The 2019-2020 NBA season has not been kind to the Washington Wizards. Sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 24-40 record, including a dismal 8-24 road mark, the Wiz have struggled to find success in the win column and haven’t been an NBA consensus pick for a long while due to the fact that John Wall has yet to suit up this season. However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and the Wizards are set up to be a force sooner rather than later.
An All-Star Backcourt
Before getting injured in the 2018-2019 campaign, John Wall averaged 20.7 points and 8.7 assists per contest over 34.5 minutes. With that being said, his loss was catastrophic to the Wizards, who have essentially been on a tailspin ever since. Before the suspension of the Association due to COVID-19, Wall was scrimmaging and returning to form, but wasn’t yet cleared to return to practice fully. When the NBA returns, he will presumably be ready to go. If you want to find a silver lining about Wall’s time away, look no further than what Bradley Beal has been able to do. Not only did he average a career-high 25.6 points and 5.5 assists per game last season while playing all 82 games, but he improved in both respects as the bonafide go-to scorer and distributor on offense this season. Averaging 30.5 points and 6.1 assists over 36.0 minutes per game, Beal not only emerged as a superstar, but as an MVP candidate. Without him, you can make the claim that this would be a single-digit win team at the moment.
Looking ahead, a healthy Wall and Beal stack up with any other backcourt in the entire NBA in terms of talent and production and are in the conversation with the Steph Curry/Klay Thompson duo in Golden State and the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum duo in Portland. That’s an amazing luxury to build around and both are committed to winning in D.C., where they’ve built their brands.
The Supporting Cast
In addition to Beal and Wall, Ish Smith is signed to make an impact in the backcourt while Jerome Robinson, Troy Brown Jr. and Isaac Bonga also carved out rotational roles this season. A young frontcourt consisting of Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Mo Wagner has a lot of potential, while Admiral Schofield will likely benefit from another offseason of development. It’s important to note that Wall and Beal will soak up the majority of offensive usage, therefore taking a lot of pressure off of some of the youngsters that were thrust into major roles while Wall recovered from his injury. You also have to remember that the Wizards will be receiving one of the top NBA picks in the draft this offseason. The Wizards have a solid cast of supporting players, but a dynamic player from the top of the draft could help send them back to the playoffs.
Assuming that the majority of Ian Mahinmi, Davis Bertens, C.J. Miles, Shabazz Napier, Johnathan Williams, Gary Payton II, Chris Chiozza, Garrison Mathews and Anzejs Pasecniks will be released to clear cap holds, the team will have roughly $12 million in cap space and about $36 million to play with under the luxury tax threshold before the 2020 NBA Draft, where the team will have first and second round selections. Some unrestricted free agent veterans who might be willing to play for a minimum (or very cheap) contract in this upcoming season: Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefolosha, Jose Barea, Marco Belinelli, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Kyle O’Quinn, Solomon Hill. Don’t count the team out of getting in the mix for a guy like Carmelo Anthony, either. After proving he still has game with the Portland Trail Blazers, he might be a logical target to support Wall and Beal in the scoring column and might be enticed with the idea of being part of a “Big Three”.
This possible 13-man roster seems like it’d not only be logical, but would be a threat in the East due to the versatility and depth at each position.
PG: John Wall, Ish Smith
SG: Bradley Beal, RJ Hampton (rookie), Jerome Robinson, Admiral Schofield
SF: Carmelo Anthony, Troy Brown Jr., Isaac Bonga
PF: Rui Hachimura, Patrick Patterson
C: Thomas Bryant, Mo Wagner
Coach Scott Brooks had Washington’s offense clicking without Wall this season. The Wizards rank 5th in pace (103.52), 6th in points per game (115.6) and 11th in Offensive Rating (111.1). However, their defense will have to improve dramatically for them to become a contender (they have the worst Defensive Rating in the NBA). Without Wall, a number of young, inexperienced players received their first dose of the up-tempo NBA and that certainly played into a lack of defensive prowess. Expect that to be a major focus in the offseason and there should be an improvement across the board with another season of development for the team’s young core.
If healthy, Washington will be a playoff team and contending as early as next year, and who knows you may even be able to win a few NBA money line bets on the Wizards next season. Remember that when next season’s win totals are released!