After two 35-win seasons left the Wizards in no-mans-land, owner Ted Leonsis opted for change. Out went Tommy Sheppard, and in came Michael Winger and Will Dawkins.
Together, they dismantled last year’s core, trading away stars Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. They then made some under-the-radar moves, including acquiring Jordan Poole from Golden State, as well as Ryan Rollins and Patrick Baldwin Jr.
The question now is: How will Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr utilize his new squad? I’ll answer that and much more below.
Who makes the final 15-man roster?
NBA teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 15 players during the regular season, as well as three two-way spots. They can carry up to 21 players during training camp, but must trim that down to 15 prior to October 23nd.
As of now, the Wizards have 16 guys who realistically could make the opening night team. That means someone will be the odd-man-out.
Those players on the bubble:
- F Anthony Gill
- F Xavier Cooks
- G Landry Shamet
Gill: Forward Anthony Gill, who’s entering year 4 in Washington, is an interesting case. He’s in the last year of his contract, making only $1.9 million. Gill is a great locker room presence, so keeping him around would be smart, especially for a young team like the Wizards. However, he’s recently been in rumors about playing overseas this year, so that is something to monitor. If he decides to leave, it will essentially make Will Dawkins’ decision for him.
Cooks: Although Xavier Cooks just arrived in D.C, it’s important to remember which GM signed him. This is not a Will Dawkins guy, so therefore there is no attachment. With the final two years of his deal non-guaranteed, parting ways with Cooks would be rather easy. As a 28-year-old rookie on a young team, not fitting the timeline could be the deciding factor.
Shamet: Let me be clear. Shamet will 100% make the roster...if he is here by opening night. Since the trade, I haven’t heard much about Shamet. No rumored workouts with Wizards players or any appearances at the facility. No social media posts. This could be a reach, but is it? We already have a logjam at the guard position, so trading him would open up more time for Coulibaly and Davis. I think he’s here on opening night, but just something to think about.
PG: T. Jones / D. Wright / R. Rollins
SG: J. Poole / L. Shamet / B. Coulibaly / J. Davis
SF: D. Avdija / C. Kispert / P. Baldwin Jr.
PF: K. Kuzma / D. Gallinari / A. Gill / X. Cooks
C: D. Gafford / M. Muscala
Looking at this, it’s easy to see what the Wizards lack. That front-court is thinner than a piece of paper. Besides Muscala, we have zero center depth. Gill and Cooks could play the small-ball-five, but that’s not ideal.
Another thing to note: We have a logjam at shooting guard. Behind Poole, Shamet is easily the best option. However, if taking a more long-term approach, allocating those minutes to someone who may not be here past February isn’t the best choice. Personally, I’d give those minutes to Johnny or Bilal.
PG: Tyus Jones
SG: Jordan Poole
SF: Deni Avdija
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Daniel Gafford
Apart from the small forward position, this group is pretty set in stone. Our backcourt duo of Jones and Poole will be exciting to see. Many forget that Jones lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio each of the last two seasons. His vision, alongside Poole’s scoring ability, will bring fans to their feet.
As for the front-court, Kuzma and Gafford are locks. I’m excited to see Gaff in an elevated role this season as the sole anchor down low.
Where this gets tricky is SF. Both Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert make compelling cases. On one hand, Corey’s shooting could help a Wizards team that ranked in the bottom-10 of threes made last season. His jumper would stretch the floor, giving Poole and Kuz more room to work. The downside of Kispert starting comes on the defensive end. If he can hold his own, this becomes an interesting debate. If not, the choice is clear.
Deni Avdija is possibly the complete opposite of Kispert as a player. Top-tier defender, one that can take away the opposing team’s best player, but hasn’t developed his jumper. Deni’s defense aids a group that’s lacking on that end. However, his poor outside shot could allow teams to double Poole or Kuz and play tougher defense.
If it were up to me, I would start Deni. Not saying this needs to be permanent, but start the season with him at SF. See how it goes, then adjust accordingly after 10 games.
Let me know in the comments what your starting five looks like.