Now that the NBA season has kicked off, I thought it would be appropriate to give my season preview on the Washington Wizards for the 2018-2019 season. The Washington Wizards are one of the most talented teams in the NBA in a 5 year stretch that have not reached a Conference Finals Round in the past 40 seasons. The Wizards franchise have only one championship, (1978), and lost in the Finals the next season in ’79. This year will be the 40th season since they have been to a Conference Final, and arguably the best chance to do it. I will breakdown and if this is the year that Wizards fan have been waiting for. Can the Wizards pounce and take advantage of a LeBron-less Eastern Conference?
Can They Make the Next Step?
Washington for the past 3 or 4 years has had one of the most talented backcourt duos in the NBA with John Wall and Bradley Beal. John Wall has solidified himself in the top-5 PG in the league conversation, and Beal took his game to the next level and made his first All-Star Game. Before last season they also invested in their 3rd top 5 pick in Otto Porter with a 4-year $106.5 million deal, and he delivered. Porter last season blossomed into one of the league’s elite 3-and-D wings who can also be a playmaker and score off of the dribble. He averaged almost 15 points a game, over 6 rebounds, and shot 50% from the floor and an elite 44%from 3-point range. With Porter performing up to his contract, the Wizards are now one of the only teams in the NBA that have a top-10 player at the PG, SG, and SF position. However, the question for this group is can they make the next step? John Walls injury kept this team from reaching their potential last year as he missed half the season, but Beal and Porter stepped up to help ensure Washington a playoff spot as they sneaked in as a 8-seed in the East. If Washington’s 3 best players stay healthy and play to their potential there is no doubt that this team raise people's eyebrows this season.
Some Have Come, Some Have Gone
The Wizards the past off-season’s prior to this one, have been fairly quiet. This year however they made some important moves; acquiring a new starting center and added some key pieces for their bench. First, in the NBA Draft, the Wizards selected a versatile wing Troy Brown Jr. out of Oregon. Brown can do it all as he can defend multiple positions, play make for others and can slash to the basket. Second, they traded starting center Marcin Gortat to the Los Angeles Clippers for combo guard Austin Rivers. Rivers, a slashing, 3-point threat definitely adds a scoring threat that the Wizards have been needing for years. Most thought that Washington would miss Gortat in the trade; with them not having depth at the center position, but they would addressed that need later in the off-season. Next, with the loss of stretch forward Mike Scott to free agency, the Wizards signed veteran forward Jeff Green. Green, a former Hoya, has been through it all in his 12 year career and brings versatility and a great locker room presence to Washington’s squad. The biggest move however was the Wizards signing former All-Star center Dwight Howard. Howard now with his 6th team in 8 seasons, is definitely not what he once was. He is still though one of the best rebounding and screen setting bigs in the NBA. He is also a defensive upgrade to former starter Marcin Gortat. Howard comes into this season with some health issues with his back. The added talent for Washington makes the team both more talented and deeper off of the bench.
Is This the Year?
The absolute key to the Wizards’ success this season is health. Both John Wall and Bradley Beal have had serious injury history, but if they can put in their first full healthy season together they can carry this team far this season. The other x-factor to this team however has to be Dwight Howard. Howard was brought in to contribute as a menacing rebounder and defender in the paint. If he can regain his health and contribute to at least his numbers last season with Charlotte, then there really aren’t many weaknesses with this basketball team. This team is also built more to withstand injury than in prior years, so I am confidently predicting that this team will obtain this franchise’s first 50 win season in 40 years. This Eastern Conference is as weak as it has ever been, and Washington should be able to take advantage of the weak regular season schedule. I think this squad will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If they can avoid Boston in the Eastern Conference Semi’s then they have the best shot to reach the Eastern Conference Finals in decades.