WASHINGTON - Ask anyone who knows the league and they’ll tell you the best teams all play out West. That became increasingly true over the summer as six All-Stars from Eastern Conference teams shifted places, including three moving to the Western Conference.
Everyone around the Wizards made moves. The Cavaliers and the Celtics dealt their two All-Star point guards to each other. Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Carmelo Anthony eventually was, too. Jimmy Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It was Washington, for once, that stood pat amongst the frolic and turmoil. And they’re banking on that consistency to help them improve upon one of the greatest seasons in franchise history from last year.
“The continuity that we have this summer from the guys that we’ve signed back, it’s great,” Head Coach Scott Brooks said.
So much of the league now is in a wait-and-see mode. With the Golden State Warriors dominating the league for the near future, teams are being put in a position where they either have to fight or fold.
Most teams in the Western Conference have made the choice to try to keep pace. They’re making moves that keep them competitive and are just looking for the right break. The East? Not so much. Many of their best players have not only shifted teams, but shifted conferences.
But the Wizards consider themselves one of those top tier teams. They think they can compete and they think they can do it both now and moving forward.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that can take a step up,” Brooks said. “I’m excited to see a lot of that improvement on the court with our group.”
John Wall is only 27 years old and is locked in with Washington until 2022. Both Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are 24 years old and will be with the organization as they approach the primes of their career. Kelly Oubre is still only 21 years old with plenty of room for growth in his game.
There are still strides the team can make with improvement across the board. Of course, that almost never happens unilaterally. Each player has their own development curve.
Yet, none the biggest key to get Washington’s wheels turning is their backcourt. That hasn’t changed. Scream about depth all you want — without Wall and Beal playing well, the Wizards don’t go anywhere.
Beal said the team knows what it needs to do — specifically, they know what they need from he and Wall. They both know that, and they’re ready to take on the challenge after they both had career years last season.
“As Ted always says, to whom much is given much is expected,” Beal said.
What the rest of the East did? It doesn’t matter. Teams change, but games still have to be played.
“I don’t care what any other team does, they make change, we did what we got to do to make our team better. All I’m going to do is compete when I get in between those lines,” Wall said.
No, it isn’t going to be a cakewalk to 50 wins. The rest of the East isn’t too strong, but, just like everyone else, games still have to be played. The Wizards are already facing their first test with Markieff Morris out for six to eight weeks after sports hernia surgery.
The Wizards were one of the healthiest teams in the league last season and managed to avoid major injuries to their key players last year. They can’t bank on things being the same.
Will they be as good? Who knows. Only time will tell. It’s largely the same roster with the same issues they had last season. At times, they played like an All-Time great team. At other times, they played like they should’ve been in the G-League.
Regardless, last season is last season. This season is this one. The team is aware of that, and they’re ready to take on what awaits them ahead.