Nov 25, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; The Washington Wizards huddle up outside of their locker room during pre game warmups before an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Wizards had a great season last year, in part because some players stepped up in a big way. Which players are poised to step up this year, and which are poised to take a step down?
The current Washington Wizards don’t have a huge amount of cap space to work with this summer. They’ll be able to try and shore up some smaller roles on their team, but won’t be able to drastically change their roster from last year.
That means, if the team is looking to improve and compete in he Eastern Conference, they’re going to have to improve from within. Unfortunately, this may become a harder task than it was last year.
The Wizards have some young promising talent in Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr. and Bradley Beal, but they also have some older pieces like Marcin Gortat, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith. While some players are poised to improve, others may be poised to regress.
Last year, Otto Porter Jr. was the prime example of a player improving. He increased in every single major statistical category, bringing the Wizards from 10th in the East the previous year to fourth. Was his fantastic season a fluke, or did he take a jump as a player?
This article is dedicated to trying to answer that question, and identifying some players on the roster that might have a similar jump.
May 12, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) shoots the ball as Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) and Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) defend in the fourth quarter in game six of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 92-91, and tied the series at 3-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
John Wall has been a dominant threat for the Washington Wizards ever since he was drafted. But that doesn’t mean his game didn’t improve last year as well.
Wall scored over 250 more points this year than last, he had a career-high in steals, over 40 more assists, and the best field goal percentage of his career. John Wall might’ve made a jump from the previous season. He’s somehow become more explosive going toward the rim while at the same time being as deadly as ever shooting the ball.
But Wall’s stats might not have to do with him as much as they have to do with his team. Wall was given a knockdown shooter in Otto Porter Jr., who not only helped his assist game, but also gave him bigger driving lanes.
He was also given a fully healthy Bradley Beal for the first time in a while. This gave him even more shooting and assist opportunities. There’s no doubt John Wall made a jump scoring the ball from his previous season, but if the Wizards can find another scorer or two to add this offseason, his stats could jump up even more.
May 4, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) shoots the ball against the Boston Celtics in the third quarter in game three of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 116-89. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Otto Porter Jr.
Many stories have been written about how Otto Porter Jr. went from an average shooter to one of the most efficient in the league. But what a lot of people don’t talk about is how much he’s improved in every offseason.
These numbers don’t just show a guy who made a leap last season, but more of a player who works hard in his free time and finds ways to improve his game in any way possible. I don’t see why this offseason would be any different from the patterns shown in his per game stats.
The one thing that Porter needs to work on is his defensive game. He doesn’t impact the game enough on that side of the ball, which shouldn’t be the case for a wingman with a wingspan of over seven feet. If Porter can get his hands in more passing lanes and deflect more shots, he will be a two-way impact player who’s becoming a dominate presence in the league.
With his newfound confidence and a big new contract this summer, I predict he will be given an even bigger role for the team, and will yet again improve in multiple major statistical categories. If the Washington Wizards pay him, of course.
May 7, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dribbles the ball against the Boston Celtics during the fourth quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Bradley Beal was another player this season who improved in most major statistical categories. The difference is, most people knew he was capable of this level. The biggest issue Bradley Beal faced was his health.
This year Beal played in 77 games — almost the entire season. Before this season, he had only gotten to the 70-game mark once, in 2013-14.
The most interesting fact about Bradley Beal is despite being in the league for five years, he’s only 23. There’s a strong chance we still haven’t seen Beal’s prime yet. He scored almost a full six more points per game than any other season he had.
Some could say that might come with an increase in minutes, but his field goal percentage increased as well. He shot more efficiently than ever before. I predict that Beal won’t be taking that next step again this upcoming year, but will at least maintain those fantastic numbers he put up last year.
May 7, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) dribbles against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the first quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Marcin Gortat had some fantastic stretches this NBA season. He was a rebounding machine in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the league has been shifting thanks to the outstanding play of the Golden State Warriors. Traditional centers who can’t shoot the ball or stay with their guy on the perimeter become a liability. Gortat has become so much of a liability that his team actually has a better defensive rating when he’s off the court:
Defensive Rating with Gortat: 107.4
Defensive Rating without Gortat: 105.4
It’s not a drastic difference by any means, but it does show that in today’s NBA, lumbering big men are becoming more and more obsolete. Gortat is also nearing 33 years old and may continue to decline in some major categories like minutes, blocks and points per game.
May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards shooting forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) reacts after scoring a three point basket during overtime in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Kelly Oubre Jr. is still a bit of an unknown for this Washington Wizards team. He’s played two full seasons and hasn’t necessarily found his best basketball yet.
His minutes and points doubled, which is promising sign, but his three-point shooting percentage was atrocious. Oubre needs to improve heavily from behind the arc to become a player with a bigger role on this team.
He doesn’t need to get to a point where Oubre is attracting the team’s best defenders, but he does need to shoot a respectable enough percentage where the opposing team will pay for leaving him open.
Oubre’s ability to take a jump this offseason will most likely completely hinge on his ability to improve his three-point shooting and his defense. If he can do either or both of those things, the Wizards can trust him with more minutes and he may find himself in a similar role that Otto Porter Jr. was in last year.