clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Predicting the Wizards’ rotations for the 2023-24 NBA season

How will Wes Unseld Jr. allocate minutes this season?

Wizards rookie forward Bilal Coulibaly takes a photo at his first NBA Media Day
Jamie Squire | Getty Images

Year one of this “rebuild” comes with many questions:

  1. How will Poole and Kuzma mesh?
  2. Who starts at SF?
  3. Which players get cut?

The person with say in each of these decisions: Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr.

His job is to decide who plays, how many minutes they play, and who watches from the sidelines. Albeit a rather routine pre-season task, Unseld has his hands full. Despite being projected as the worst team this season, the Wizards have plenty of talent. The issue is that nobody apart from four guys truly stand out from the rest.

Those four:

  • PG Tyus Jones
  • SG Jordan Poole
  • PF Kyle Kuzma
  • C Daniel Gafford

Being that WUJ said he wants to use the preseason to narrow his rotation to 8-9 guys, I’ll try to do the same with my prediction.

My rotations:

  • PG: Tyus Jones —> Delon Wright
  • SG: Jordan Poole —> Landry Shamet
  • SF: Bilal Coulibaly —> Corey Kispert
  • PF: Kyle Kuzma —> Deni Avdija
  • C: Daniel Gafford —> Danilo Gallinari

Yes, that’s 10 guys instead of 9. I just can’t see a world in which two of Shamet, Davis, and Gallinari don’t play.

The Odd-Men-Out:

  • Johnny Davis
  • Xavier Cooks
  • Anthony Gill
  • Mike Muscala

Davis vs. Shamet: Let me preface this by saying I think Johnny Davis should play instead of Shamet — This is just I believe Unseld will do. The most challenging part of this exercise was deciding between Davis and Shamet for the backup 2-guard spot. As much as I believe Johnny Davis should be getting those reps, Landry Shamet is the better player. He gives the team a better chance to win, which is why I think WUJ goes with him.

That’s not to say this won’t change a month or two into the season. Shamet is likely gone by the deadline, so playing him heavy minutes now to boost his trade value isn’t the worst thing. As I said, Davis as the backup SG is my preference. However, potential aside, Shamet’s ability to stretch the floor earns him that spot.

Gill/Cooks: If these two are here by the season’s open, it likely won’t be in a rotational role. As the roster transitions towards youth, guys like Gill, 30, and Cooks, 28, will fade into smaller roles.

Unlike Shamet, the talent gap between them and the younger players isn’t that wide. That, combined with a loaded forward group, make things tough for their chances.

Muscala: With Danilo Gallinari expected to log a majority of the backup center minutes, Muscala will have to take a step back. I still expect to see him a ton this season though, mainly due to Gafford getting into constant foul trouble. If that happens, he’ll have to step up while Gaff sits.

Bilal > Deni

Again, this is a debate where either outcome works for me. If Bilal starts, great. It throws him into the deep end and forces him to swim. If Deni starts, he gets to be the defensive anchor we need amongst the starting five. It would provide him with ample opportunity to showcase why the Wizards should extend him.

I went with Bilal for two reasons:

  1. His defensive versatility allows this unit to hold its own on that end
  2. Deni benefits as well from a bigger role with the second unit

Avdija is best with the ball in his hands. Playing as the 5th option on offense does him no good. He’d be relegated to the corner like last season, just waiting for the ball to come his way. With the second unit, he’ll get more shots and assume a greater offensive role.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if he closes games with the starters. We’ve seen this in years past where guys start the game on the bench, but eventually play starter minutes and finish the game on the floor.

PG Rotation

Unlike other positions, this seems set in stone. Tyus Jones will start, and Delon Wright will back him up. It sets up a balance of offense and defense between the lead guards.

Ryan Rollins, a second-year guard sent to Washington in the Poole trade, will learn from the side. I doubt Rollins finds minutes early on, but after the deadline, he should see the floor more often.

Big Men

Entering year 5, Daniel Gafford gets his chance to anchor the Wizards down low. Gafford started 47 games for Washington last season, but wasn’t alone as Kristaps Porzingis helped down low. Now, he’ll absorb the responsibilities of being the sole rim protector.

The biggest question is depth, especially since Gafford is known to get into foul trouble. If the former Razorback needs an early rest, Unseld Jr. is looking at Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala as replacements. With Gallinari getting a majority of the backup minutes in preseason, it seems likely that he’s the guy.

One positive with both Gallo and Muscala is their ability to stretch the floor. One negative: defense. Both bigs struggle laterally, which could present issues against athletic centers.

It is close, but Gallinari’s scoring ability edges him over Muscala in the rotation.

Let me know what your 10-man rotations are in the comments!