Washington is heading into the 2016-2017 regular season at a crossroads. If the team can’t show improvement after last season, they could be headed for a major shakeup. Obviously, the team goes as John Wall goes, but if the Wizards are going to take the next step, other players need to step up as well.
Here’s a look at some of the team’s role players who have the widest range of outcomes this season and how they can affect the Wizards’ outcome this season.
Best case - After four injury plagued seasons, Beal proves he’s worth the max deal the Wizards gave him over the summer. His numbers go up across the board, he meshes with John Wall, and most importantly, he stays healthy. As a result, he earns a nod to the All-Star Game and the Wizards’ offense finally becomes formidable.
Worst case - Beal gets hurt again and the team’s offense struggles. When he is healthy, he throws off the rhythm of the offense and the team continues to go nowhere. In other words, a repeat of last year.
Best case - Otto has a breakout year, and flourishes in Scott Brooks’ system. He finds his scoring touch and becomes one of the team’s best defenders, helping him turn into a candidate for Most Improved Player.
Worst Case - Otto still shows inexperience, loses minutes to Kelly Oubre. As a result, his value plummets right as he hits free agency this summer.
Best case - He exceeds every expectation on him, becomes the team’s sixth man, and keeps the team running smoothly if Bradley Beal gets hurt. His smooth play earns him a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge and a shot at making an All-Rookie team.
Worst case - He struggles to adapt to the NBA game and winds up losing minutes to Marcus Thornton and Jarell Eddie. We’ll say “Well, it’s still his rookie season” a lot.
Best case - Kelly builds on his rookie season, becomes one of the team’s best wing players and defenders and earns consideration for the Rising Stars Challenge thanks to his efficient play on both ends.
Worst case - Oubre doesn’t produce off the bench, he loses minutes to other, unproven or unqualified players and people start to wonder if he’s a lost cause in DC.
Best case - Burke follows in the steps of Antonio Daniels, a high draft pick who finds his role in the NBA as a dependable backup point guard. His outside shooting and ability to get hot quickly helps bail the Wizards out when the offense slows down. As a result, he earns a nice contract over the summer to become the Wizards’ long-term option behind John Wall.
Worst case - He becomes a liability off the bench, just like he did in Utah. He doesn’t score enough to overcome his defensive liabilities and he can’t figure out how to make the players around him better. He winds up on another team or overseas next season.
Best case - Mahinmi’s rim protection helps the Wizards become one of the best defenses in the NBA next season. Thanks to John Wall and Tomas Satoransky, his offensive game improves as well and he becomes one of the best backup centers in the NBA, or maybe even works his way into the starting lineup.
Worst case - He tails off after a contract year in Indiana. His defense slips back as he gets older and struggles to adapt to a new system. The bench’s defense becomes a major liability and forces the starters to log extra minutes to keep the team competitive.
Scott Brooks (Yes, he counts)
Best case - Scott Brooks helps the Wizards reestablish themselves as one of the best defensive teams in the league, like he did when he was in Oklahoma City. He also shows he can put together a more nuanced offense as he helps John Wall and Bradley Beal flourish into the players people always thought they could be together. He also helps the team’s young players like Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, and Tomas Satoransky develop into stable contributors that help push the Wizards toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Worst case - As the season goes along, it becomes clear Brooks isn’t nearly as good at developing talent when he doesn’t have superstar talent to work with. Wall and Beal stagnate as they struggle to find harmony on the court, which leads to confusion and miscommunication on the defensive end. By the All-Star break, it’s clear the Wizards are stuck with a coach and a team that are solidly in the middle of the pack, or worse.