Early in the pre-season I was looking towards Washington as a team that would potentially drop out of the playoff race, and I continued to hold this view even as we previewed the Southeast division recently on the Point Forward Podcast, but after watching a few more Wizards pre-season games in preparation for this article my opinion has completely reversed. The Wizards are playing a faster, better brand of basketball with Kris Humphries starting at the four and shooting threes – a tactic that will only continue when Jared Dudley comes back into the lineup. Whilst Humphries is a career 2-26 three point shooter, in the preseason he has managed to shoot at a 33% clip attempting 4 threes a game. Now let’s not act as if Humphries is the perfect answer, defenses won’t take him seriously until he continues this form well into the regular season and that will cause issues with spacing early on. To add to this, Humphries release is incredibly slow and that will have to improve if he is to become a legitimate stretch player, but he has always been a good mid-range shooter and he could well become an asset as a stretch four. After all, his three point shooting sample size is extremely small and if he can continue to produce at least a 33% mark, teams will have to guard his three pointer in a similar manner to how teams guarded Warrior Draymond Green’s shot last year (33.7% from 3) which led to exquisite spacing for the Dubs.
The second option is Jared Dudley, a man who played a lot of Power Forward last season in Milwaukee and shot 39% from deep. Dudley knows his role, plays hard on both ends of the floor and would definitely work in an offense moulded around John Wall drive and kicks, but he does lack size and could potentially be bullied by some of the bigger and more post-proficient fours.
The final option is Nene, who offensively kills the spacing on this team but defensively is considered the best of the three, and last season the Wizards gave up just 97.8 points per 100 possessions with Nene on the court as opposed to 102.4 total. The obvious take from this is that Nene is a brilliant defender helping the team achieve this number, however on closer inspection it is clear that he played nearly solely with the starters, showing that for a large portion of the time he was on court he was sharing it with very good defenders. Obviously he is a good defender, however his defensive rating of 102 is actually less than Humphries (101). Nene is not a good fit offensively and is akin to Humphries defensively and as such it is clear that Humphries is a better option at Power Forward, however, Dudley may be the best option of the three. After all, he is the most similar to Paul Pierce who the team utilised at the four in the playoffs with great success.
Along with this Power Forward frenzy, the Wizards also have Otto Porter living up to the hype he had coming out of college. Porter was awesome in the playoffs last season, playing 33 minutes a game for Washington and this form has carried over to this season from what we’ve seen so far. If this continues, the Wizards have a guy who can help facilitate, hit the open three, make good cuts and lock down defensively at the three to go along with John Wall and Bradley Beal. If Wall can continue to be his brilliant self, bounding into the lane and either finishing at the rack or kicking to the open man and Beal can deliver on his huge potential, the Wizards could be really good this season.
The model has them winning just 38 games and finishing 9th in the East, but with an improved system and better personnel decisions from Randy Wittman, this team could definitely be better than that. I don’t think that they will be as good as some outlets project (as high as 3rd in the East), but I do think they’ll be in the playoffs.
Projected Wins: 38-44
My Predicted Wins: 38-43
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