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August Mailbag Part 1: Rui Hachimura getting displaced by Kyle Kuzma, Wizards season predictions, and whether COVID-19 could impact the season

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Here is the first part of our August mailbag questions.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers
Let’s answer your questions about the Washington Wizards here in this multi-part mailbag!
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Thank you for your questions in this month’s mailbag. Our next mailbag will be in September. It will also happen when I plan to take a vacation. But we’ll make it happen nevertheless. This mailbag will be broken up into multiple parts due to the number of questions we’ve decided to put on. Thanks!

Albert


Is Kyle Kuzma going to be given a legit chance to possibly start on this team or does Rui Hachimura get the nod no matter what? (DCrez)

Yanir Rubinstein: Why is starting an issue? Some players coming off the bench have more important roles than starters. At any rate, I think the starting lineup should depend on matchups (a la Gregg Popovich or Nick Nurse) and not what we’ve been used to see from former Head Coach Scott Brooks.

Albert Lee: Glenn Consor has repeatedly said, it’s not about who starts games, it’s who finishes them. I want to know who on the Wizards’ lineup will finish games this season.

Ben Mehic: What a good problem to have, right? For the past two years, the Wizards couldn’t find a consistent starting lineup because parts of the roster simply weren’t talented enough to play. Now, the Wizards have capable options at all positions, and they will all have an opportunity to separate themselves in camp.

If Kuzma shows up to camp an improved defender and continues to knock down threes at an efficient rate - then sure, he can probably coincide with Rui as a starter. The three-four positions are fairly interchangeable nowadays, so Kuzma will have a shot to start, but will have to beat KCP and Deni for that spot.

Osman Baig: Why is this question isolated to the four spot? Kuzma has played a lot of minutes at the three with LA and the opportunity is there. It would help balance the roster with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing more of a backup guard role (we don’t have a backup for Beal right now on the roster), and it would make the team longer, which would be nice considering we’re already undersized at the two.

In general, competition and depth are good and welcome. To Ben’s point, we haven’t had that “problem” in a very long time.

John Morrow: I predict that Kuzma starts game one beside Rui as the small forward. But no, I don’t see him displacing Rui unless he totally plateaus.

Would Tommy trade Rui or Deni if approached given we now have this depth or are those two off-limits? (DCrez)

Osman: Nobody is off-limits but trading those two should be for a consolidation/improvement move – not just to re-balance the roster. If either or both can be used to get a player like Pascal Siakam, go for it. If the goal is to find guard depth – no…..trade one of the larger deals in that scenario.

Yanir: Nobody is off-limits. Even Beal could get traded eventually.

Vegas has the Wizards at 34.5 wins — are you taking the over or under? Why? (Multiple questions, including Wizards Comments)

Morrow: I‘m going over. The Nets, Bucks, 76ers, Hawks, Heat, Celtics - all are clearly better than the Wizards. Wizards should compete with the Knicks, Bulls, Pacers, Hornets, and Raptors. The east is much tougher this year but I really think the Wizards' depth helps in another odd year and I see the defense being much improved.

Yanir: It depends on so many factors, mainly injuries and health. A 34-35 win season sounds reasonable, though I’d love for them to be a bit above .500.

Osman Baig: I’m taking the over. I don’t think the team has raised its immediate ceiling with their maneuvering but I think the floor is higher and not dependent on one or two players anymore. Harrell, Kuzma, KCP, can help elevate a regular-season floor so winning 35 games should be doable if Beal stays on the court.

Beal is who I’m watching closely this season. With a deep roster around him, does he start to play defense again and scale down his usage/shots so everybody can eat? Or is he shooting for a 90 overall rating in 2K?

Last season the Wizards lost a lot of games because of COVID. Do you see that repeating in 2021? (_maxp_)

Yanir: Many teams lost games because of that same reason. It sort of averages out.

Albert: I will say that I can see the Wizards, for whatever reason had extremely bad luck with the coronavirus. Whether it’s because of a January outbreak or because it prevented Beal from being on the USA Basketball men’s national team last month, or because of a Summer League outbreak, Washington just found a way to get hit hard by COVID.

I certainly can see the Wizards lose more games due to a coronavirus outbreak, even if the players are fully vaccinated at this point. That’s mainly because there are breakthrough infections of the virus, and athletes are no different than the rest of us in that regard.

And on that note, please get your vaccines!