, and Satoransky is still a question mark as a shooter. Beal has also been known to, you know, miss a couple games here and there. The uncertainty at the position, combined with McClellan’s scoring ability, could give the rookie a chance to get consistent minutes later in the season. - Mike Knapp
20. The Wizards sweep the Hawks in the regular season
I’m going to keep predicting it until it comes true. But really, the Hawks aren’t obviously better than the Wizards this year… - L.W.
21. The Wizards will sweep the Celtics in the regular season
Horford had been incredibly intrigued with Wizards and there was a time that he preferred Washington's talent over Boston's. Wild finish.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 2, 2016
Joke’s on you, Al Horford. - Sam Rinde
22. The second unit will struggle to score, forcing the team to make a move at the trade deadline
It’s looking like the reserve unit will be some combination of Burke/Thornton-Satoransky-Oubre-Nicholson-Mahinmi. At times during the preseason, Burke has been unsure if he should shoot the ball or set his teammates up. That likely leaves Satoransky as the setup man for the second unit. Like last year, we’ve seen what happens when there isn’t a pass-first point guard orchestrating the offense. Players tend to stand around and often take forced shots. As it stands, I don’t think there’s enough fire power with this second unit and the front office will be forced to make a move at the trade deadline. - Alan Jenkins
23. John Wall will have less assists this season, but it will get a good thing for the Wizards
Wall’s assist numbers have gone up each of the past four years, but despite his progress, the Wizards’ offense has been stagnant during that time. As Wall grew, the rest of the team’s passing skills atrophied around him, forcing him to log more minutes and be more ball-dominant to keep the Wizards afloat.
If the Wizards are going to take a step forward, they need to find ways to lower Wall’s minutes and playmaking burden. Based on the preseason returns, it looks like they’re well on their way. Tomas Satoransky and Trey Burke look like they should be able to do enough to keep the pressure off Wall to have to play 36 minutes per game, and Bradley Beal has taken another step forward as a distributor. In the three games he played with Wall in the preseason, Beal averaged 6 assists per game, which is well more than Beal or anyone else has averaged playing alongside Wall since his rookie season.
Ideally, this should have a trickle-down effect on Wall and the team. Wall will be fresher and more effective with fewer touches, and the offense will be harder to guard if there are more points of attack. It should be a win-win for everyone involved, just don’t be surprised when Wall’s raw assist per game numbers dip a bit as a result.
24. Washington will win the division for the first time since 1979
The season Washington won the Atlantic crown the team made it all the way to the Finals. Let’s hope this squad will duplicate this 37 years later. - Fimihan Oshin
25. Washington will finish top-five in defensive rating
With Randy Wittman’s attempt to create a more offensive-minded attack last year failing spectacularly, Scott Brooks decided to get back to the basics and emphasize what got the Wizards to the playoffs in ‘13-14 and ‘14-15 during training camp. Not only does Brooks have a strong track record as a defensive coach, but Washington’s personnel is very much suited to a defense-first approach.
All of this will depend on whether John Wall will be able to expend enough energy on the defensive end to get back to the All-NBA defense level he showed two years ago, now that he is healthy and fully-focused. The same starting lineup that spearheaded a team that finished 5th in defensive rating post-all star break after trading for Markieff Morris will be back, with a much-strengthened interior once Ian Mahinmi returns from injury. Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky, despite being rookies, possess the tools to be very strong defensive players in a cohesive system. If everything goes correctly, the Wizards will have mostly plus defenders on the floor all 48 minutes, which is usually a ticket to a very strong overall defense. - Akbar Naqvi
26. The Wizards will return to the second round of the playoffs
I haven’t written too much on predictions and the previews, so I’ll get my peace out on this one.
I’ll admit that I’ve written many, if not most of the “not-so-positive” pieces this past offseason, whether it’s about Beal turning down the invitation to the USA Basketball men’s national team, low player rankings, and low franchise rankings.
I even wrote about the annual price increases and have repeated the same semi-cynical line: our market can support higher prices in theory but the culture and cynicism of the D.C. area will never let prices go to New York City/Chicago/Los Angeles levels. It won’t.
But back to basketball. Many preseason rankings aren’t expecting the Wizards to do much this year because the personnel hasn’t changed much at the top. That is true.
However, they conveniently forget that Scott Brooks and his coaching staff is known for player development. Most of Washington’s key players are not in their primes yet. They are certainly in line to improve as the season progresses.
Another thing the national media also conveniently forgets is that the Wizards were one of the NBA’s best defensive teams after Markieff Morris was acquired. The entire starting lineup from the end of last season is back, intact. Is it as talented as the Golden State Warriors’ lineup? No. But I think a Wall-Beal-Porter-Morris-Gortat starting five will be better than most starting lineups in the league.
The bench has a number of new additions, but it is noticeably younger than units we’ve seen in the past. Brooks has been able to get many younger players to show their worth for the Thunder like James Harden, Reggie Jackson, and Steven Adams. Perhaps Kelly Oubre or Andrew Nicholson could be the next success stories in that regard for D.C.
I get last year was a down year, but with an improved coaching staff that is known for developing younger players, the Wizards should be more than just an 8th seed in the East. And once they’re in the playoffs, they will not be an easy first-round matchup. - Albert Lee