With preseason officially over, it’s now time for the real season to begin. But before we jump right into it, what did the preseason tell us about this Wizards team?
Washington is going to let it fly from three-point range
If preseason is any indication of what the regular season will look like - expect a whole lot of three-pointers this year. The Wizards let it fly from deep this preseason chucking up 44.6 attempts from distance per game, the second most amongst all teams. Washington was a middle of the road team as far as attempts go last year at they shot 33.3 attempts from distance last year (knocked down just 34.1 percent of those).
It’s a very small sample size but the 44.6 attempts is an increase of 11 attempts from last season. If you remember, the Wizards hired analytics expert Dean Oliver to the coaching staff this summer and it’s clear that he’s already put his fingerprint on this team. I’m not saying the Wizards are going to turn into the Houston Rockets 2.0 now, but one thing is clear, this franchise has made a mindset shift and is fully embracing advanced analytics. The result? We’re going to see a whole lot of three-point attempts this year.
The Wizards are razor thin at the small forward position
Washington was already thin at the small forward position and the lingering injuries to Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles sure don’t help. Washington enters this season in a full rebuilding mode, and Brown is part of that. It was assumed that Brown was going to be the starter from day one but an injury in practice has now put that in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the veteran C.J. Miles had surgery over the summer and was expected to be playing now, but the only time Wizards fans have seen him, he’s been in a walking boot.
The recent release of Justin Anderson makes things that much peculiar. Either Brown and Miles are closer to returning to the floor and the team is keeping that close to the vest, or they feel comfortable with the players currently on the roster.
Outside of Brown and Miles, the players currently on the roster which seem like the best fit at the small forward spot include Jordan McRae and Isaac Bonga. McRae is a walking bucket and has plenty of potential, but has shown some inconsistency so far in his short career. Meanwhile, Bonga is still very much a work in progress. Lastly, the other option here would be to move rookie Rui Hachimura to the small forward spot.
Rui Hachimura looks poised to have a solid rookie season
Hachimura has looked very good so far and has received some extra playing time due to all of the attrition at the forward position. What’s impressed me most about Hachimura is that he carries himself like a veteran, not a 21-year-old.
The rookie has looked most comfortable so far when he’s in the midrange or attacking the hole in transition. He’s shown that he can sneakily burst to the rim and like Thomas Bryant, has a non-stop motor. Look no further than the game against the Milwaukee Bucks where Hachimura started the night 2-13 from the field but stayed engaged by making hustle plays and crashing the offensive glass finishing the evening with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
He’s shown that he’s capable of taking a step back and knocking down three-pointers but will have to knock them down at a more consistent rate for opponents to really consider him an outside threat. Lastly, he’ll have to work on his free-throw shooting as he’s shot **gulp** just 43.8 percent from the charity stripe.
All things considered, Hachimura has looked better than advertised. If he can continue to improve his shot, but more importantly, bring energy night in and night out, there’s a good chance that Hachimura can end up firmly in Washington’s rotation this year.
Thomas Bryant continues to show improvement
After being an afterthought in Los Angeles, Thomas Bryant broke onto the scene last year surpasing everyone’s expectations and winning over the fanbase. Fast forward to this preseason for the third-year player, and he continues to impress.
Bryant’s motor, which got him on the court, hasn’t slowed down one bit. Bryant still sprints the floor, continues to make all the hustle plays, and remains very active on the offensive glass. But there’s more. The third-year center looks much more confident in his shot and is stepping away from the midrange and painted areas in favor of three-point shots. Bryant has averaged 4.2 attempts from deep and knocks them down at a rate of 42.9 percent. Yes, it’s a very small sample size, but that’s a big leap for a guy who took just 1.4 attempts from three last year and shot 33.3 percent from distance.
Not only has Bryant started taking more three-point attempts, but he also looks more comfortable with his back to the basket as it looks like he’s added a turnaround jumper to his game in addition to being more of a vocal leader on the floor.
If this preseason is any indication of what’s to come, Wizards fans are going to be happy once again with Bryant’s play.
Bradley Beal is here for the long haul
The biggest question mark heading into this season was addressed on Thursday morning when Bradley Beal signed a two-year extension to stay in Washington through 2023. This was the elephant in the room in Washington as many thought that Beal might be on the trading block as the Wizards look to rebuild their roster.
Signing the extension shows that Beal wants to be in Washington but more importantly, he wants to build a legacy with this franchise even though a long and cold winter looms. Not to mention, I can think of a couple of other reason$ why would want to $tay in Wa$hington.
The Wizards are turning the page on what seems like is a new era. The faces are the same in that Beal and John Wall are under contract for the next four years, only now, it’s Beal’s team.