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Wizards projected to finished 8th in Eastern Conference according to ESPN forecast

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Washington made several moves to change their bench for the 2016-17 season, but it wasn’t enough to impress ESPN, according to new projections from their Forecast Panel.

The panel projects the Wizards will finish 41-41 next season, the same record they finished with last season. The record gives them eighth-best record in the conference, one game ahead of the Knicks and Bulls, and two games behind the seventh-ranked Hornets.

This isn’t the first time the panel has projected the Wizards to stay in place. Last summer, the panel projected Washington would finish with the same record they finished with in 2014-15.

It’s a tough pill for fans to swallow after a summer where the team has been a lot of moves, but it’s hard to justify moving them up very far based solely on their new additions. As much as the new coaching staff and new players like Ian Mahinmi, Tomas Satoransky, and Andrew Nicholson should help, the reality is they need more from their starters to take a big step up in the standings.

Until Washington can get a full season from Bradley Beal along with more improvement from Otto Porter and Markieff Morris, it’s going to be hard to take a dramatic step forward. And even then, you have to hope it’s more than enough to offset whatever decline Marcin Gortat sees this season as he ages, and possibly whatever rust John Wall has to shake off after his offseason surgery.

To be clear, there’s still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Washington’s outlook next season. But at the same time, it’s hard to fault anyone who has their reservations based on what they’ve seen so far.