NBA Season Preview: Washington Wizards

2019-20 Regular Season Record
: 25-47 (.347%), 10th in Eastern Conference, Missed Playoffs
Head Coach: Scott Brooks

Without John Wall for the majority of the last two seasons, the burden has fallen on Bradley Beal to carry the Wizards. Despite Beal having back-to-back career years, including 30.5 ppg last season, it wasn’t enough to play the Wizards into contention. Beal has been sensational without Wall, and has turned himself into one of the premier scorers in the league (he scored 50+ pts in back-to-back games in February). Davis Bertans proved himself to be valuable Sixth Man, as he scored 15.4 ppg in 29.3 minutes, while shooting 42.4% from 3-point land. Rookie Rui Hachimura (9th overall pick) had a solid year, averaging 13.5 ppg & 6.1 rpg and earning All-Rookie 2nd Team honors. At 24-40, the fact that the Wizards were invited to the bubble was remarkable. Unfortunately for the Wizards, both Bertans and Beal were not in the bubble to help the team and they went 1-7, missing the playoffs by a wide margin.

Westbrook and Beal

When the Wizards pulled the strings on the blockbuster trade bringing Russell Westbrook to Washington, many were excited to see the new-look backcourt of Westbrook & Beal. Westbrook brings intensity, energy, explosiveness and all-out hustle to the court every time he plays. One of the best all-around talents to ever play the game, he will no doubt make the Wizards a better team. Can he co-exist with Beal? Westbrook is on board:

Brad is a superstar talent. He proved that and showed that last year with what he had. And he’s only going to get better. My job is to come in here and continue to uplift him and push him to be better. And that’s all I’m here for. And I’m happy to be his counterpart and to try and make the game easier for him and that’s what I’m going to try to do.
The move also pairs up Westbrook with his old coach in OKC, Scott Brooks. Of Brooks, Westbrook had this to say:

The great thing about me and Scotty’s relationship is we always stayed connected. We always stayed in contact throughout my whole career. Scotty was a huge part of the reason I’m able to do some of the things I’m able to do now. He gave me an opportunity and a chance to go out and make silly mistakes, some of the same mistakes I make today. He allowed me to do that and I’m grateful for that because I learned so much about myself, about my game, who I am as a player. And I’m just happy and excited to be back with him and to continue, obviously our friendship, and also be on the basketball court together.

Look for both players to average around 25 ppg, while Westbrook will get back to averaging close to a triple double with Beal improving his efficiency with a running partner in the back court.

Davis Bertans

The "Latvian Laser" had an excellent 2019-20 season, and is in line for another year of improvement, especially with the playmaking ability of Westbrook. A career 41.1% marksman from 3-point land, Bertans attempted 8.7 3-point shots per game last year, which was the majority of his 11.3 field goal attempts overall. That trend will only continue. For the first time in his career, Bertans is likely to start on a regular basis and play more than 30 mpg, and with Westbrook and Beal feeding him open looks all year, look for Bertans to shoot at least 9.5 3-pointers per game, hitting a minimum of 40%. 

Defensive Struggles

With the acquisition of Westbrook, the Wizards have made a significant leap on the offensive end. The defensive end though, is where they need a ton of work - they finished 2nd last in the NBA for Defensive Rating last year. Westbrook will be able to assist, no doubt. He brings an intensity to the game that few do - even going so far as to have both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant compare themselves to Westbrook in that regard. And while Russ may not be the most technically sound defender, there is always effort there, and he brings a career average of 1.7 spg to the team. That will assist the Wizards in that area of the floor. Bringing in 7'0" Robin Lopez to help rim-protect will aid too. Other than that? It's going to be another tough year for the Wizards.

Tom's Take: The Wizards will miss out on the playoffs again, and head back to the lottery.

Photo Credit: Shaun Brooks/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire