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2016-17 Season Preview: Washington Wizards

Sekou Smith

Sekou Smith NBA.com

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Oct 12, 2016 12:54 PM ET

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With their free-agent pursuit of Kevin Durant abandoned before it ever got started, the Wizards focused their attention to tweaking a roster to the liking of new coach Scott Brooks. That’s the same Scott Brooks who coached and managed the egos of Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Now Brooks has to find the right balance for John Wall and Bradley Beal, the dynamic backcourt duo and faces of the franchise in Washington. It can be done, and at the highest level. Wall and Beal have admitted to and moved on from past issues. But if the Wizards want back into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference, their two biggest stars have to be in sync and not just tolerate one another.

ICYMI

A season spent speculating about a potential homecoming for Kevin Durant, the biggest free agent on the market, came to a crashing end when Durant didn’t even listen to a pitch from the Wizards. … Signing Bradley Beal to a $128 million extension turned out to be the Wizards’ big offseason move. Considering the market and the way cash as thrown around the league all summer, it was money well spent. … In need of a quality backup for Wall, the Wizards traded a 2021 Draft pick to Utah for Trey Burke, who struggled to find his niche with the Jazz. … Ian Mahinmi is a much more physical option in the frontcourt rotation than Nene ever was. His addition will bolster a unit that struggled to protect the rim last season. … Veteran big men Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith were also added to the mix with a toughness upgrade high on the list of priorities. … Tomas Satoransky, a 2012 second-round Draft pick, adds yet another perimeter player with excellent size (6-7) and a solid shooting touch.

THREE POINTS

  1. Scott Brooks was hired to manage the Wizards’ young stars (Wall and Beal) but also, and perhaps more important, to change the culture for a team that struggled mightily in that department last season without Paul Pierce around to set the tone.
     
  2. Trey Burke’s biggest challenge this season is simply proving he belongs, something he never seemed to do in Utah. Brooks has a history of helping mold young point guards, so Burke should be in good hands.
     
  3. The competition for the starting job at small forward between Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. should bring out the best in both players. That sort of competition among a still relatively young group is exactly what Brooks hopes will spur the growth and development of this team.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Bradley Beal. We know who and what John Wall is at this stage of his career. It’s the oft-injured Beal, who dealt with a concussion and its lingering effects early on in training camp. When he’s healthy and at his best, there are only a handful of shooting guards capable of working both ends the way he can. But there have only been flashes of that potential, due to injuries. Beal fancies himself an All-Star talent. He could be … if he could stay healthy.

STARTING FIVE

John Wall | 19.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 10.2 apg
Seems laughable now that people wondered earlier in his career if he was a “true” point guard.

Bradley Beal | 17.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.9 apg
Undeniable talent, but has not played more than 65 games just one in four years in the league.

Marcin Gortat | 13.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Steady and productive, he needs someone to watch his back down low.

Markieff Morris | 12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg
Physical stretch four who uses every bit of his 6-10 and 245 pounds to his advantage.

Otto Porter Jr. | 11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.6 apg
Will have to hold off challenge from Kelly Oubre Jr. for the starting spot.

KEY RESERVES

Ian Mahinmi | 9.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Defensive-minded big man fills a huge void behind Gortat.

Trey Burke | 10.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
Lottery pick wasn’t the right fit in Utah, poised for a rebirth as Wall’s backup.

Kelly Oubre Jr. | 3.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.2 apg
Tough rookie season provided invaluable lessons as he continues to prove he can excel at this level.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Wizards took a step back in Randy Wittman’s final year as coach. Scott Brooks cannot afford a similar fate during the first year of his tenure. The Wizards have to get back to the playoffs now, riding on the shoulders of Wall, Beal and Gortat, until more of the young talent can get up to speed and contribute in a meaningful way on a playoff team. The responsibility of restoring order in D.C. will be shared this season.

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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