Oh My God They're Back Again: TAI Wizards Season Preview and Predictions | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Oh My God They’re Back Again: TAI Wizards Season Preview and Predictions

By
Updated: October 15, 2018

The Washington Wizards are only a few days away from playing meaningful basketball games again for the first time in nearly six months. The last time we saw this team they were limping into a first-round postseason match-up against the Toronto Raptors. That series was one of the most uninspired playoff runs in recent memory, with some even arguing that a 4-0 Wizards loss would be the best outcome for the team’s long-term health.

A lot has happened since the Wizards’ 4-2 series loss to Toronto. Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott, Tim Frazier, and Chris McCullough are gone. Dwight Howard, Austin Rivers, Jeff Green, and Troy Brown arrived. In addition to these roster changes, Scott Brooks spent training camp and the preseason overhauling Washington’s offense, placing a strong emphasis on 3-point shooting and encouraging multiple players to initiate the offense instead of running 99 percent of offensive sets through John Wall.

Given that Washington only won 43 games last season and dropped to the 8th seed, a fair amount of change was expected—and necessary. The question, however, is whether these roster and stylistic upgrades will be enough to change the team’s fortunes.

The TAI crew tackles that and other questions in the 2018-19 installment of the Wizards’ Season Preview and Predictions. Let’s get started…

How many games will Washington win?

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) – 46

Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) – 52

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) – 50

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202) – 48

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) – 44 (As much as I would like to drink the crazy juice and believe that the Wizards will finally break the 50-win barrier this millennium . . . it ain’t happening. John Wall looks like he put on 10 extra pounds of muscle and is a step slow, Howard’s back is already creaking, and Austin Rivers has started throwing gas at fires that shouldn’t even be burning. 44 wins, 1,001 different starting lineups and at least 3 “player’s only” meetings.)

How far will Washington go in the playoffs?

@LedellsPlace – With the improvement of Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto (not to mention the expected leap from Milwaukee), there’s just no rational way to predict Washington will advance past the second round for the first time since 1979. Even worse, Washington will likely face one of those above-mentioned teams in the first round so it’s not really rational to predict a first-round win either.

@rashad20 – The Wizards will lose in the second round of the playoffs to the Toronto Raptors. The Wizards will be the fourth seed, the Raptors will be the top seed. Groundhog Day will be in February and May next year.

@TroyHalibur – Eastern Conference Finals.

@BFrantz202 – Lose in second round (to one of the Celtics, Sixers, Bucks, or Raptors).

@McCarrick – As Icarus flew too close to the sun, such is the hubris of those predicting the Wizards to escape the first round. Aside from Boston and possibly Indiana, the Eastern conference is wide open—but the Wizards penchant to lose winnable regular season games against the likes of Phoenix and Brooklyn will keep them around the 5th or 6th seed. From there I expect the usual combination of poor rotations, hero ball and at least one stupid technical to see the Wizards unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs.

Who/What will be the Wizards’ biggest X-factor?

@LedellsPlace – The Austin Rivers/Tomas Satoransky back-court pairing. In 2016, the Wizards started the season with Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton as the second-unit guards. In 2017, it was Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks. If Rivers and Satoransky can stabilize the second unit and allow John Wall and Bradley Beal to hover around 33 minutes per game, the Wizards may finally establish a consistent rotation that has the energy to finish games.

@rashad20 – Otto Porter. On the surface, it appears to be a bit cliché to place the “biggest X-factor” crown on the head of arguably the third-best player of the Wizards. But when Scott Brooks dedicated a bit of his Media Day speech to communicating his desire that the team—and specifically Otto—increase their 3-point output, it justifies that claim. The past two seasons, Porter has averaged fewer than two made 3s per game. If he can increase his 3-point attempts and makes and push his per game total closer to 20 points, it will put even more pressure on opposing defenses. That is bigger than any production Dwight Howard can provide, and more significant than any bench boost from Jeff Green, Austin Rivers or Troy Brown.

@TroyHalibur – Kelly Oubre. This team thrives when they play small and Oubre is the key to unlocking the versatility on offense and defense.

@BFrantz202 – Dwight Howard. The best-case scenario is he matures (no chance), stays healthy (not a great start), and plays like the Dwight Howard of old, or at least of last year (reasonable chance). But there is also a chance he plays fewer than 20 games this season due to injury, in which case you’re forced to rely on Ian Mahinmi as your primary big. And, of course, there’s always the chance he is the atomic bomb that finally blows up the Wizards locker room.

@McCarrick – The boring and safe pick would be Dwight Howard, because he either buys into the system and gives Washington the interior defensive presence they have been missing or he begins to bitch about touches and the entire house of cards crumbles. Instead, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Troy Brown. If Brown can have any impact at all on the offensive end with his slashing game, it would immediately make the Wizards more attractive trading partners to the league at large. His emergence could put either Porter or Oubre on the market, and while either player would have wildly varying returns, it would allow the Wizards to create cap space or address areas of need such as power forward.

Complete the sentence.

The Dwight Howard Experiment will be…

@LedellsPlace – …exhausting.

@rashad20 – …largely underwhelming.

@TroyHalibur – …successful because all the talk around him being a problem in the locker room is overblown.

@BFrantz202 – …a disaster, probably. But maybe not! But it probably will be.

@McCarrick – …a beautiful mirage that everyone will set up shop in for two months before they wake up to the reality that they are residing in a water-parched desert. Big men plus back problems equals bad news. I actually believe that Howard does want to buy into the system and be a model teammate, I just don’t think his body will hold up over the long haul.

I am optimistic about the Wizards because…

@LedellsPlace – …it’s easy to be optimistic in October. On paper, Washington is much improved and Scott Brooks has shown a willingness during the preseason to evolve from a one-dimensional offense relying solely on Wall’s play-making to a more diversified style with multiple players bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense.  

@rashad20 – …Beal and Wall are in their primes and the bench seems formidable enough to give them sustained relief and energy late into the season.

@TroyHalibur –  …the East is weak and the Wizards have more depth than they’ve ever had before.

@BFrantz202 – …LeBron is gone! And the Raptors are a question mark! And we don’t yet know if the Bucks and Sixers are ready to make the leap from trendy upstarts to contenders! And the Celtics are … well, anyway, at least the other teams have question marks. As for the Wizards, well, Troy Brown looks like a nice piece?

@McCarrick – …sometimes making a move that the world at-large views as completely idiotic can actually be a stroke of genius. Bringing in two known agitators in Howard and Rivers has set NBA Twitter aflame with jokes about when the first punch will be thrown in the Wizards’ locker room. But the moves by Team President Ernie Grunfeld strike me more as “crazy like a fox” rather than straight crazy. The Wizards could use all the hot takes and agita directed at them as collective fuck you and, spurred on by their maligned acquisitions, actually make some noise in the East.

I am pessimistic about the Wizards because…

@LedellsPlace – …weren’t they in an even better place at the beginning of last season? After the Game 7 loss to the Celtics, everyone expected Washington to join Cleveland and Boston atop the Eastern Conference. Instead, they completely flopped. Now, coming off a first-round loss as an 8-seed, we are supposed to believe this is the season they finally put together a consistent 82-game effort?

@rashad20 – …Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto could take sizable leaps which would leave the Wizards in the dust once again.

@TroyHalibur – …of health.

@BFrantz202 – …The Celtics are too good and too deep to really be threatened by the Wizards, and the Raptors just swapped DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, while also adding a quality 3-and-D guy in Danny Green. The Sixers are going into the season with basically the same team as last year, but now they have a (supposedly) healthy No. 1 overall pick from a year ago in stow. And the Bucks have arguably the best player in the conference, just about to enter his prime, and playing for a good coach for perhaps the first time in his career. Meanwhile, the Wizards added Dwight Howard and Austin Rivers.

@McCarrick – …because mediocrity will no longer be accepted in the DMV. For years, #LOLDCSPORTS has kept players and management more or less unaccountable for under-performing. But in the world of post-Capitals Stanley Cup run, the usual excuses are not going hold up if the Wizards start slow or someone considered vital gets injured. The Wizards will be expected to rise above adversity—and for a team that is often all bark and no bite, I see an internal implosion as not a likelihood but an inevitability.

Who will be the most surprising team in the East and why?

@LedellsPlace – Milwaukee, led by new coach Mike Budenholzer, will make the leap into the top 3 that everyone hoped Washington would last season. The preseason is a small sample size, but Budenholzer appears to have unlocked the Buck’s immense talent that has been hindered the last couple years.

@rashad20 – Toronto, even without DeMar DeRozan, will be the No. 1 seed over Boston and Philadelphia. Kawhi has something to prove, the defensive lineups they can throw at any team will be stifling, and in the LeBron-less Eastern Conference, that will be enough for them to win the top seed. Boston will struggle through most of the season, get a 2- or 3-seed, and ultimately get it together enough to advance to the NBA Finals—which is what should be expected out of a team that loaded.  Toronto’s regular season success this season will be a surprise.

@TroyHalibur – The Nets will surprise everyone in the East and make the playoffs.

@BFrantz202 – …The Pistons. Reggie Jackson’s injury was a huge blow to them last year. With him healthy, plus an offseason of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin working together, and the addition of Dwane Casey, I think they contend for the middle of the playoff race. If Stanley Johnson can take a step forward, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish above Washington in the standings.

@McCarrick – This is a pretty lukewarm take, but I think Philadelphia takes a step back this year. Boston delivered a blueprint to the league on how to guard Ben Simmons, Fultz’s jumper is still MIA and I’m not sure whether Joel Embiid is beloved by his teammates or the next Gilbert Arenas. I see a slide back to the 5th seed and a lot of “process”-related memes taking over the internet in mid-January.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.