The brisk autumn air taking hold outside means we’re inching closer to NBA basketball. The Wizards open training camp next week after an eventful offseason. It will be exciting to see how this team builds on last year’s playoff berth.
Here are five storylines I am looking forward to going into this season:
5. Will first Round Pick Corey Kispert crack the rotation?
The Wizards first round pick had an up and down summer league performance, which did not help his case for rotational minutes on this team. The big Russell Westbrook trade puts Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Deni Avjida and Davis Bertans ahead of him for minutes.
How can Kispert get himself some playing time? A great showing in training camp and preseason could help his case. Absent an amazing performance or injuries ahead of him, it’s likely he won’t get much time this season.
4. Is another trade on the horizon?
As is the case at forward, the Wizards also have a logjam at center with Daniel Gafford, Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant. With Bryant and Harrell both in a contract year, does it make sense to keep both? One could be used for trade bait, especially once Bryant returns from his ACL surgery.
Also what about that wing rotation? Will the team continue to keep the pricey contract of Bertans or will they hope for a quick start so they can sell high? Maybe some combination of their wings player can be used to address other needs as the season goes on. It feels as though the options across the frontcourt necessitates a trade. The real question may be how long will the team wait before they pull the trigger?
3. How will the new players and new coach impact this team?
For the first time in five seasons, there’s a new coach on the bench. Wes Unseld Jr. will be tasked with creating a new culture and leading the team beyond where Scott Brooks could take them. As for the players, will a deeper team that lacks a star next to Bradley Beal give them a better path to contention? With teams constantly looking to add as many stars as possible, the Wizards have taken the opposite approach. Will it work?
2. Who will start for this team at small forward?
With so many options at key positions, what will Unseld choose as his starting lineup. The one spot that seems to be open entering training camp is small forward. Can Kyle Kuzma be a viable option or would the team be better off with 3&D role player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Cases can be made for both, and preseason may provide some answers.
1. Will Bradley Beal Sign a Supermax Extension
Perhaps the biggest question is one that’s lingered over the Wizards for years: is Beal here to stay long term? The underrated part of Beal signing a long-term extension is the hopeful end to tiresome internet bloggers creating unrealistic trade scenarios for their favorite team to get Beal for scraps and leftovers. If Beal commits long-term, the Wizards would gain clarity to how it builds over the next few seasons.
On the other hand, if Beal turns down a supermax contract, the trade floodgates open and the team’s trajectory takes a radical turn. The immediate impact would be how it affects Unseld’s ability to establish the kind of culture he wants when he doesn’t know if his best player will be around beyond this season.
The next couple weeks should be interesting.