As we are a little over a month away from training camp kicking off for the Washington Wizards, this team has a number of questions that will surround them. With a roster that will only have six returning players, there is much to wonder about how player rotations will be for this upcoming season.
Let’s start with the first question that needs to be asked: what is the approach of this team going into the season? Are they looking to simply develop their young players or do they see themselves as having a shot of being a competitive team this year? It’s really hard to imagine this team being serious about trying to get a playoff spot. Let’s dive in.
So let’s talk about starters. The projected starting lineup:
- PG — Ish Smith
- SG — Bradley Beal
- SF — Troy Brown
- PF — Rui Hachimura
- C — Thomas Bryant
This lineup isn’t exactly a lineup that will strike fear in many opponents, but there are a lot of intriguing storylines here. Bradley Beal certainly is the center piece here. Coming off his near All-NBA season, he will start the season as the clear #1 option. Outside of him, you have 3 young players who will have the opportunity to grow.
We saw some promise at the end of last season from Troy Brown, will he continue to thrive? Part of him thriving, particularly in this lineup would be him showing an ability to space the floor. If he can become a consistent 3 point shooter, all of sudden this lineup looks a lot more formidable.
At the 4 spot, you have Rui Hachimura who has shown promise during Summer League and during FIBA international play this summer as well. He is perhaps the biggest wild card in this lineup. How will his game translate in the NBA? So far every year he has adapted and improved his game from his freshman year at Gonzaga and beyond. In many ways, Hachimura’s development will have the greatest impact on the Wizards season and future if they continue to build around Beal and John Wall.
In the middle, you have Thomas Bryant who had a really impressive sophomore year getting his first opportunity to be a regular part of the rotation. But things are different now. He just inked a 3 year contract, he is no longer battling for rotational minutes. The expectations have changed, he will likely be relied on to get a bulk of the center minutes, will he deliver?
Rounding out the lineup is veteran point guard Ish Smith. There really isn’t much that is expected here, other than just playing a steady hand, get players in their spots, run the offense effectively and maintain things until John Wall can get healthy on the court. If Ish Smith can do those things, then it will make this season more palatable for fans, but if he asked to be a scorer or asked to do anything beyond being a facilitator than things can get ugly.
This is where the biggest questions lie with this team as the season approaches. With CJ Miles expected to be out during the early part of the season after foot surgery, there are opportunities for some of the younger players to grab hold of rotational time. The battle will likely be between Jemerrio Jones and Admiral Schofield for what would be CJ Miles’ minutes. Can one of these two take advantage of this opportunity to get regular minutes and become the clear cut favorite for the position?
The signing of Isaiah Thomas as a potential sixth man perhaps has the most impact on what the bench will look like. Is Thomas healthy though? Can he return back to form from his Celtics days? Or even his Kings days? Thomas’ play is likely to have an impact on how much we see of players like Jordan McRae, Justin Robinson and Tarik Phillips.
If Thomas plays well and gets consistent playing time then it’s less time for younger players, but if he does play well or if he gets hurt then the only other point guard on the roster is Robinson (or Issac Bonga if they want to continue to experiment with him being a point guard).
You also have to wonder how likely the team will throw a lineup of having both McRae and Thomas on the court at the same time. Offensively they both are scorers who need the ball in their hands and on defense, neither are likely to be effective, so how likely is it that two players who are completely incompatible to play with one another? Isaiah Thomas’ will definitely drive how often we see some of these young players.
In the frontcourt, the most certain rotational piece is Davis Bertans. Bertans was the sixth best three-point shooter in the NBA and will provide a great stretch power forward for this team, but the center spot remains a big question mark.
For all of those who have been hoping for Ian Mahinmi to be released or traded, those individuals will be disappointed to know that the only competition on the roster for the backup center spot is a Moe Wagner, who did not receive much playing time in his rookie year until the Lakers were out of playoff contention. In other words, it is Mahinmi’s job to lose.
The one thing we can look forward to with this team is the uncertainty of who will be able to stake out a role with this team. There may not be great play with this team, but the intrigue of seeing who will step up in these roles will make this team interesting to watch this season, training camp and beyond.