2015-2016 Record: 41-41
Key Additions: Ian Mahimi, Andrew Nicholson
Key Losses: Jared Dudley, Nene
After spending the better part of two years preparing for Kevin Durant’s free agency, Wizards fans had to be immensely frustrated when KD did not give John Wall and friends even a second look this summer. This is surely because of the struggles the Wizards endured last season, missing the playoffs and firing former coach Randy Wittman – Durant wants to win first and foremost, and an injury plagued 41-41 team would not entice him when there were much better options on the market.
Playing .500 ball was certainly not the goal for the Wiz last season, after all, they were coming off a season in which they reached the conference semifinals on the backs of a still-growing backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
What changed between the two seasons? It can’t really be pinned down upon a singular tactic or player, but as a whole, the Wizards defense regressed substantially, from a defensive rating of 103 in 2014-2015, good for fifth in the league to 105.8 last season, falling to 14th.
Also, in letting veteran Paul Pierce go in free agency, Wizards management was clearly hoping former third over all draft pick Otto Porter Jr. would be able to step up and assume a greater responsibility. The former Georgetown Hoya preformed decently, to the tune of 11.6 points per game on over 47 percent shooting, but he still has yet to become the player scouts imagined upon his selection.
Another source of struggle for the Wizards last season was the injury struggles of Bradley Beal; the sharpshooter started only 35 games as he recovered from a bevy of ailments including a shoulder contusion and a variety of leg issues.
When Beal did play, the 22-year-old preformed well, at 20.2 points per 36 minutes, which likely led the Wizards to dole out a five year max deal to keep the team’s backcourt intact. Wall and Beal must mend their relationship before next season, but the dynamic duo should remain one of the best one-two duos in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards have shown a commitment to playing a more modern brand of small ball in recent years, and with the departure of longtime power forward Nene Hilario to the Houston Rockets, Markieff Morris, acquired at the trade deadline from the Phoenix Suns, will be expected to step in at the starting spot.
In fixing their defensive struggles, former Pacer Ian Mahimi was signed to a four-year, $64 million contract. With Indiana last season, Mahimi was one of the best defensive players in the league, saving 120.62 points, good for 16th in the league.
It’s unclear exactly what the minute distribution will be between Mahimi and incumbent starter Marcin Gortat; the latter has three years remaining on his contract and although he is 32 years old, hasn’t yet shown any signs of decline on the offensive end, but both deserve time and fill a needed role for the team’s success next year.
Much like the Bucks, the Wizards have a rather large core set in place for the future, but in terms of the talent on the floor, Washington has more experience than Milwaukee at this point. Assuming the Wizards have addressed their largest flaws, surpassing the team from DC will be a tall order for Jason Kidd‘s squad.
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