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Who should start for the Wizards?

Denver Nuggets v Miami Heat
New Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

New head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will have some starting lineup options when the team opens training camp later this month. Russell Westbrook’s trade request enabled the deal that gave the team real NBA depth for the first time in recent memory.

They don’t have redundancy of excellence, but they go eight or nine deep with competent NBA players. In some senses, Unseld will have a similar challenge that Scott Brooks had last season — several players with “about the same” impact but with different styles.

Some of the starting lineup is easy, of course. Bradley Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie will start in the backcourt, assuming Dinwiddie is sufficiently recovered from his torn anterior cruciate ligament nine months ago.

With Thomas Bryant recovering from his own torn ACL (also about nine months ago), Daniel Gafford is almost sure to start in the middle. The real questions come at the forward spots.

Rui Hachimura is likely to at least begin the season as a starting forward. Reportedly, the Wizards are considering starting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at wing, which would then have Kyle Kuzma, Davis Bertans and Deni Avdija coming off the bench.

This wouldn’t be my choice because the Wizards could use some size at guard when Beal or Dinwiddie sit. Their reserve backcourt is diminutive — the 6-1 Raul Neto and the 6-0 Aaron Holiday.

The smarter move would be to start Kuzma at the other forward spot and use KCP as a super-sub splitting time at guard and forward. That said, if Hachimura hasn’t made significant progress since last season, it could be beneficial to shift him to a bench role and start Kuzma and KCP.

The recovery timetables for Dinwiddie and Bryant could delay appearance of the team’s preferred starting lineup. Reportedly, Dinwiddie was close to a return in time for the playoffs, which would suggest he’ll be 100% available when the season begins.

Bryant’s timetable seems to be longer, and it’s more likely he’ll get back on the court in January. Depending on how quick he can return to full effectiveness, a healthy Bryant could allow the team to trade Montrezl Harrell for additional help on the wing or backcourt.

Unseld will also be challenged to find developmental minutes for Avdija and this year’s first round pick, Corey Kispert. A great training camp from Kispert could let the team start KCP at wing and use Kispert as Beal’s backup — at least theoretically adding size and shooting in the 12-14 minutes Beal rests. That would send ripple effects through the frontcourt rotation and likely mean less playing time for Avdija.

Predicted opening night starting lineup:

G — Bradley Beal

G — Spencer Dinwiddie

F — Rui Hachimura

F — Kyle Kuzma

C — Daniel Gafford

Predicted playoffs* starting lineup:

G — Bradley Beal

G — Spencer Dinwiddie

F — Kyle Kuzma

F — KCP

C — Thomas Bryant

* This is not a prediction that the Wizards will make the playoffs.