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Will the Wizards’ offense be any good this season?


2023-24 Washington Wizards Media Day
Washington Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

I know this is the NBA’s Official Season of Abundant Optimism — also known as “Best Shape of My Life” season. Or “He added 12 pounds of muscle.” Or “He spent the summer working with {insert name of famed skills coach} and will now make 162% of his three-point attempts even though he’s a career 12% shooter.”

Okay, I made that last one up.


At this point in the offseason, I’m working on my forecast (that’ll be out a few days before the season opener Oct. 25 at the Indiana Pacers, and I’m looking forward to seeing actual NBA action again.

With some serious (and past due) roster churn, new players are likely bringing some new fans as well. I welcome any new readers with this caution: I’m not a cheerleader. Everyone who produces content about a team chooses their path. Some want to be leading fans. Others want access or to break stories or to get off jokes.

I’ve chosen to analyze, study, crunch numbers, and share what I find. I have my favorites, of course, but I don’t let that affect my analysis of the quality of a player’s performance and how they impact winning.

For example, I know Charles Jones was a subpar NBA player. I know he was Washington’s starting center for six seasons only because the front office was too inept to find a semi-decent replacement. I still love the guy. Despite being a slender version of Jeff Green (think about that a second), he battled in the middle during the Era of Behemoths. Was he overmatched? Every night. He fought anyway.

Or take another favorite: Chris Whitney. He was slow. And he couldn’t jump. When he was coaching, we’d talk in the locker room, and he was just about the only guy there who was about my height. But he was smart, steady and skilled. When Rod Strickland was trying to force a trade, Whitney started in his place despite both ankles being sprained. Was he good? Not really. He topped out at about average for a few years. I still liked him.

My all-time favorite player is (still) Gilbert Arenas, even though his defense was suspect, he didn’t fully and effectively integrate his scoring and playmaking for maximum impact, and he was (is) a certifiable nut. But he played with swagger and panache, and I’d argue no one ever has had more fun being an NBA player than he did. Until the injuries.

All that’s digression, though. This is going to be a brief look at the team’s prospects on offense this coming season, partly in reaction to optimism about how good they could be, and partly because I’m at the point in my forecast research where I’m trying to guesstimate where they’re going to rank.

And to sum it up: ugh.

The biggest challenge is that Kyle Kuzma will be the team’s first or second option. I’m not going to rehash all the Kuzma analysis I wrote last season and during the offseason. Feel free to check the archives if you’re interested. What I will say is that Kuzma’s been inefficient on offense throughout his career — even with lower usage, and even when playing with certifiable stars.

He came to Washington, got a bigger role, and...his efficiency cratered. Last season was the least efficient of his career in relation to league average.

The second biggest challenge is that the other guy who’s going to be first or second option is Jordan Poole. Like Kuzma, Poole has some flash and sizzle to his game. And Poole’s overall efficiency, while better than Kuzma’s, has been below average overall, and it’s dropped when not on the floor with Stephen Curry.

None of the forgoing is to say Kuzma and Poole are bad players. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. Offensive efficiency hasn’t been a strength for either, however, which is a problem because of their expected high usage, and the reality that NBA games are decided by efficiency.

The team does have players who have been efficient — Tyus Jones, Corey Kispert, Delon Wright, Daniel Gafford, Danilo Gallinari, and Mike Muscala. All of them (except Gallinari) have been low usage role players. Gallinari’s usage was 18.4% when he last played. Since then, he missed a season with a torn ACL.

Now, it’s theoretically possible that Kuzma and Poole abruptly improve their shooting and playmaking while cutting back on turnovers. It’s theoretically possible that Jones will be the playmaker they both need to excel. It’s theoretically possible that Kispert’s shooting will be so good that he generates gravitational waves that push the Wizards up the standings.

However, when I roll up the numbers into a best guess, it’s much more likely the Wizards will be 4-5 points per 100 possessions below average on offense this coming season. That would rank them in the bottom five. If things break just right for them, I could kinda envision them getting to maybe as good as three points per 100 possessions below average, which might nudge them as high as 23rd or 24th.

That said, this season isn’t as much about these kinds of results as previous seasons have been. Last season, for example, the team’s goal was to make the playoffs. Their offensive and defensive efficiency ranks were critical measures of their success or failure.

In the upcoming season, those metrics will still be important benchmarks for whatever record the team compiles. But the wins and losses will matter much less than whether young players improve and position themselves for being part of a future winner.

Will the Wizards offense be any good this season? Nah. But they can still be a fun and exciting team to watch.